Most of the year, being a vegetarian (or vegan) is little more than a minor inconvenience. After all, you have complete control over what goes into your shopping cart, refrigerator and, inevitably, digestive system.
But around the holidays, things get a little more complicated. When faced with potlucks, buffets and grandma's kitchen, herbivores can end up feeling like Justine Sacco after her plane landed. Shit out of luck.
What follows is a holiday survival guide for non-meaters.
See also: Trader Joe's: Top Ten Vegetarian Finds
Become BFFs with the family dog(s).
If you're more of an incognito veg-head, preferring to fly under the radar and not cause a ruckus at a social gathering, you can pass your meat off to a more willing attendee: any available dog. Or hell, cat, even. A ham slice beats standard pet fare any day. Alternatives include flushing the meat down the toilet, burying it in the kitchen garbage (potato peelings make great camo), or throwing it into the neighbor's yard.
Be prepared to define the word MEAT.
Some people may be perplexed by your status. No meat? What does that even mean? Traditionalist relatives might have evolved their own definitions of the foreign concept. (See above.) Be ready to explain that meat = animals. Depending on the pupil you're schooling, this might engender even more confusion. Flash cards could help.
That's slang for Bring Your Own Food. This is a back-up plan in the likely chance that all food -- sides included -- will be made with something that once had a face. Bacon lurks even in desserts these days, so it pays to be prepared. This way, you won't have to resort to eating three-year-old gingerbread off the Christmas tree.
Grow a thick skin. Or a coat of armor.
You think you got teased as a teenager when you had a faceful of acne and a mouthful of metal? Toilet dunks and locker-stuffing were child's play. When your redneck uncle discovers you're no longer a meat eater, the repercussions will make frat hazing look like a trip to Disney World. Prepare for an endless (read: until the relative in question dies) onslaught of teasing, torture and painfully unfunny jokes. Expect the following: "Haven't you heard that carrots scream when you pull them out of the ground?" "Vegetarian is just an old word meaning lousy hunter." "Meatloaf is totally vegan, right?" All of the above will likely be followed by chortling at their own wit for hours afterward.
Booze is your buddy.
As your carnivorous companions devour ham hocks, cuts of veal and duck breast, you'll probably be thinking of Babe, Molly the heroic cow and that baby duck that just couldn't stay awake. In order to keep it together, you will need booze. Lots and lots of booze. Luckily, it's an American tradition to get totally shitfaced on Christmas, so you'll be in good company. Then, when you start sobbing hysterically over the plight of animals on factory farms, everyone will write it off as standard holiday hysterics.
Beware the minefield of meat.
Think that loaf of bread is safe? It's packed with lard. Excited about the Christmas jello mold? It's chock full of ground up animal bones (gelatin). Preparing to pound down a Guinness with your dinner? It's made with dried fish bladder (yes, seriously).
In this battlefield of holiday grub, nothing is safe. Ask questions, because why is that cupcake oh-so-moist? The tears of a baby lamb. Duh.
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For some, the call of a freshly glazed honey ham can be tough to resist. Even the "meat" that constitutes a hot dog has its appeal. So if you're having a tough time keeping your veg-inity intact when faced with steaming meatballs and juicy turkey breasts, remind yourself of the not-so-appetizing aspects of said meaty dishes. Antibiotic-pumped cows, beakless chickens, genetically modified frankenfoods. You'll lose your appetite faster than Princess Kate kicked that baby weight.
So go forth, meatless warriors. You can face down this holiday hell and emerge (generally) unscathed. Just be strong, and keep that meat-moat intact. No breaking the seal, no matter how tempting the charcuterie.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.