Oh dear… the guilt! I worried if this day would come, and it has.
A while ago, my host mom told me that if I ever felt like the food they eat at dinner time is too heavy or bad for my cholesterol, that I’m free to eat anything else. I was so relieved to hear this, as dinner time (as you may know if you’ve been following) is often the biggest struggle for me, since the meals are outside of my control and often cooked decadently and always with lots of love, and cheese. Saying no to my host moms meal often feels like I’m rejecting her love and appreciation for my work, so I ate what everyone else ate, and swallowed my guilt in the process. So when she showed some concern for my cholesterol and gave me the green light for a little bit of freedom during dinner time, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude. I still remained hesitant to take her up on this offer, but one day I asked if she would mind if I ate some quinoa and vegetables instead, and she was totally okay with it. Since then, I’ve managed to more often than not, eat my own food for dinner (usually I pre-make it during the day), thus being able to stay about 99% vegan for the past 2+ weeks.
But tonight, like the past few nights, I did the same – opted out of the croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich with butter on white bread) and ate my quinoa and veggies instead, and in the middle of dinner, my host mom jokingly, but kind of not, made a sad face and said, “C doesn’t eat my food anymore…” (C is me, obv) and she jokingly continued to pout, and I said, “Aww, that’s not true!” and two of the girls chimed in to help me out, one saying, “She ate some of your tabouleh tonight!” and the other eventually looked at her mom very seriously and said, “Mom, stop.”
And it was done.
The girls know, somewhat, that I’ve mostly stopped eating meat and dairy because last Wednesday when I made them their lunch, I made myself a salad and they asked why and I explained. But I haven’t had the heart to be straight forward with my host mom to tell her I’ve essentially stopped eating all the staples of her cooking and of the French diet in general, because I know how important food is to her. Food is her way of showing love, and holy Jesus, woman can COOK. Seriously I don’t know any better chef than her. So refusing her food is taken deeply personally, and I really don’t want to offend anyone.
I’m stuck in a strange place. I want to keep with my vegan streak, but more importantly I want to keep with my developing healthier lifestyle, but the relationships I build here are also important to me, and for better or worse, food is one way to build those relationships. I don’t want my host mom to think I don’t like her cooking (though I’ve complimented her many, many times) or that I think I’m above their food, because none of that is true. But expressing my desires to get healthier (and yes, lets face it, to lose a pound or two. Okay maybe 10 or 15) are beyond my abilities in this situation, or at least so it seems. I don’t want to bombard them with all of my nutritional research, so all I can do is just request to eat my own thing, and while I thought that was going well enough, apparently its not. It seems like opting for my health means hurting someones feelings, and that puts me in a sticky situation.
So, what to do? Do I try to eat more of her home-cooked dinners instead of my own, likely sacrificing quite a bit (and dealing with intestinal adventures the rest of the night), in order to keep a happy relationship with my host mom? Do I try to explain to her my food goals and hope that she understands without being offended? Do I continue doing what I’m doing and not let tonight bother me? Do I have any other options? On the “bright” side, I’m leaving in 6 weeks, back to healthy California, where this bizarre issue will be behind me. But until then, what do I do?
Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I feel at a loss no matter what.