For as long as I've been eating a plant based diet, I've been the only exception in my living arrangements. Whether living with family, staying with friends, or subletting, I'm usually the only one who requires a special menu. Believe me, I’ve heard every joke in the book pertaining to my lifestyle and the way I eat. But that's the least of my concerns.
As my clean eating saga lengthens, being exposed to "innocent" things like chicken grease and bacon juice could result in me becoming violently ill, and I don't take for granted that everyone is considerate of that. It's not fair for me to have that expectation. So I don't.
As a result, my awareness of hygiene in the kitchen has increased a great deal.
Implementing these practices has enabled me to coexist in a very harmonious way with other humans. If you ever found yourself complaining to or about your meat-eating cohabitants' cleanliness, follow my guide by using these six simple ways to preserve your sanity and livelihood.
Provide your own cutlery + Tupperware.
The utensils you use to feed yourself are just as important as what you feed yourself. Having your own private cutlery stash will help ease your mind about cross contamination. The most efficient GE whirlpool dishwasher can miss dirt caught in between the spokes of a fork as well as the grooves of a knife. Buildup ain't cute, and it's not healthy. Not even for the person who still eats chitlins. I would recommend having both plastic and stainless steel forks, knives, and spoons for personal meals at home and for when you’re having snacks on the go.
Having your own Tupperware is so so soooo necessary! Whether for meal planning or just needing something clean to eat out of when the remaining dishes are soiled. Speaking of soiled, whatever you do, Do not leave your personal stash in the communal sink for other people to use or clean, ever. See my next point.
Purchase your own cleaning supplies, sponges + scour pads.
Sponges are notorious for housing bacteria, and most people have sponges hanging around longer than necessary. I know once or twice you’ve walked into somebody’s kitchen and have seen the green scour pad so worn down that the sponge beneath it is visible. When I was staying with friends, I would secretly discard them and replace them because they were so disgusting. But that part aside, there is nothing more unsightly than seeing residue from God knows what hanging out on the scour pad, or on the surface of the sponge. Rest assured, you do not have to subject yourself to that. Go to the 99cent store, purchase yourself a few variety packs of sponges and scour pads to thoroughly clean your OWN dishes BEFORE and AFTER your meal. You could also go the eco friendly route and purchase reusable dishcloths.
Designate your personal cabinet and refrigerator space.
Most refrigerators have two drawers either at the top or bottom that's ideal for storing things like dairy, lunchmeat, and veggies, so claim one or both to store your things. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want your mushrooms kicking it next to your roommates jar of gefilte fish. So keep your fruits, veggies, and other perishables together in a designated drawer. For larger and bottled things like milks, beverages, and salad dressings, claim your spot on the door, or the closest shelf to your personal drawer(s). Try to have a central area for your things. Concentrated use in the fridge is beneficial for your muscle memory, and limits the amount of time you'll spend smelling the possible stench that might emerge.
Have an electric kettle.
As a self proclaimed tea head, having to thoroughly wash out a pot every time I want a cup of tea is annoying. Being that I work from home, I have several cups of tea throughout the day. One god awful Tuesday in June of 2018, I boiled a pot of water for my lunch tea time, and left the remaining water on the back burner. After a few hours I returned to the kitchen for another cup to discover ramen noodles were being boiled in my remaining tea water. Of course I was pissed and had a long talk with the culprit. But that was the final straw before realizing that I needed to create a better situation for myself. It was within my means to get an electric kettle to prevent visiting the kitchen all together for tea time. I find it better for uninterrupted writing sessions, anyway.
Implore air deodorizer/air freshener.
Certain meats just stink. Nothing about pig flesh smells good, not when the roast is simmering in the crock pot, not when the bacon is cooking in the oven, and damn sure not when ribs are sizzling on the grill. It all smells like shit. My stomach does somersaults when people cook it around me. I cannot tolerate the cooking of pork, and beef is a close second. I don't drag my feet to the kitchen and boycott their dinner because it's none of my business. They're not offering it to me, and if they do they're manifesting bad karma because that's petty and uncalled for. So you too, should just use deodorizers and air fresheners in your personal space to make it a little more breathable and easier on the stomach. Simple life hack.
Patience + An Open Mind.
Everyone’s lifestyles are different. When I lived with my brothers we had many a conversations about what I do and don’t eat, and the reasons why. It’s important to be willing to indulge inquiring minds, even when you're not sure if they understand. Not eating meat can be a hard concept for people to wrap their minds around. Shit, it's been almost five years and my sister still offers me chicken wings. But she's about the only exception.
Having an open mind and patience for conversations usually help to not only bond with the people you live with, but it can enhance the respect they have for your choices, and your space. It’s not your responsibility to convert the people you live with, so don’t even bother trying. You don't even have to offer them your food if you don't want to. Rations can be slim. But remember to be as patient and open minded about the good conversations as well as the vegan criticisms and stereotypical jokes that might ensue.