Springtime offers us more opportunities for family get-togethers and reunions. There's the Easter or Passover dinner. There are family vacations and activities built around school spring breaks.
Whatever the gathering, food often becomes a challenge. It seems that no two people eat the same way anymore.
Some are gluten-free. Some don't eat red meat.
Some, like my brother, won't touch vegetables. And some of us are plant-based.
How does a person who is whole foods, plant-based handle this?
It helps, first of all, to let people know, in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way, that you take very seriously how you eat. For example, my family knows that when they come to my house, we're going to eat plant-based meals.
I will search out good recipes to make that I know everyone will enjoy, but I won't make non-plant-based meals. If someone is gluten-free, then I'll make gluten-free meals. If it's my brother who won't touch vegetables, then I'll make something like pasta.
And if we're dealing with a real meat eater, I will use something like soy curls or jackfruit or tempeh to create a dish that will satisfy even the most discriminating meat lover.
But the food will always be plant-based. My family knows that, and they respect it.
One thing that I always do when going to one of my relative's homes is take food with me. But, in order to be hospitable about it, I take enough food to both satisfy myself and to share with others.
Oftentimes I will make something that can serve as a main dish for me and as a side dish for the others. I like to make mashed potato dishes with cashews and vegetables. I can make a meal of that, and others in the family can enjoy that as a side dish.
Snacking doesn't have to involve unhealthy choices either. Nuts are one of the healthiest foods a person can snack on. I buy raw, unsalted nuts and snack on them at home. And I've found that when I put them out for others, other people enjoy them too.
Nuts don't have to be oily and salty to be enjoyed. Studies show that people who snack on nuts live longer too. So I'm a big advocate for eating nuts. Take some nuts in a baggie for yourself if going out to another's home.
Most importantly, remember that getting together with family is meant to be an enjoyable time. Don't be judgmental of how others eat. Explain your preferences when asked about it, but otherwise, just be authentic and continue to eat as you want to eat.
And enjoy your time with family.
J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole food, plant-based way of eating.