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The Vine: November 28, 2012

Submitted by on November 28, 2012 – 10:44 AM39 Comments

My husband and I are at an impasse with holiday hosting plans, and I'm hoping you might be able to make a ruling for us.

For each of the last several years, about half of my family spends an afternoon/evening at our apartment for Christmas. My sister and her husband come out from California (we're in New York City), my dad and my stepmother come downtown, my stepbrother and stepsister occasionally tag along with significant others — it's nice.

We always make a bunch of food, and my stepmother (whose family is Polish a few generations back) is particularly fond of the little slices of farmer's-market kielbasa we serve. Said kielbasa has become an unofficial fixture at these gatherings, both because she praises it every year and because she's a fairly picky eater. I'm a vegetarian for moral reasons and have never loved serving meat at our place, but my husband and the rest of the family aren't, so I kept quiet. I even purchased it myself the first few years we had everyone over; I wanted to be a good host.

I'm finding it harder to be a good host these days. My husband is on the road to vegetarianism (he still eats fish, but that's it, and he's wavering on that), and I can feel myself turning vegan; I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the way laying hens and dairy cows are treated, and animal products like wool and silk are dropping out of my wardrobe. I've never been the sort of veggie who picked fights or made people feel guilty about their choices — I've quietly eaten crappy side salads at steakhouses for decades, and I think I've been mostly diplomatic about the internet's obsession with bacon — but I think I'm becoming more active.

I am also no longer cool with buying or serving meat at our house; while I want our family to enjoy themselves, I also want to be a model vegetarian. I want to demonstrate that tasty food can be cruelty-free, I feel that my actions and what goes down in my home should be consistent with what I believe is right, and I do not want to give a butcher my money. If Christmas is going to continue to happen at our house (which seems likely, since my dad and stepmother's place is cluttered and they don't cook), I feel that it should be kielbasa-free.

My husband disagrees, strenuously: He also believes it's wrong to kill pigs for food, but he thinks that indulging my stepmother on this once a year is a sign of respect, and he's willing to make the purchase and serve the damn sausage. What should we do?

Thank you in advance for your wisdom,
Lauren

Dear Lauren,

It's that time of year again…with the exception of weddings, nothing hands you a Sharpie and forces you to figure out where to put the line between standing your ground and keeping the peace quite like the holidays do.

I agree with your husband — but my vegequarianism is a digestive-logistics stance, not a moral one. It's no big deal for me to put out a separate plate with charcuterie, but it's an ethical problem for you; I see both sides. You in turn could certainly argue that, just as it's "this once a year" for you, it's also once a year for your stepmother, who could actually probably get said kielbasa from said farmer's market herself since you all live in NYC, so why does she have to enjoy it in a vegetarian home when she could have it every week if she blah blah blah.

So, I don't think either course of action is "wrong," but I also don't think it's about the kielbasa for your stepmother. Yeah, it's the rare food she likes, but what she really values is that you put aside your own discomfort about meat in order to respect her family background, and make her feel seen and included with this holiday tradition that's about her. You don't have to do things in your own home that you don't agree with, obviously, but consider that the kielbasa does not read to her in the same way.

Maybe the answer is to call her up and just tell her…that. "Stepmom, I know you love the kielbasa, and I love that it's a holiday dish we've shared over the years. The thing is, I just don't feel comfortable serving it at our house anymore. Can I just tell y'all where to get it at the market, and then we can think about a different food tradition we could have together?" Like, just put it out there. I don't get the impression that she's a harpy you can't talk to at all; try telling her that you want the same fondness of feeling with her, but maybe associated with a potato pierogi or something?

Or you can bring it up with Dad instead, but I wouldn't wait until the gathering and spring it on them, which among other things makes a bigger deal of it than it has to be. I also wouldn't decide to serve the sausage but then act pointedly beleaguered about it; if you make the exception, own it as an act of goodwill towards family, and remember you can always change your mind next year.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

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39 Comments »

  • Linda says:

    I think Sarah's advice is dead-on.

    Your description makes it really sound like you're both very well-intentioned, thoughtful people (I hope, and it seems, that you haven't concluded that no one who eats meat can be well-intentioned and thoughtful). The only part of your statement about your own feelings that gave me pause was the part about being "a model vegetarian" and wanting to prove that tasty food can be vegetarian and so forth.

    I think not serving meat at your home because you're ethically opposed to it is perfectly fine and is your right — this may or may not wind up meaning you shouldn't be the host of a meal when other people have traditions they want to continue to adhere to, but in and of itself, it's totally cool.

    But I think not serving people meat in order to be "a model vegetarian" sounds a little like you feel pressured to use a family meal to make a statement to other people about what and how they should eat, which I have some hesitations about. Hosting a holiday meal is a little different from other entertaining, I think — you want to create a dinner party where it's all vegan food and it's wonderful and enlightening, I think that's a FANTASTIC and generous and smart thing to do. But a holiday meal sort of belongs to everyone and exists independently of you, and when you host, you sort of give it a temporary place to land, but you didn't come up with the idea the way you do with a dinner party. You're certainly not obligated to prepare anything you're ethically opposed to, but I wouldn't use it as a way to model eating habits that other people don't follow, any more than I would say, "I'm committed to severe calorie restriction because I think it's good for your health, so I'm serving everything in tablespoon-sized portions for Thanksgiving." You may be right or you may be wrong, but it may not be fair to use a holiday meal that's emotionally important to other people as an educational tool.

    I think Sarah's suggestion that you just tell her where to buy it if she really wants it and seek something else that can bind you together is a good one. But I think it's possible that one good way to do this would be to serve it for this one last year, and then at dinner — when there's 12 months to think it over and she has a belly full of sausage — say, "You know, I did want to let you know, I think we're going to skip the sausage next year, because we're both just really out of the meat-eating and meat-cooking habit. So let me know if you want to know where to get it, and I thought maybe next year you and I could think up a new goodie from the farmer's market to buy."

    I sort of feel like if you can stand it, not springing these things on people when they're already thinking about and looking forward to this particular meal makes it easier on everyone.

  • coleBlue says:

    Pierogies, dude. Mashed potatoes and onions inside a noodle-y thing. My 11-letter Polish last name totally endorses pierogies.

    …and now I want pierogies.

  • scout1222 says:

    Linda, that is an EXCELLENT idea about bringing it up AFTER everyone has eaten the kielbasa. You're right, after the fact people are likely to be much more relaxed about it, because they aren't all pent up with anticipation. (yes, I could see myself already looking forward to a dish I'll eat on 12/25, even though Christmas is a month away!)

  • Bria says:

    I agree with everything Linda said, except the suggestion to bring it up after everyone has eaten the kielbasa. If I were the one who had just eaten a pile of meat in someone's home and they told me they weren't going to serve it anymore because they aren't into meat…I'd feel awkward and uncomfortable for having just enjoyed something they clearly didn't enjoy serving me. I think if there's any discussion about the meatiness of the holiday meal, it needs to take place beforehand or a few weeks/months afterwards, but not at dinner.

  • Annie says:

    Agreed — pierogies are the solution!

    I love Sars' suggestion of asking your stepmother how you can compromise while still honoring her traditions. This would probably go over even better if you have some suggestions of specific treats you might be able to make or get your hands on.

    If you're tending toward vegan rather than simply vegetarian, this could still be an option. I'm gluten free and have successfully made some Polish delights, including pierogies, that are vegetarian and gluten free. I would think you'd have some luck using nondairy substitutes. You could even decide that for this year, you'll go with the old tradition, and use some fun culinary experimentation time in this next year to practice some new option for next year.

  • Jen S 2.0 says:

    Agree with others that it is more than fine to let them know quietly but smilingly that you've moved away from meat-serving, offer them one last plate of it, and then consider the matter closed and not a point that needs to keep being made. You can even serve it one more time and give them a gift of a package of it for Christmas along with the butcher's business card, but no, you don't have to keep serving it.

    I eat and love meat, but I am a HUGE believer that even the most devoted carnivore can go ONE meal without meat and deal with it, and/or provide their own if for some insane reason they really cannot go for three hours without eating flesh. People who shriek about vegetarian wedding-throwers being selfish are, IMO, looking for an excuse to shriek about something. As long as there is plenty of truly delicious food that your average human will recognize and eat (i.e., not a table of nothing but steamed seitan) and no one is likely to leave your table hungry, I say you can serve what you want at your party.

    That said, I also agree with the previous posters that I did quirk an eyebrow just a bit at the "model vegetarian" piece; that hinted at just a wee bit of … planning to keep making the point, as I mentioned above. I support people in their non-meat eating, as long as they're not all self-righteous about it. I hear you, and I understand you, and I support your choices for you … but the instant you try to make your choices be everyone's choices because you think your choices are the only correct choices, we have a problem.

    As long as that's not your plan, you're fine to start skipping the sausage.

  • Katie says:

    Food choices are like religion- you're entitled to believe and do whatever you want, but not to force it on others or prevent them from doing as they would like. Since you don't want to give money to the butcher yourself, I'd just let your husband do it. And if you want to show people how great vegetarian food can be, you can do that with everything else you serve. Kielbasa is just one small part of it, and if you really don't want to be the kind of person who makes people feel guilty, I think you should just give in and serve it.

  • attica says:

    May I take the low road? (only half-seriously…)

    If feelings run hot on the subject, you might consider white-lying your way out of it. 'Gosh, I know we always do sausage, but the usual guy is out-of-commission/sick/belly-up-in-the-downturn/impossible-to-get-to-on-my-time-off/whatever, and I just couldn't bring myself to buy from somebody else, and gee aren't these pierogies yummy!

    This of course is a no-go if they have their own access to your charcuterie. But if, like my relatives, they are oblivious to the details of your provisioning life, it might work. Then next year, the habit will have been broken.

    On the more serious side, I've totally gotten into venison kielbasa lately. There are a couple of non-factory-farm purveyors of it north of NYC (I like Highland Farm in Germantown, from whom you can order online at eat-better-meat.com). Maybe that's a compromise you can live with?

  • Lulu says:

    I'm vegetarian. I do not prepare meat for other people. I don't have any flexibility there. Where I do have flexibility is that I have no problem if other people bring into my home and cook/eat it themselves (mostly this is my roommate/boyfriend, but guests too.) It's not weird because I usually host potluck events.

    So, you could make it a potluck and use email or phone calls to sign up different family members for what they'd like to bring. Sign yourself up for a vegetarian entree, a couple of drink options, and whatever else you'd like to make. If someone will absolutely have a bad Christmas is a particular dish is not there, they can bring it. If they didn't sign up for it, they can't complain it's not there.

  • ebstarr says:

    I love Sars's advice. I'm an ethical vegetarian, but I date a Texan, bacon-loving, Waffle-House-Allstar-Special-eating non-vegetarian, and don't have a problem with having it in my home. On the other hand, I don't think you should have to host something in your home that you disagree with, if you don't believe in it, and Sars's suggestion seems perfect.

    Also, what about seitan kielbasas?

    But I just want to say how nice and Christmas-y it is, that your problem stems from how much your husband wants to respect/honor your stepmother, when so many advice column letters are about the very opposite types of problems–parents hating SO's, SO's disrespecting parents.

  • Jamie says:

    More on the pierogi front, remember that they aren't just potato (in case your only exposure had been the those godawful Mrs. T's things). If you can find a Ukrainian or Polish church or market nearby, the little old ladies make all sorts — kapusta (sauerkraut), mushroom, farmer's cheese, and even fruit-filled like apple or cherry. Or prune. (..My favorite. Don't judge.)

    Another good substitute dish if you can accept dairy: Halushke — noodles and kapusta in butter with cottage cheese, which sounds terrible, but is ridiculously good. In fact, there are plenty of traditional Polish dishes that either are or can be made into a veggie version — sorrel soup, potato pancakes, go??bkis (stuffed cabbage). You could even make that the new tradition, trying out a new dish each year.

  • Kristin says:

    Lauren, my fellow vegetarian, I think Sars's idea of contacting your stepmother in advance of the holiday to discuss is the best option. I honestly cannot imagine that missing one dish will create a huge drama for your stepmother, but it's certainly fine to explain yourself (without lecturing). I think that people who aren't vegetarian don't understand how frequently we veggies have to make adjustments to eat in other people's homes, and so I'm firmly in the "not cooking it, not serving it" camp, rather than handing over the kielbasa (heh) if it's going to bother your conscience. My sister and I are both vegetarians but the only ones in our family, and we frequently have to end up eating crudite and crackers for dinner, as many things have meat in them or my family doesn't get that chicken stock is not a vegetarian item! That's fine, but when at my house, they eat meat-free. And they don't starve nor do they have a hissy. For some of us, serving meat in our home is bothersome, and in all honesty, shouldn't the holiday meal be more about the company and the occasion than the food?

    I hope you find a resolution that makes things easier for you.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Plenty of good advice here.

    I think the thing you want to avoid is turning this into some kind of Battle of the Vegetarian Vs. Respect Titans. You want to behave according to your ethics around food in your own home, totally legit. Your MIL has had no reason not to expect the sausages so far, and they've become a way of saluting her during an emotional time of year.

    I think the clearest path is the one that leads around both these things. I like the idea of this being the last year you serve the sausage, as it's a bit close to the wire in timing, but having your husband buy and present it, and taking time after the holiday stresses have dissipated to explain you'll be doing things differenty in the future, and you'd like her imput in what vegetarian Polish dishes she especially enjoys–something complicated she wouldn't bother making for herself*, or something closely associated with the holiday–so you can update your traditions to reflect your values while still honoring her.

    *by this I don't mean you have to slave for hours over some fifty five ingredient three day make time Twelfth Night pastry–you live in NY, if you can get Keilbasa you can get other Polish dainties.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I would not make an announcement of any kind about it on the occasion. The potential for awkwardness/people feeling "talked to" outweighs the benefits of clarity. Just my opinion, every family's different, but mine would view even the most loving "I'm glad you enjoyed the sausage, but it won't be coming around here no more" as drama-queenery. And they'd say so.

    I don't get the sense that anyone else cares that much, so whatever your decision, I'd suggest you take it up with your stepmom privately and at another time. Like I said, it's only a headline if you make it one.

  • Another Amy says:

    I don't understand why it has to be a big deal. In your place, I'd probably just not serve the sausage and not mention it at all. If asked about it, I'd casually say something like, "Oh, I'm sorry, now that husband and I are both pretty much vegetarian, we didn't feel comfortable purchasing meat — but here's the address for the butcher if you want to buy some yourself!" It sounds a lot less judge-y if you phrase it like that — you're saying that you don't want to buy it yourself, but you won't look down on her if she wants to eat it. In addition, it becomes less of an "I don't want that in my house" thing and more of an "I don't want to support the meat industry" thing, which I (as a non-vegetarian) personally find less offputting.

  • drsue says:

    Pierogies! My sister and I just made a batch of potato cheese ones the friday after thanksgiving. 5 hours and 10 dozen pierogies later, we were very happy, and tired, and thought of our late grandmother with amazement since she used to sell them for $4 a dozen. I think that pierogies would be a labor of love that far exceeds stopping at a butcher for a kielbasa (although i love me some kielbasa as well).

    My dough recipe has eggs in it, but i am sure you can find one that doesn't. I just find the dough easier to manipulate when it has eggs in it. Cheese free potatoes would be nearly as good as well.

    I have no problem with meat free meals, but i do appreciate food traditions as well when it comes to holidays. The expectation of a special treat on certain occasions is part of what makes a holiday special in my mind.

  • Eli says:

    I think, since your husband is happy to and willing to purchase the kielbasa and disagrees strenuously about stoppingit, maybe you should just chill out and let him do that thing, since it's his house too. It's looking like a once-a-year thing, and if your husband gets to the point where that is a thing he no longer wishes to do, then it's time to move on from it.

  • Jo says:

    I'm a vegetarian with a meat-eating fiance, and while it's fine with me if he cooks meat for himself or any guests, I don't buy meat, nor will I cook it, with the very rare exception of his birthday. I think I'm a good vegetarian in that I don't talk about what my friends are eating if they order meat, and at people's homes or restaurants, I just quietly eat a salad and some rolls or potato. And when my fiance and I go out to eat, I'll pay even if he orders meat (at this point, it's honestly OUR money anyway). At Thanksgiving, I made all the vegetarian sides and offered to buy a rotisserie chicken for my fiance and the one or two guests who would want meat.

    But I think it's perfectly fine to not serve meat in your home if your husband doesn't eat it either. Especially if you don't want your money going toward it. It's not "forcing" vegetarianism on people — anyone is perfectly capable of going one day without meat, and it's YOUR home. Someone else made the comparison to religion, so I'll take the opposite view. If you were very religious, guests should be respectful and quiet when you pray before dinner. If your vegetarianism were religious or if you kept kosher, you wouldn't be expected to serve something that violated your religious beliefs.

    It would be different if you went to their house and expected them to not have meat in the house, but it's absolutely reasonable for you to not want to buy it and cook it in your own home. I think Sars has the best advice in that you might have to talk to the stepmom privately if you think it's that important, but I also think it's OK to just not serve it. Maybe buy or make another Polish dish and if she asks about the sausage, say, "I decided to try something else this year. We don't really eat meat anyway, and [Some Polish friend] told me that [whatever dish] is popular at Christmas, so I thought I'd give it a try, but why don't I tell you the name of the butcher where I buy the kielbasa?"

    I also wonder if your father would understand the situation, if he might be willing to purchase it and bring it for your stepmom. If you are willing to allow it in your home as long as you don't have to pay for it or cook it yourself, that might be a compromise.

  • Jeanne says:

    "Just my opinion, every family's different, but mine would view even the most loving "I'm glad you enjoyed the sausage, but it won't be coming around here no more" as drama-queenery. And they'd say so."

    I'm with Sars on this, don't make a declaration like that on the day.

    Up until four years ago my mom's stepmother hosted Thanksgiving. Roght after the meal ended that year, she stood up and announced to everyone that she would not be hosting anymore. Her and my grandfather would be going to my uncle's house (which was a four hour drive away) and we were on our own from now on. She had totally legit reasons for not wanting to host the meal anymore, but the way she did it as a Big Announcement rubbed us all the wrong way. But that's how she is* so no one's ever called her on it.

    *There's a reason I refer to her as my mom's stepmother and not my grandmother, despite the fact that she's the only grandmother-like figure I've ever had in my life.

  • Clover says:

    I've found that a good way to express the sentiment many of you are expressing here is to call myself a fiscal vegetarian ("someone who doesn't buy meat").

    No further advice here. There's already been plenty from Sars and in the comments. I think which advice you take depends on how close you and stepmom are and how personally she's likely to take a change in traditions.

  • Margie says:

    I'm a picky eater, too, and I've realized in the last few years that it's because I'm one of those "supertasters" with a heightened sensitivity for strong tastes, especially the bitter end of things. Many vegetables are effectively inedible to me; I only like the "sweet" vegetables, and they probably taste to me the way other veggies do to normal tasters.

    I have a really hard time at vegetarian dinners, much like vegetarians have at non-vegetarian dinners. There's been at least one where I literally had bread and water for dinner, because everything else, including the wine, was something that tasted horrible to me. It was really good bread, and I had a good time, but — bread and water. Even the salad was too bitter for me to eat, because it was full of healthy dark green leafy vegetables.

    If your stepmother is like me, she will probably be very grateful for something like a relatively plain starchy dish, or roasted winter squash, or something similar that avoids having anything deep green or celery-laden in it. (Celery is a sneaky bugger; people who can't taste it think it's harmless and put it in everything, but people like me *can* taste it and it's awful, and taints anything it's in.) (Likewise mushrooms!)

    I could happily make a meal of pierogies and butternut squash, though. Yum.

  • Linda says:

    Yeah, what you've all said about not making a big announcement makes sense in retrospect. But I would still mention it — not in an announce-y way, but in a "I know this is a tradition that means something to you, and I don't want to give you the impression that I don't care about your feelings" way. I still think it would be smart to let her know, and preferably at a time well removed from the meal where you intend to first do it. It's entirely possible she won't care that much, in which case it doesn't matter when you do it, but if it matters a lot to her, I wouldn't spring it on her when she's already constructed a set of expectations about this particular meal. I would bring it up at a time when it's a little more abstract.

    I get the thing about "it's your house, you can do whatever you want." And that's true. You can also disinvite your family and not spend the holidays with them at all. There's a difference between what you have the right to do, what's good for family harmony, and what's kind.

  • Kathleen says:

    Does step mother know you are vegetarian? It's possible that she may actully feel pretty akward eating meat in your home. Maybe that's why she makes such a big deal about the sausage… It's possible this could be fine with them. ( I hope so)

    And I just want to support the idea of not announcing it at Christmas, because then it becomes " The Last Christams Kielbasa"! and it should probably just be Christmas….

    Good luck!

  • mspaul says:

    " The Last Christams Kielbasa"

    I smell a Hallmark movie!!

  • Cimorene says:

    So there's a Polish Catholic tradition called Wigilia ("vi-geel-ya"), which is a vegetarian (um, with fish) Christmas Eve dinner. Pierogies, fried fish, boiled potatoes with butter and parsley, sweet bread, lima beans, prunes. There may be more things. So to everyone who's suggesting pierogies–that's actually the traditional thing. Kielbasa is more of an Easter Sunday thing. At least according to my obsessively Polish-American grandmother. Just sayin'.

    Also, this might be something to consider if your reasons for vegetarianism are ethical–what about using local/ethically sourced meat? I am uncomfortable with eating meat that's been raised using factory farms, animals that have been treated horribly in horrible torturous conditions. But I am not necessarily opposed to eating meat from animals–I generally don't mind animals dying for my food, but I don't want to participate in a system that treats them as if they weren't sensible creatures, and one that also contributes to general environmental devastation (even if that does seem a bit hypocritical). And I definitely, definitely don't mind eating cheese that was produced by dairy cows living on happy local farms. Also, this dairy/meat tends to be healthier and tastier than factory farmed stuff.

    So you may want to see if you can find a local, ethical farm that makes kielbasa (they exist in the northeast for sure, and there has to be something similar in NYC). This will not fix the problem if your concern is about other beings dying for your food, which is reasonable. But if it's more about the factory farms, the grotesque conditions in which many meat animals are raised, then you can get around this by finding ethical farms. This is especially true if you're looking for dairy (cheese and butter are delightful on Christmas, after all) for yourself or your guests. Lots of smaller farms who commit themselves to raising their livestock well ensure that their dairy cows are not miserable, and you would not have to feel bad about eating their delicious yogurt or butter.

    I know some vegans are against any kind of animal product, even if the animals appear to live in luxury, because they argue that the animal doesn't consent to the use of their bodies to produce food for humans (though I personally think that's a bit silly if the animal is not being harmed–I mean, I keep my cats around purely for selfish entertainment/bed-warming functions, and I feel no guilt about that). But even if you don't feel comfortable eating animal-byproduct food yourself, maybe this could be a compromise–or at least, a short-term compromise which you can use while you figure out how to transition into seitan kielbasa, which I agree is surprisingly good. You could also do a year where you have both options, vegetarian and regular, and do a taste test and see how it goes for your family, as a transition.

    Because, you know, stuff enough garlic into something and it will all taste the same (= garlicky) so long as the texture is similar.

  • Erin W says:

    I'm going to weigh in as an unashamed carnivore who is also crazy picky. I've been to many, many family meals, parties, etc. where I just pretty much nibble on whatever most closely resembles bread, because I literally will not eat anything else that is being offered. If your stepmother is like me–and the kielbasa is literally the only thing she will eat, and all the other lovely vegetarian-friendly dishes are getting passed over by her–that is still not really your problem, it is hers.

    You want to be friendly and welcoming, of course, and good on you for that. But those like us who have sensitive taste buds or are selfish babies, or whatever it is about us that makes us emphatically not want to taste that weird-looking thing, we have to acknowledge that the resultant empty belly is our own fault. She can hit the drive-thru on the way home. As a picky eater, she should be used to it. God knows I am.

  • Jane D'oh says:

    This kind of rubbed me the wrong way: "I want to demonstrate that tasty food can be cruelty-free, I feel that my actions and what goes down in my home should be consistent with what I believe is right…" Holiday get-togethers shouldn't be demonstrations or educational sessions. As a hostess, my goal is for my guests to enjoy their time in my home, not to make a point about eating animals. I don't think you should feel forced to serve anything that makes you uncomfortable, and I love the idea of slipping your stepmother the butcher's information. I do think, however, that you may have gotten a little wrapped up in making your dinner A Referendum on Vegetarianism instead of just enjoying a meal with your family.

  • MizShrew says:

    As the only vegetarian in my family, I see where Lauren is coming from, but I would caution against the whole "model vegetarian" approach. Do what is right for you in your home. You don't have to serve meat, obviously. But it often does more harm than good to the cause of ethical vegetarianism if the omnivores come away feeling like they've been judged about their food choices. I have friends who think I'm the only vegetarian they know who doesn't whine or preach at them about meat. Sigh. Of course that isn't true but it's the negative experiences they remember.

    On the other hand, I've brought plenty of veg*n dishes to the family potlucks and had people ask for the recipes. To me, this is the way the veg*n lifestyle is best represented: by sharing delicious food and answering questions as they are asked instead of making announcements. And if those questions are asked during dinner, find a way to make it about your choices and what works for you and avoid a diatribe about factory farming. If someone is really interested you can have a more detailed conversation another time, but usually I find that people's questions are more of a litmus test of "is she one of those annoying vegans now?" Once you've shown them that you're not judging them they usually just move on to football talk.

    Personally, I'd let your husband buy the kielbasa this year, AND make some pierogi. That way you can kind of feel out how those go over (since stepmom is a picky eater) and pave the way for the transition to veggie-based Polish cuisine the following year.

  • polly says:

    I had the same first reaction as Attica and Cimorene. If your vegetarianism comes from concern about unhealthy or cruel farming methods, do you feel differently about wild game? Poland is a country with a tradition of game cooking, I bet there has to be not only the venison kielbasa but wild boar kielbasa as well, and in New York there surely has to be a source of reliably certified product.

    But if not, there's a ton of other good advice up there, and pirogis are delicious.

  • Judi says:

    I'm in almost the same boat as you, Lauren. I'm a vegetarian creeping towards veganism, and my boyfriend that I live with is pescatarian. Hosting hasn't been an issue yet, but I have to say that I wouldn't want meat cooked in my house, and wouldn't feel compelled to do it. The way I see it is, I spend my life around meat eaters. I serve meat in a restaurant. I'm not butthurt if someone else chooses to eat meat. But just as they don't suddenly become vegetarian homes when I walk through the doors, I don't think that I need to provide meat on the table just because an omnivore walks through mine — you know?

    That said, I personally lean the most with Lulu here, in that I wouldn't mind if someone wanted to bring a dish with meat in it. And I like the pierogi suggestion!

  • Tanya says:

    I'm a big fan of doing something different, rather than remaining in a rut. It's good for the brain. I never make a recipe the same way twice. I try to take different routes. So I love the idea of starting a new tradition, whether Wigilia (with a rotating menu) or something else.

    I interpret Lauren's comment about wanting to be a "model vegetarian" to mean that she wants people to enjoy the food she serves and have it be consistent with her beliefs — that's it. So she wants to serve dishes that she and her guests will enjoy equally, even though she and her guests are accustomed to eating different ways and may have very different preferences. A mix of familiar "sides" and new-to-them, great-tasting main dishes can work well. The blog http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/ and its associated fb page are excellent sources of menu ideas. She posts wonderful photos of the food and often feeds omnivores.

    For the picky eater, is there another special food she enjoys that you can make or serve? It's worth asking.

  • Jacq says:

    I definitely wouldn't expect a vegetarian to prepare a meat dish for me. However, I also wouldn't expect a vegetarian to insist on making the point about why they won't prepare a meat dish for me: I don't care. You eat what you want to eat, and when I'm in your house, I'll respect that and eat it as well. As Sars suggested, I think you should just broach the subject with your stepmother beforehand let her know that meat is now off the menu at your place. Or could she bring the meat dish herself?

  • Maria says:

    I would let hubby buy it, I would tell her to enjoy it in good health, and I would pour myself an extra glass just for the joy of it. Probably I feel this way because there's an empty seat at my table this year, not because I'm trying to guilt you or anybody else. Also I don't have the vegetarian gene…maybe I can't quite understand. I hope you have a nice holiday, though! Agree with the others who say it's nice to hear of a family that gathers happily.

  • Eli says:

    What's with spelling vegan as veg*n?

  • Eli says:

    Nevermind, googled it!

  • Nikki says:

    I'm 1/4 Ukranian and I can't help but agree that yes, perogies are the solution. ;)

    Linda's advice is dead-on, and it's nice, too. Being a model vegetarian is just a bad idea at a holiday meal. I also think it's unfair to your family. They gather at your place and you enjoy it – which is not a small thing. Speaking as someone who always travels long distances for holidays, it's nice to be in your own home.

    Being a vegetarian is your choice, but it's not your family's choice and they shouldn't be put on your diet on Thanksgiving just because your house is the gathering place. If you want to make a stand and say you won't prepare meat or purchase meat, that's fine, but they should be allowed to eat it at your house and possibly even prepare it in your house if your house is the place they're eating a holiday meal.

    If you draw a line in the sand, you have to be open to going to someone else's home or another place entirely. The holiday is about pleasing everyone and spending time with family. Don't make it about what amounts to your political views.

  • pomme de terre says:

    Can you just outsource the kielbasa to someone else? If it's just a plate of sliced sausage, can't someone else play for and bring that to the party? If you don't want to pay for meat in your home, that's understandable, but if it's more the paying for meat and preparing the meat, you can just ask someone else to show up with a plate.

  • Emmers says:

    I don't know if Poland has halupkis, but my family does that (we're Slovak; we also do piero*H*is, and kielbasa) and it's *amazing.* The upside of halupkis is that since they're made with ground meat, you can substitute in ground something-else really easily. Most of the flavor is spices, and the ground whatever doesn't matter that much.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=halupki&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    SOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOD

  • NG says:

    I have to agree with those who mentioned buying meat from farms where you know the animals have been treated humanely. Over the last few years we have actually started raising some of our own animals (pigs, chickens, and laying hens)and would eventually like to expand our little farm to include cows. They are treated and fed very well and I feel much better about knowing where my meat comes from and what goes into them, no antibiotics, hormones, etc for me! Obviously, this isn't possible for everybody, but if you are against the cruelty that goes along with these commercial operations (and who isn't, really) then you may feel better knowing if you have to buy meat once in awhile at least they were treated with compassion

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