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Food is NOT the most important thing in the world

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What are some things that are more important to you than food?  To me, family is definitely more important.

Sarah (a reader) asked:

In the eight (I think you said eight) years you’ve been vegan, have you ever KNOWINGLY eaten a meat or dairy product, either by accident or choice? I know you said you sometimes eat things that might have trace animal products, but I was wondering about things that have more than just trace amounts. Just curious!

Actually, the answer to your question is “yes.”  When I was in high school, and had only been vegan about a year, my mom once surprised me with homemade chocolate chip cookies, using this recipe.

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(The perfect photo above is not mine, it’s Maggie’s. I only wish I had such skills!)

Mom was so proud that the cookies were vegan: made with dark chocolate chips and all!  When I looked at the chip bag, though, it turned out that the chips weren’t actually vegan, even though they were dark chocolate. There was still milk in them, as well as butter oil.

But I never told her.

I was so grateful for her thoughtfulness and kindness. And I wanted her to see me enjoy the super-sweet gesture. After all, she deserves compassion from me too. People are animals too! (Now, if it had been a yogurt smoothie or a lasagna in which she’d forgotten not to add cheese, the case would’ve been different. I’m not saying I would’ve eaten anything just because it was made with love. But as I said in my previous post, you have to decide what’s most important; situations—and veganism—aren’t always black and white. And it’s a personal decision that’ll differ for each of us.)

Nowadays I’m the one making Mom eat my cookies…

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My raw chocolate chip cookies.

Questions of the Day:

What are some things that are more important to you than food? Or: Has anyone ever made you a meal that really wasn’t your favorite, but that you ate anyway, due to the enormous amount of love put into it? Something that comes to mind for me: My grandma made a vegan salad this summer with arugula. This green isn’t my favorite, and my mother HATES it with a passion, but we quietly served ourselves a small portion to make Grandma happy. There are more important things in life than food. Family is one of those things.

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. I’d say family and my horse are more important than food 🙂
    The 2nd q – loads of times! My aunt used to make meals for my sister and I loads, but I never liked them much. Sometimes you have to grin and bear it!

  2. kbwood says:

    I adore the title of this post! AMEN. family, love, and blessings are so much more important than food could EVER BE. i think the blog world becomes so obsessed with food sometimes, but food is not our god! it never will be! thanks for always putting a good message in your blog girl!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I really appreciated this post! Some people get so caught up in their eating lifestyle, that they completely forget to enjoy food! I know I’m guilty of this, so this was a good reminder!

  4. Jenny says:

    Oh, man, this is a hard one. Of course, I would say that family is more important than food, just like my spiritual beliefs are important, but…I guess I sort of think of things in life as just “important,” not “more important” or “less important than.” I think the same about love. I think if you love, you love. It’s not “Who do you love more?” (I mean, clearly, I would choose my kids and husband over all others, but that’s not really want I mean.) That’s just how I see it, anyway.

    So, having said that…I could never stomach eating something that wasn’t vegan for the sake of making my family happy. I completely see why you ate those cookies, though. I think you made the right decision.

    My roommate in college made me a b-day cake – was SO proud of herself that she had used “Egg Beaters” so that I could eat it. I VERY apologetically told her I couldn’t eat it. (I had been off eggs for probably 8 years, even though I’d only been vegan for 2.) I felt terrible. I hate these kind of situations. My mother-in-law makes me things all of the time that I can’t eat – but that she thinks I can, and I feel horrible, standing there, wishing I could be the sort of person who could put her feelings above mine…but I guess I’m just not…it’s just really hard when you’ve TOLD the person exactly what it is you can eat, and it’s not really your fault if they’re being careless. I feel sort of mad at people when they put me in this situation. Then I’m more mad that I have to feel guilty for being mad. (I clearly needed to get this off my chest, ha!) I often don’t speak up – just say “thank you” and hope they don’t notice I’m not eating it. My husband is much better on this topic than I am – he’ll eat it to protect feelings…so at least I have him to eat my share up.

    1. Oh I feel your pain, Jenny! I wouldn’t have been able to stomach the egg-beater cake either. And there would’ve been a problem if you HAD eaten it: She might’ve then mistakenly thought it was vegan and therefore made you another one.
      For my cookies, I felt ok because it was a very little amount, and I just made sure my mom never bought that brand of chips again lol! 😉

    2. Melissa says:

      1000% agree with you, Jenny.

      The most I’m willing to compromise on is honey and I’ve only done that 4 times in seven years. I never *like* it and always feel like I’m letting myself down but the discomfort I feel is trumped by the other person in those few instances. And only because honey is my weakest ethical stance and doesn’t make me ill if I eat it.

      My Nana *knowingly* will put non-vegan ingredients in and then lie to me, so I can’t trust her. I feel bad but … my ethics are important, too.

      Nana actually once tried to convince my (very cool, supportive) Aunt to use chicken broth in some rice instead of the veg broth she’d said she’d use. My Aunt was horrified and said she’d never do something like that and then she told me what had gone down just to make me aware that Nana was doing things like that. :/ Really upsetting. 🙁

  5. Danielle says:

    I read your post yesterday but didn’t have a chance to comment! I totally agree that it’s impossible to live 100% cruelty-free. And yes, every little bit counts! Diets and lifestyles aren’t in black and white and if you’re a mostly-vegan who sometimes eats cheese and fish…then that’s still a *big* step in the right direction. I’m vegan for different reasons and so I still eat honey, refined sugar, “natural flavors” because it would be frustrating and tedious to inspect every little thing and I enjoy them!

    Oh, and I’m with you on the cookies. If there’s a trace amount of milk in 0.5% of the cookie and your mom is beaming….then I’d def. eat the cookie. But if she made it with butter, milk, eggs…then I would tell her I loved her & I want her to eat the cookies lol

  6. Jennifer - jcd says:

    Family is definitely more important than anything! And I include cats and dogs and fish and bunnies (and so on) in that definition of family. The only non-vegan food I ever buy is for my kitties. They cannot be vegan due to their biology, and I love them, so I buy them healthy cat food made with meat and fish. The toys I buy are definitely vegan, unless someone gives them a gift. Their health is more important than my veganism.

    Mmm… chocolate chip cookies. I’ve come across similar situations in life too. More often than not, people use margarine with whey or caesien in it to bake me otherwise vegan goodies. It’s not the end of the world. Educate them in a kind manner, eat the goodies, and move on. They probably never knew whey or caesien is made from dairy in the first place! It’s likely they won’t do it again. If they tried so hard in the first place to make something vegan for you, they will likely consider your advice for next time.

    A friend of mine went out of her way to make us vegan pizza one day when we came to visit. She did research into what vegans could eat, made a milk-free crust, made homemade sauce, bought veggie pepperoni, grilled some veggies, and tried her best to find vegan cheese for us. She went to three stores that had veggie cheese with caesien in it so she felt really bad about not buying is cheese. She did so much research on it. I brought some Earth Island (Follow Your Heart) cheese over and she felt so much better. The next time we came over, I saw the vegan cheese in the fridge – she used it to make us something else. What a sweetheart!

    Educating people and being understanding is one of the best ways we can spread veganism, or at least the awareness of it. My friend will ver be vegan but she is now intrigues by it and has become more aware of what is in the foods she does buy.

    1. Great comment, Miss JCD! Sounds like you have a really sweet friend, too!

  7. Amy says:

    For my birthday this year I was away at school, so my mom was sweet enough to order and send me a gluten free birthday cake. She was so excited that she found such an amazing gluten free cake that she did not realize there was dairy in it. I ate it with my friends, not realizing there was dairy in it and I felt sick afterwards. I thanked her profusely because she wanted me to have a good birthday, but a few weeks later I came clean and told her about the dairy in the cake.

    Situations like that are difficult to avoid. Since I am the only one really paying attention to what I eat I am not surprised when people have trouble remembering my dietary limitations. I try to explain the situation to them and hope they are understanding.

    Also I have been coping with the title of your post for about a year now since being diagnosed with my gluten and dairy allergy, but I think I am finally becoming truly comfortable with my unique diet.

    Family is more important to me than food.

  8. Ilana says:

    Yess, definitely. My mom bought me some fancy organic flavored peanut butters but she doesn’t understand the concept of “checking the ingredients,” and, when I did, ta-daaaaa…whey protein isolate. But I thanked her and I probably will still eat it (but very sparingly, I mean they were expensive and this way I don’t feel so guilty about eating dairy products) … I mean she just wanted to get me something she thought I’d like!! When we went grocery shopping yesterday we wanted to get cheap PB too, and she grabbed the one that said “organic” and I grabbed for the cheaper one, and she asked me why. I flipped both jars over and pointed at the ingredients. My cheaper one read “Peanuts and salt.” Her’s had peanuts, palm oil, salt, and sugar. I explained that I’d rather just have the peanuts and salt than have the organic peanut butter with extra oil. I’m tryyyiiingg!
    But I have a second dilemma. My family at least grasps the concept of vegetarianism. My BOYFRIEND’s family, though … well … it’s culturally offensive not to eat everything you are served, and meat is a MAJOR part of their food. I really can’t stomach the thought of it but I really don’t want to be offensive, this isn’t my family and I want to give a good impression but I just don’t know what to do. I really stay awake at night sometimes debating with myself. I mean it took a really long time just to get my boyfriend to really understand that I DON’T EAT MEAT and his family is already prejudiced against me because I don’t share their cultural history. On one hand, I figure, well, they already don’t like me because I’m different so what the heck, but on the other hand I really do WANT them to like me … ack I could talk about this forever.
    Anyway. I’ve been loving your posts lately – so so heartfelt, honest, and thought provoking. You’re wonderful!!

    1. Shannon says:

      My fiance’s family was the SAME way when we first started dating! I am vegan, and his family owns a dairy (so, obviously, milk and beef are always present at get t0gethers.) At first, I got a lot of questions about why I wasn’t eating, even more “here, try this, just a little bit” type comments. But I stood my ground in a polite and respectful manner, and now there are always veggie options whenever the family gets together. My advice is to just stick to your guns at meals – I found that offering to bring something to add to the table was also really helpful. I’ve made several desserts, and no one could tell they were vegan when they ate them – and I hardly EVER take home any leftovers. 🙂

  9. Murph says:

    I’m lactose intolerant and have been for about 7 years. We were at my aunts for Christmas dinner and I had already told her that I wouldn’t be having dessert because the usual puddings contain milk of some kind. Being dairy free was quite new to me so I wasn’t armed with alternate suggestions so was happy to skip dessert, much better than being ill! She knows how much I love pudding though so she made a special dessert all for me. She said she made sure she added no milk or cream to it, and knowing that I’m into healthy eating she said she made it fruit based too. She was so proud having found me a lovingly homemade and safe dessert to make my Christmas dinner as enjoyable as everyone else’s. So far so good…

    So when we had finished our main course she unveiled her dessert creation – strawberry cheese cake! The base was biscuits containing butter blended together with low fat spread and the filling was low fat creme fraiche!

    I felt terrible but I had to decline, I would have made myself too ill if I had eaten it and ruined the rest of Christmas day. She was so annoyed with me! She kept stressing the point that it was all low fat ingredients so would be fine for me…. NO!

    Although she never said it, I’m sure she thought that I had just made up a story about lactose intolerance just to avoid dessert, how wrong could she be! She understands about it now, but the cheesecake has never been mentioned since. The irony was that the Christmas pudding she had bought for everyone else to enjoy was dairy free so I tucked in no problem. Minus the brandy cream of course (I perfected my soy version for the following year!).

    1. Oh that’s really not fair of her to judge you like that… and I know how you feel because my grandma has done that to me before! All dishes she makes come with a side order of guilt! LOL
      I know, they only have good intentions! Family… what can ya do? 😉

    2. steph says:

      This happens to me all the time. I am lactose intolerant and while it’s really sweet when people make things especially for me, they don’t realize that certain ingredients are dairy (butter, cheese…it’s kind of amazing). I get the low-fat thing too, from time to time, just because I do eat really healthy. It can be frustrating but people are just trying to be helpful…

  10. Rachael says:

    It always sounds a little pretentious when I say (or write it) out loud, but the most important thing in the world to me is what I consider my mission – there is so much social and environmental injustice in the world, from human rights abuses to the raping of our planet to corporate greed and government corruption, and the impact that it has in people around the world kills me. My life has become focused on working with movements and activists that seek to address these wrongs, and I’ve given up a well-paying job and the comforts it brought to make sure that I am living according to my principles. Never been happier, and while food politics and food choices are tied in greatly to some of the things I’m working for, food itself is far from being the focal point of my life anymore.
    I also love my family – blood and self-selected, very, very much.

    1. Oh Rachael, you are amazing and inspiring to me. I’m so very glad you wrote this. It inspires me to be a better person. It’s so true that one feels much better about oneself when he/she is helping others!

  11. Oh gosh, a couple years ago I was in the WORST situation ever.

    I was going to this event-type thing where they were serving a chicken noodle soup for food. My friend Jamie’s mom made the soup, and I, of course, was not planning on eating it. I got there and Jamie came up to me saying “Kelsey! Guess what? I made a totally vegetarian version of the soup for you, so you can eat it too. I just pulled out some of the soup before my mom added the chopped chicken! It’s got vegetables and noodles and it’s really good.” That should’ve been a red flag to me right then, but she was really excited and I appreciated her thinking of me.

    After heating it up and starting to eat it, I noticed a little chunk of floating chicken. I mentally freaked out, and I got so scared that I’d accidentally eaten some. I absolutely had no idea what to do, because my friend was sitting there watching me eat it, but I knew I couldn’t eat anymore. I was so torn, and I think I just ended up saying I was full… I can’t remember for sure, but ugh, it was terrible. I felt so bad. I think she must’ve made the soup with cream of chicken soup, and she didn’t realize that cream of chicken actually CONTAINS chicken. Ahh.

    Anyway, that was a really hard situation. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, especially when she was so excited about making a “vegetarian” version for me. Rest assured, I rinsed my mouth out several times and I very nearly threw up. Blech.

  12. Jessica says:

    These posts are spot-on for me, Katie. I decided to take a break from blogging – and obsessing about food in general – and your latest topics are making me feel good about that. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks there are more important things in life! My family is the most important thing in the world to me…

  13. Gloria says:

    This is what I live for… No. 1: Family. So simple but SO powerful! My family is my life.. I talk to my mommy and daddy every day 😉

    Bringing joy to not only animals but PEOPLE! Spending days making homemade birthday cards for friends, surprising co-workers with their favorite muffins on a busy day. Seeing the smiles on peoples faces when they know that somebody loves them and is thinking about them.

    Taking pride in my career – engineering clean energy, steam turbine technology for more environmentally friendly use in power plants.

    Awesome posts today and yesterday! Sometimes we can get so caught up in the little details, but just stopping and reflecting on the big picture brings us back to Earth. Thank you!

  14. Lily says:

    Hey Katie!! I love your blog and visit it daily!! living in Israel and being a vegan is not the easiest thing to do, considering we dont have any of the fun fake cheeses or meats that America is filled with, which is one of the reasons i love your blog so much. i have made a couple of your raw cookies and my non- vegan husband loved them. I wanted to comment on your mom’s “vegan” cookie fiasco, because it happens to me all the time. I am a california girl who married into a Moroccan-israeli household where being a vegan is a very weird thing. My mother-in law is so sweet always trying to accommodate me when ever we come over for dinner. She makes me lots of vegetable quiches and most of the time she puts egg into them. I have told her many times that i dont eat eggs but she continues to make them. Until recently when i tried to explain to her about my veganism and my “i dont eat eggs” policy. But last weekend we went over for our friday night sabbath meal and she made cute little spinach cakes which were awesome. i was so thankful and touched she had tried so hard to make something completely vegan for me i even asked for the recipe, however upon asking she informed me that guess what the spinach cakes also had EGG!!!!! i am kind of at a loss for ideas or words to help fix no egg rule without really insulting her, maybe you have some kind of advice for a crazy hippie living in a different world..

    1. I’d recommend you bring over dishes occasionally. I know with my family, my mom was fine with me going vegan but was adamant she wasn’t going to cook that way when I visited, thinking it was too complicated and weird. Once she had some of the vegan food I made, no tricky and/or “fake” ingredients, she decided it was kind of fun to try and make meals without the dairy and eggs. Maybe your MIL will be the same way!

    2. Aw thank you so so much, Lily! I feel your pain; when I lived in China, many people didn’t understand that a food made with chicken broth wasn’t vegetarian, an when we went to business banquets for my dad, we were expected to try everything or risk being rude. To be honest with you, I used the “I can’t eat X” excuse often, as opposed to the “I choose not to eat X.” That way, I spared peoples’ feelings, while still not really saying anything untrue, since my body isn’t used to meat/dairy anymore, so it honestly does make me feel sick when I eat it.

  15. Little Bookworm says:

    Love your raw chocolate chip cookies! 🙂 I agree with you and Freya for your first question. Look forward to the NYC posts. 🙂

  16. Kristie says:

    This is such a sweet post Katie. When I was still vegan and went home for Christmas, my Dad made this HUGE amount of food for me, completely with a giant pot of homemade vegan pumpkin soup. Sadly, the soup didn’t really have a whole lot of flavor, but I made sure to eat a couple bowls because it had been so sweet of him to make me so much food.

    Being compassionate and understanding with family and friends whose intentions are good is really important to me, definitely more so than food.

  17. Dianne says:

    Fear of making it hard on my mom was what kept me from going vegan at first! But now I know I can cook for everyone else if I want to, and people are happy to make adjustments for me anyway.

    (I can’t stand arugula either, by the way. It tastes like rotten lettuce.)

  18. shesarunner says:

    Yes, so many things in life are more important to me than food! Family is definitely more important than food. However I usually won’t eat something just because it is made with love NOT because of perfectionism or even moral beliefs, but my food allergies and digestive illness. I just don’t think it is worth it to make myself sick and in pain for days, even if it will make someone else happy or to avoid hurting their feelings. Most of my family members and close friends know that I have these allergies and intolerances so they won’t make me anything unless they ask me first if I can eat it. It is kind of an annoying way to live, but I’m used to it by now. I do think that if it wasn’t a health issue, I would be a lot less uptight about food. I really don’t like hurting peoples’ feelings so I would do what I can. And I think that is a good thing…like you said, there is more to life than obsessing over traces of dairy or whether or not you are being a perfect vegan.

  19. Caroline says:

    Beautiful post! It reminds us all that we can loosen up a bit and look at the big picture…and shows that vegans are not extremists like most people think. You have your principles and you have your family, but in both cases, you made the best choice. I think that when people appreciate others’ imperfect efforts to help them meet their principles, others will want to work harder to meet them. Love the idea of breaking up the all-or-nothing mentality you mentioned before. I’ve always said I could be a super-happy vegan if not for salmon, cheese, and yogurt. So fine, I have to call myself someone who eats a plant based diet with some yogurt, cheese, and seafood…but why do I care about fitting perfectly into a certain category? and why should anyone else care?

  20. mapledreams says:

    Family are DEFINITELY more important than food! Definitely xx

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