Guest Blogger: Cadry’s Kitchen – What to do when the joke’s on you

21 Sep

Always great to meet new (to me) vegan bloggers. Please meet Cadry, she is the author of Cadry’s Kitchen, here she is in her own words:  “A longtime kale & chickpea enthusiast, you’ll find me cooking up delicious plant-based fare at my blog, Cadry’s Kitchen, which is also home to the only claymation cooking video on the web.  I was a recipe contributor for Vegan’s Daily Companion, the online version of 30 Day Vegan Challenge, and The Compassionate Cooks Club.  My other interests include making hand-built pottery, biking, hiking, and keeping my cats amply supplied with nutritional yeast flakes.” Follow Cadry on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Welcome Cadry!

Someone recently found my blog by searching, “My friends tease me because I’m vegetarian. What can I do?” Hey, searcher, this post is for you!

I don’t know how often you re-watch movies of the 1980’s, but my husband and I were flipping channels a few weeks ago and came upon Roxanne. For those of you who don’t know it, it was a modern-day take on Cyrano de Bergerac, with Steve Martin playing a man named C.D. who rocked an unusually large nose. Thinking that no one could find him attractive, he wooed the woman of his dreams through his handsome friend. In one scene, a man at a gathering called Martin’s character “Big Nose.” Martin launched into what became a stand-up routine of all of the better styles of jokes at his expense that the guy could have used.

Fashionable: You know, you could de-emphasize your nose if you wore something larger. Like… Wyoming.

Sympathetic: Oh, what happened? Did your parents lose a bet with God?

Obscure: Oh, I’d hate to see the grindstone.

I’ve been writing a lot in these past few weeks about things you discover when you first go vegan, and one that definitely comes up is that you’ll hear a lot of jokes. I think there are many reasons for that, and one of the biggest is that jokes, as a tool, are used to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. When we, as people, are suddenly aware of ourselves or our habits in a way that makes us feel defensive or uncomfortable, jokes are an easy release valve. They’re a way of voicing that discomfort in a socially accepted way.

That’s understandable and something we all do in one way or another at times. However, when veganism is totally new to you, and you’re suddenly getting teased regularly at mealtimes, it can get… tiresome. Jokes also highlight beliefs that separate us and that unite us. Sometimes when you’re a new vegan and the only one in the group, jokes create an interesting us-versus-them power dynamic, which can feel very startling when you’re suddenly in the minority.

As a new vegan, what do you do? Become grumpy and have people think you’re a spoilsport? Or laugh even when the joke is at your expense? (I mean, to the bald guy, is the 10th bald joke funny? Probably not.) Plus, when a person is vegan for the animals, it can feel like the joker-in-question is not only laughing at you, but also making light of the victims of the meat, dairy, and egg industries, who you care about.

Something that worked for me when I was newly vegan and meeting up with people who were very vocal about their differing ideologies was to take it all in as if I were watching a documentary. The jabs and jokes didn’t really have anything to do with me, even though it could feel very personal. These statements said more about their views than they did about me. I tried, not always successfully, to observe with curiosity and without attachment. (This advice goes for misguided jokes. Obviously if someone is being cruel, that’s another story…)

This past summer, my husband and I went to a grill out at a public campground. It was with a group of people that we didn’t know well, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. We brought cookies to share and Field Roast sausages and vegetables to grill. We have a mini grill that we like to use on those occasions that we’ll be cooking out with people who are grilling animal flesh, especially when public grills are involved. I think it’s easier and more pleasant to have my own grill, spatula, and tongs, and then I can keep our food animal-free. Anyway, we set up our grill not far from where some guys in the group were also cooking. They noticed that we had our own grill and were inquisitive about why.

When I told them that we’re vegan one of the guys chimed in with, “Oh, so do you have room for a cow heart on your grill?” He said it as if it were a joke, but it’s kind of insensitive and aggressive when you look at the face of it. If I’d been like Martin’s character in Roxanne, perhaps this would have been the time I pulled out the many jokes I’ve heard over the years:

Classic: Oh, you’re vegan? I’m a member of PETA. People Eating Tasty Animals.

Culinary: Yeah, I love animals too. Next to the mashed potatoes.

Philosophical: If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them of meat?

Instead I smiled and said, “Nope. We don’t have any room for that.”

As has been common in these last few posts about veganism… It gets easier. First, the jokes slow way down. After a while, people run out of jokes or they’ve already said their best ones, and so it’s not an interesting topic anymore. It’s old news. Second, people get more comfortable with you being vegan. They don’t need to diffuse an uncomfortable situation, because they aren’t uncomfortable. Third, they realize you’re still the same person you always were and that you’re going to keep being vegan. There’s no reason to continue commenting on something that’s not going to change.

So now the times when I hear jokes it’s in one of two circumstances – when I’m just meeting people and it randomly comes up or when I’m with people I know very well and who are comfortable with me being vegan. In the first case, it’s easier now to give people slack. I get it. There was a time that veganism seemed very foreign to me too. The only way that I can communicate that vegans are warm, and open, and have a sense of humor is if I give the same compassion I want to receive and the same compassion I want the animals to receive. In the second, now when my close family and friends joke with me about veganism, it’s good-natured. They know I care very deeply about animals. They get it. And it feels entirely different when a joke is made that’s born out of long conversations and shared history. It’s the kind of joke that recognizes our commonality.

Oh, and one more little thing… Why did the vegan cross the road? Because he was protesting for the chicken, man!


8 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Cadry’s Kitchen – What to do when the joke’s on you”

  1. The Savvy Sister September 21, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    ……Which is exactly why I use the term “plant-based” It confuses the bejezuz out of ’em.

  2. Somer September 21, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    Cadry, this is beautiful! Thank you. You’re attitude is the right one, getting into a battle or argument isn’t what this is all about. I’d take this a step further and say that over time, some of you’re biggest hecklers will start saying things like “that’s the best vegan meal I’ve ever eaten”, while they go back for seconds and then thirds. As vegan bloggers we’re teaching others that vegan food is compassionate AND delicious!

    • Cadry's Kitchen September 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words, Somer! You’re so right that over time many people warm up to plant-based meals and aren’t so scared off by them. A lot of it has to do with demystifying the word “vegan” to show that it can include many mouthwatering delights!

      • Somer September 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

        I used to say plant-based because I thought the word vegan was harsh for people to accept and that I’d be judged using it. Now I say it proudly 🙂 Having the right attitude about it, like in your story above makes all the difference.

  3. An Unrefined Vegan September 21, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    I often find my blood pressure soaring during similar encounters because I wonder why it is that it’s okay for someone to knock down my food choices when I wouldn’t dream of insulting theirs (at least to their faces 😉 ). I have to remind myself that there is fear of the unknown and different and that sometimes people actually feel threatened – as if I’m going to snatch their steak away from them and hand them a head of broccoli. Great post, Cadry!

    • Cadry's Kitchen September 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      That’s a really interesting perspective! No wonder people always have that terrified look in their eyes when they see the broccoli behind my back. 😉

  4. The Vegan Gypsy September 24, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    I love this post! I myself have not had many unpleasant experiences since going vegan, not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’m already known to be a rabid animal lover or I’m just so weird anyway this is nothing new, lol.

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