As you may already know, I am a young Italian-Canadian girl who grew up on a farm outside of Newmarket, Ontario. It’s my dad’s hobby farm, where he still grows an abundance of fresh organic fruit and vegetables for his close friends and family. When I was a kid, we also had goats, sheep, chickens (my parents still have chickens), a pony (that’s another story), and believe it or not, ostriches!
Developing a Love for Animals
I always had animals around me that I loved and cared for when I was growing up. There were so many countless times where I would help nurse baby lambs back to a healthy weight. If you didn’t know, sheep who give birth to a few babies will tend to shun the weakest one, pushing them aside so they can’t eat. Sometimes the mother even tries to trample the weakest one to death! It’s so heartbreaking! When this would happen my dad and I would pull the weakest lamb out of the pen and care for him/her separately. When caring for them, I would grow such a strong attachment and connection with the baby lamb.
Even though we have a hobby farm, eventually my dad would sell the sheep to a bigger farm down the road due to a lack of space. I would come home from school distraught when I would notice that our sheep were missing from the field. I could only imagine what their imminent fate would be. It never seemed to phase my parents though, but for me… the connection I developed with the animal was undeniable, I basically viewed them as family members.
Making the Transition to a More Plant-Based Diet
This is when I would start taking an interest in vegetarianism. I would tell my parents on numerous occasions while we were gathered around the dinner table: “Mom, dad… I’m going vegetarian!”. Being a member of a big Italian family, every meal centred around beef, pork, fish or turkey. Salami, prosciutto and cheese were regular snacks around the dinner table. Eating is very much a family-oriented activity when you are Italian. It’s important; part of who we are. As I was a young kid, who was easily influenced and didn’t know how to cook, my vegetarian stints would last no more than 1 or 2 days.
After moving to Toronto, I became more educated and aware of the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet. After watching numerous documentaries, including Cowspiracy and What the Health, it was then that I decided to cut out meat from my diet. I had made a personal choice, but try explaining this to my family.
At first, I had a lot of questions like:
- “What can I eat for Thanksgiving without a turkey?
- “How can I get protein from plants?”
- “Won’t I have an iron deficiency?”
Many of these myths are ingrained in our culture. I’m sure many of you felt the same when you first switched your diet, am I right?
My BIG Italian Family Doesn’t Understand
With this in mind, it was very difficult to explain reasonings and my preferences to my parents. My dad would insist that I ‘like meat’ and that I should ‘just eat it’. When I go home for dinner, my family typically has a BBQ, serving steak, lamb, fish etc., and leaving me with carrots and potatoes.
I would try and explain why I don’t want to eat meat, with the obvious reasons being:
- My Health
- The Environment
But, I sometimes have trouble articulating my thoughts and reasonings. Thankfully, over time my family have slowly started to accept my dietary changes (I guess because I haven’t died yet from ‘lack of protein and vitamins’)
I’m not going to lie, every day is a learning experience. I consider myself ‘vegetarian’, eating plant-based foods. I am just going to keep moving forward towards a more plant-based lifestyle regardless of my family’s views. I’m human and I do make mistakes but the positive changes felt in my overall health, makes the struggle worth it!
Share your story below, I would love to hear your vegetarian or vegan story. Do you also have family members who just don’t understand?
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