Thanks for all of the feedback everyone! I made the decision today to officially embrace the vegetarian lifestyle. Although I would like to go vegan eventually, with different things going on in my life right now (ie going to volunteer in Costa Rica for 5 months and living with a host family) it makes more sense to start vegetarian and make sure I sustain that lifestyle before venturing on into happy veganism :) I can't wait to bring my first vegetarian dish to a dinner party!
I too am on my way to being 100% vegan. It is hard for some of my friends and family to understand. We are organic veggie farmers so the next logical step is to cut out animal products form our diet. I also bring a side dish or two that will appeal to anyone and most don't know I used Earth Balance and Almond Milk in the dish. If your host knows ahead of time it makes for a smoother dinner. I do not tell the host so they can make special accomadations for me, I do it so it is not brought up at the table as to why I didn't pile on the pot roast! Most people are too busy eating, drinking, socializing to look at my plate!
I am also faced with how to be accepted socially as a vegetarian (hopefully one day a full on vegan). My husband is in the military which seems like a completely different world sometimes, especially for me with my beliefs. But that's another story. I am trying to figure out how I will handle the subject with other military families. Luckily we're moving to the pacific northwest in a few months (from Georgia) and will be closer to people who will be accepting. However, there are going to be a lot of people who will feel the need to "educate" me, especially when it comes to my child. It's just the way some of the people in this life are.
But I am going to try the idea of trying to bring vegetarian dishes to events and take it from there.
I'm just glad to have found out about the book and the site. It is a huge relief!
In addition to the replies here, I thought I'd offer this: It mentally gets easier the longer you are vegetarian/vegan.
At first, you're new to the whole veg way of eating and living. When it still feels strange to you, you're a bit more sensitive about what other people think, no matter how good you feel about the choice you've made.
The longer you are veg, the more comfortable you get with it all, and the less sensitive you are about how other people will react. Offering to bring a dish to a party will become second-nature, ordering a meal at restaurant and asking that they hold the... (insert non-veg ingredients here)... will become no big deal, and you'll learn how to NOT get pulled into some ridiculous conversation with a rude hunter (that's the hardest hurdle, I think). :o)
It can be very difficult. My boyfriend's dad still relentessly "teases" me about it and I have been a vegetarian for over a year now. I have found that it's best not to come off preachy and just tell them that you are a vegetarian. When I go over to my boyfriend's house I always bring something to eat with me, just in case like a can of Amy's soups, which you can find at any grocery store. I don't expect them to change what they eat just for me. You can also bring over a dish to introduce them to vegetarian cooking and have something for yourself. Just stay strong and don't give in. Just remember while they are teasing you or not accepting your eating habits they are eating meals with meat that are full of antibiotics, hormones, and poo! Gross! Also, when they try to "teach" you about vegetarianism you can suggest they visit some websites that have more accurate information.
A lot of veg*ns (the * is an interchangeable "a" for vegan or "etaria" for vegetarian, so veg*n refers to either) wear their lifestyle choice as a badge of honor, they're so proud of themselves for making the right choice that sometimes they get themselves in over their heads. This is not usually preferable as omnivores can and will (trust me) be defensive over the discussion. Best to not bring it up unless you believe that someone in particular with an open enough mind can benefit from it. Fighting with family is the worst as it can create damaging polarity in the relationship, but it can also be rewarding in that establishing yourself as an individual can be a learning experience for both people, it's all about finding the happy balance, with all things. I recommend for beginners to ask questions to anybody preparing your food, let them know of your dietary restrictions/reservations and if they want to carry on the conversation from there - then if things get uncomfortable feel free to remind them about the origin of the conversation being that you NEEDED to bring it up. Fights don't convert people, and I don't even believe that converting people should be the intention. We can only share our beliefs with others and hope for the best possible outcome. Stubborn people like to fight and on neither side of a stubborn discussion does real progress occur when we're talking about an individual's worldview. Avoid the negativity and respect their right to voice a disagreement with you (after all, currently vegans are the minority of a minority, so the disagreement is actually coming from us, and we all want respect).