How to feed a vegetarian fussy eater at Christmas

Recently, I partook in a Buzzfeed quiz. How unique are your Christmas traditions it was called and I went into the experience believing myself to be fairly unique. My uniqueness was being questioned severely by my apparently common traditions of wanting to walk before breakfast and wanting to open presents afterwards (seriously, cannot wait for Emma’s face when she sees what I have got her this year #nailedit). But worry not, I thought, when it comes to the eating – I have to be truly unique.

When the eating question duly arrived, I was, as I usually am by these things, disappointed. There were about 15-20 answers to the “what do you eat for Christmas dinner” question and none of them suitably answered what I do. The shocking thing was, for a website which is so driven towards equality and promoting the “oppressed” sections of western society where it is rare to see a straight kiss on their love section, there was only one vegetarian option amongst the many there.

A nut roast.

And for me, that sums up everyone’s view of vegetarians at Christmas.

My Mum made my sister and I have nut roast every Christmas when I was younger. I absolutely hated it. Couldn’t stand it. I had no idea what was in it but I hate nuts and I hate cheese and it was just the worst part of every year. I used to dread Christmas meal because I hated it that much. I was so glad when she allowed me to pick my own meals (even if it meant more work for her).

Now, I’m classed as a fussy eater by most. It’s not something I’ve been willing to talk about on here before for a very simple reason. It’s not something anyone can understand who has never experienced it. No matter how much clarity of thought I express at this part will make you truly grasp what living is like as a “fussy eater” but I can try.

The simple truth is being a fussy eater is just knowing what you like and being unwilling to move too far away from that. Some people think it is rude to reject certain food, and others think it’s boring to not try every option on the menu. It’s neither rude nor boring, it’s just it is what it is. I never want to try an option on the menu and if people don’t explain to me what they are making before they do it, it stresses me out so much I’m no longer hungry.

Being a fussy eater is about anxiety as well. We’re anxious people because we know we don’t like certain food and that food could be in anything. Fussy eaters are far more sensitive to taste than anyone else and so if you tell me you can’t taste the banana in it, you can bet your life that I can. In fact, it’s hyper-sensitivity. For some people, it’s classed as an eating disorder – I don’t think I can be classed in that bracket, but it’s fairly bad nonetheless.

But overall, it’s not something I need concern myself with. My diet is limited, but I’m not unhealthy. Adding that little bit of exercise into my daily routines mean I’m the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been. So all in all, I’m not fussed about my fussy eating. It is what it is, I like what I like and in the future I’ll like a few more things and probably not like some things I love now. That’s life right? I don’t feel like I limit myself, I barely even feel like I make life hard for me.

Back to Christmas, back to nut roasts. Christmas is seen as a day steeped in tradition, so much so we seem unable to move away from that. Most people eat the same bird year upon year (despite, and bear in mind I’ve obviously never made it, the stress it seems to take to cook it), with the same sides, puddings and drinks. And from talking to people, it appears to me that most don’t like it. Brussels sprouts seem to be the most hated of the vegetables, and the less said about Christmas pudding the better. But they still do it, year upon year, eat the same thing time and time again. And if it’s not turkey, then it’s nut roast. Vegetarians, so society has decided, have to eat the same thing year on year as well. I suppose if the meat eaters do it, the veggies have to follow – even though by becoming veggie in the first place they’ve stepped away from one of the oldest traditions in this country.

Being a vegetarian at Christmas should mean, like it does for Emma, that you can actually think about what you want to eat. Put some imagination into it, and concoct something you truly remember for the next year. And then eat something different the next.

I would say I don’t understand why meat eaters do Christmas like they do, but the truth is I’m struggling to understand why vegetarians do as well.

Food, I’ll be honest here, food stresses me out. There are very few people I trust to prepare my food, and very few places I trust to do the same. If I’m eating out, I choose the simple option because that’s the one less likely to have weird ingredients in. I don’t want the same Christmas meal year upon year, yet nor do I want to experiment or try something I’ve never had before.

Christmas meals, for me at least, aren’t about being an experience – they are more about simply enjoying the food. And when I realised that that is how they should be, I made a vow to myself – eat something you know you’ll like. Sure, make extra of it to continue the only tradition I can get behind – gluttony. And definitely load extra helpings of garlic bread on the side (garlic bread – the one dish that works every single day of the year) but make the main dish something I absolutely adore.

Pasta, fresh of course – I do spoil myself at Christmas, is a safe bet. As is pizza. Again, pizza – why wouldn’t you want to eat it at Christmas?! Freshly made potato wedges. These carbohydrates are my staples, and if they are my staples why shouldn’t I eat them on December 25th? I dress them up a lot – my favourite Christmas meal to date is definitely the Christmas tree pizza made for me by Emma’s parents – but they remain my bread and butter foods (ironic as I hate butter and it ruins bread).

Again, I can’t stress this enough – I don’t see it as limiting myself and neither should anyone who has the displeasure of having to cook for me (and anyway, I much prefer cooking for myself – it’s very relaxing). People always tend to worry more around me and food, always stress about whether I’m eating the right things and whether it’s enough. Believe me, I know what I like and I know what I don’t and I’ll tell you if I like a certain food (or don’t). Basically, don’t stress. I stress enough about food and am hyper-sensitive to others stressing around me so people stressing about whether I’m eating enough or not is more likely to make me less likely to want to eat.

I hope you understand my mind-set a bit better now, and maybe this will inspire me to delve into my eating habits more often, but the crux of the article is this – stop being a Christmas sheep and throw a bit of variety into the mix on Christmas Day. I find it funny that a fussy eater is telling you to do that but this is how I see Christmas – whereas others are stuck in their traditional ways I am free to eat what I know I love. And I reckon, as big headed as this sounds, I enjoy Christmas meals more as a result.

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