As I’ve mentioned before, veganism – for me – is about awareness. Awareness, however, sometimes means you have to compromise. Last week during the holiday, my family (including my parents) drove up to Vail for a few days. Eating out for every meal presented a dilemma. For one, service in Vail is, to put it politely, unhurried. Secondly, finding a vegan option on every menu is darn near impossible. Yes, I could go with a garden salad, but darn it – sometimes you are just hungry and a salad isn’t going to cut it.
So, at one particular restaurant – after we waited for about 20 minutes to get seated (despite no one seemingly being in front of us) — I ordered a slice of pizza with mushrooms and other veggies but without the goat cheese. Little did I realize that it would have other types of cheese (call me stupid). Dilemma – do I send it back much to the annoyance of my entire family and a very, very slow restaurant staff or make a choice to suck it up and eat it? It was my mistake, after all.
This is where awareness comes into play. You say I could have stuck to my principles and sent it back – but what would this have achieved? I wasn’t going to change any minds at my table. I wasn’t going to suddenly make the staff stand up and say “hmmm, I should ask every patron if they are vegan and mean for me to leave off all cheese, eggs, butter, etc.” I think my parents might have disowned me right then and there. My kids would have completely lost their minds sitting any longer and my husband, well, I don’t even want to think about the eye rolls and heavy sighs that would pepper my days after. I could have been a martyr and not eaten – again, what am I trying to prove? If veganism is about awareness, health and kindness – this was an opportunity to be aware and compassionate of my companions and showing kindness in not making anyone suffer for my dietary choice. If I sent the food back, the slice of pizza would have been thrown out – thus wasting the animal product and the food altogether. Needless to say, I ate my mushroom and mozzarella slice. I felt badly about it – but I must confess, it was tasty.
Another lesson came later that evening. We went to an upscale eatery that featured natural, locally grown/raised ingredients. On the menu was a vegetarian option – a farro dish with lentils and wild mushrooms. Perfect. I asked if it could be made vegan – the server assured me, “yes, they’ll leave off the labneh.”(Labneh is a yogurt cheese.) Well, my appetizer of raw quinoa in lettuce cups (don’t judge, it was tasty) went well, but then the entrée came with a big dollop of….labneh! Instead of throwing a fit, I politely scooped it off and placed in on my bread plate — same companions as at lunch, thus the same reasoning. When the server came to clear the table, I saw her visibly flinch when she noticed the yogurt on the side plate. She said nothing, but was clearly disturbed. Seems that’s what it took to get fast service in Vail – the chef rushed out to tell me that the dish was indeed prepared to vegan guidelines (no butter, I hadn’t even thought of that) and that the person finishing the plates accidentally put the yogurt on. The chef bought my entrée. They thanked me over and over again for my understanding – I’m guessing they’d been made aware by a more fervent vegan of mistakes in the past.
While I respect anyone’s commitment to a specific dietary lifestyle (veganism is not easy) – I choose to do my best to not make it an extraordinary inconvenience to others. I am choosing to do this vegan experiment, I can’t expect everyone close to me to jump on board. We’ve tried soy and almond milk in my house, but it didn’t really work. So now, when I do buy cow’s milk for the kids I look for organic versions with humanely-raised seals. Again, awareness and doing the very best I can at any given moment in time. That’s all we can ask of any decision.