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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Sweet Potato for Awesomeness


My work place is remarkably varied. It consists mostly of women, but from all ethnic backgrounds and from all over the nation. Yet, I still live in a fairly small city in the south. So, I tread carefully when it comes to politics and my veganism. I'm naturally a little reserved anyway when it comes to talking about that stuff. You can just chalk it up to me being un-confrontational. I just don't like to argue about things, especially those kinds of things that lead to serious arguments, like not eating meat. I don't want to be known as that crazy, vegan girl who won't shut up. I'm dedicated to the idea of being vegan awesome.

And yet, no matter how hard you try not to talk about it or draw attention to it, it comes up.

As you are standing at the community microwave, the inevitable questions begin, "What's that? Is that tofu? Are you one of those healthy eaters?"

Or, "Do you want to grab a burger?"
Me: "Oh, no thanks."
"What? Are you a vegetarian or something?"

Somehow you are forced to answer. Then it spreads like wildfire. You have people coming up to you and conspiratorially whispering things like, "I try not to eat very much red meat," or "I don't think I could live without cheese."

And that is how it happened to me. I told one person and suddenly my whole office was aware that I eschewed all animal products.

There were various reactions. Some were confused, others wary. Yet, strangely, most were supportive.

One lady in particular - the loudest, most southern of them all - who I had heard say things like "towelhead," was the most interested.

One day, out of nowhere, she brought me a sweet potato.

Yes, a single sweet potato.

It was like a white flag. It was a sign of support, and maybe even of solidarity.

She came to my desk and said gruffly, "Here you go." She thrust a medium sized sweet potato towards me. "My husband deals with produce all day and had some extra of these. I know you can eat them."

I was strangely and deeply touched.

It was the beginning of an unexpected and extremely nice effort on her part to make me more comfortable in the office when it came to food. She asked me questions about dairy and appeared to be interested in the answers. She only brought things I could eat to office functions. She even bought vegan butter just so she could make me cinnamon apples.

Although I can't place all the credit on being awesome, since most of it belongs to her open-mindedness, I believe that my quietness and unobtrusiveness brought out in her a motherly notion to protect me and provide options for me. It is a perfect example of how, by simply being there, you can change someone's perspective forever.

And in case you are wondering, I used the sweet potato in a delicious vegan stew.

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