Converting Others to a Vegetarian Life
When I first became a vegetarian I found the most annoying part was, well, other vegetarians. I tried to join some groups here in Sacramento, but the preachiness, self righteousness, and judgmental attitudes were worse than some of the biggest religious fanatics I knew.
However, over the years, I can proudly say that I now have over a dozen friends and family who have joined me in a vegetarian life. So I wanted to make this, what will undoubtedly be my longest post, for everyone so maybe I can help those struggling as I did.
Let's be honest, nobody is going to consider choosing a vegetable based lifestyle by us shoving our lifestyles on them while they are eating a SmashBurger.
Conversion, for me at least, is all about Greed and Association, and Ease.
Greed: Now, if you have seen my previous posts, I don't believe in protein deficiency. At least not in the sense that if I don't get the right amounts daily, my health will suffer. Be happy to have a full discussion on it later, but for the purpose of this post, it comes down to price. I don't buy quinoa, faux hot dogs, burgers, milks, and the like. They are all at a premium and for me, in alot of ways, they are little more than a reminder and denial of my lifestyle. The benefit of this is the money I save. While my friends are spending $600 dollars or more a month on groceries, I can actually feed my family for around $200 a month. I'm saving around $5,000.00 a year. I post up my shopping trips to the farmer's market on Sunday afternoons when all the vendors give the lowest price and often just give extra food to not have to haul it back where it will probably go bad before the next weekend. I share on FB the ethnic markets I shop at where the same bottle of $4 Soy Sauce costs me a dollar, the best salsa ever can be had for less than $2, and a local indian restaurant where yellow curry costs as much for a pound as a 2oz bottle costs at Raley's. As I post, I post the price of each trip and how much money I spent that month compared to what a friend spends. Often the replies are from friends who spent more, got less, or just want to join me on my next trip.
Which brings me to Association.
Association comes in two powerful forms for me. First is because I also post my meals, which, as a trained chef, often leaves dozens of likes, requests for recipes, or just asking when I am going to invite someone over for dinner. The second is my posting my outings with those friends and making a full day of it.
So, to my meals. I have learned that denial is a powerful double edged sword and when my friends saw vegetarian meatloaf, soy hotdogs, or tofu cheese, they all saw meatloaf, hotdogs, and cheese. I realized I had to stop thinking of vegetarianism as a substitute for a different lifestyle, and instead had to think of it as a different ethnicity altogether; incorporating flavors from around the world, as well as developing my own. Instead of vegetarian meatloaf and mashed potatoes; I would instead have a mold of pressed wild mushrooms, celery, shallots, and rice on a bed of micro-greens with a roasted asparagus puree drizzled on it and toped with a sprig of radish greens; along with the $3 cost to feed my family with it. By thinking of my meals, not as the foods they were replacing, but as stand alone creations, I watered the mouth of my friends.
Now, to socializing my outings took a bit of proaction on my part. When a friend would comment on my meals in a positive light, or straight out ask to join me, I immediately messaged them. Small talk would work it's way into "we gotta hang out sometime". I would then solidify a date and we would make a day of it. I tell them to grab no more than $60 in cash. I have them meet me at my house for breakfast. Fruit, juices, and my wife's fresh made breads are always a welcome greeting. We then load up my car with two folding carts, our reusable bags, and some travel mugs of infused waters; lemongrass and cucumber seem to be the favorite. We then drive out to one or two of the ethnic markets. In so many ways, it's like traveling to a different country for them. Ingredients they have never seen are complimented by low prices on things they buy everyday. I still smile at how shocked most of my friends are to learn that there are dozens of different brands of soy sauce alone. We set a $10 budget and that generally means five or six different items, including spices, sauces, and herbs.
When we get to Denio's, I give them a treat for lunch. Fresh steamed and roasted peanuts. We snack on them as we make our way up the first aisle of the market. We spend an hour or two wandering around all of the knock offs and glorified garage sales that litter Denio's. At about 2:30pm the fun begins. Filled on peanuts and with $50 each we make our way to the north entrance of the farmer's stalls. I explain that we will be making a total of two laps around the two broken aisles and that our first round should be the items that can have everything else placed on top of them. At this point, the prices on the vegetables are pointless as the hockers are shouting prices that are lower than what is posted on the handwritten signs. It's about 25 minutes of causal window shopping and the purchase of a 20lb bag of potatoes, a 10lb bag of onions, and 5lbs each of apples, pears, and bag of oranges for a whopping $10 to make a full lap. So, at 3pm, with an hour before the market closes and people thinning out, we make our final lap. 3lbs for a dollar of Roma tomatoes. Mushrooms for $1 a pound, Bananas for $1 a bunch, and bundles of herbs at 2 for $1 are just some of the items that lead to our finishing the lap with a near bursting cart and change still in our pockets.
The drive back is filled with nothing more than awe at how much they purchased for so little and how they spent less for two weeks of vegetables and fruits than they would for just a few days worth at one of the big guys.
When we get back to my house, we often do a bit of trading. The two pineapples for a dollar end up being a pineapple and a bunch of bananas, while the four bundles of cilantro end up becoming two bundles of cilantro, a bundle of chives, and a bag of fresh oregano. While I make dinner, having them cook alongside of me, I am constantly pricing each part of our dish, putting perspective into everything wee are making. I try to tailor the meal to something I think they would enjoy. I squeeze fresh orange juice and make, what is always described, and the best mimosas they have ever had. Champaign and pineapple juice is also a favorite.
Our last dinner was a shredded apple, carrot, and jicama slaw seasoned with lemon, kosher salt, and cilantro followed by oregano, oven roasted garlic, and tomato powder roasted potatoes and zucchini with a main dish of potato, mushroom, and carmalized onion stuffed eggplants with a side of lime-chili rice. We discuss recipes, meals, and eventually they tell me about some documentary or another they watched about sugar, GMOs, or even vegetarianism.
During the whole day, my wife is the shutterbug. She takes pics with my phone of everything from breakfast, to the grocery store and farmers market, to our dinner selfie. All of which I post up the next day, tagging everyone and everywhere we went.
At the end of the day, I offer them three days of recipes and challenge them to try them for three days. A week is often too much and people get worried that their cheese, dairy, and meat will go bad by then. Three days isn't too long or hard to stick to and is more than enough time for the fog to lift. I ask them to post up their meals and tag me in them. This not only causes a sense of accountability, but the tags are seen by our mutual friends, making my lifestyle a bit less weird, and more desirable each time.
Now, it's rare for me to have a Sunday where another family ISN'T tagging along, or running into them with more friends they are doing the same thing with. I am having more and more recipes shared with me than I can ever cook, and there isn't a day that goes by where I am not tagged in some meal or memory post.
The Ease is progressive. At first, getting someone to join me was like asking someone to join me at a Timeshare seminar. Now, it's more difficult to go alone than it is to have multiple families joining us on any given Sunday.
Hope this helps.