Vegan, Vegan, Vegan!!! We went from not knowing the word, or at least not knowing how to pronounce it, to seeing it just about everywhere (menus, foods, products). As a long-time vegan, when all that we had to eat was lettuce, bread and tofu, I'm pleased to see how far we've come in recognizing the importance of plant-based living. However, I'm starting to feel like it may be overkill to some degree. Although many folks appreciate veganism and some have gone so far as to embrace a vegan lifestyle, there are still those skeptics that just haven't come around yet. I find it hilarious when I hear people say, "I've never eaten vegan food before." I guess they've never eaten fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, potatoes, etc. lol. Although I am unwavering in my commitment to being vegan, the choice doesn't have to be binary- vegan vs non-vegan. Just like anything else, learning about veganism is a gradual process that I feel should NOT be rushed. In fact, going 100% vegan for some may be a bit too extreme. I'm just happy if people can make an effort to be more plant based. Any effort is better than no effort at all. That being said, we must be careful not to shove it in people's faces, as it can be very off putting, to say the least. In all my years, I have always been conscientious of not judging or lecturing people or making them feel guilty for their dietary choices. On the flip side, as many of you know from past posts, I have been teased, bullied and ridiculed for my cruelty-free choices. I have always taken the high road, choosing to lead by example.
In my experience as a vegan living in mainstream society (should anyone in the restaurant business read this post), LESS IS MORE! Rather than labeling particular items, have a small V/VA/VO label/symbol (vegan available/vegan optional) so that vegans/vegetarians can quickly scroll down to them. Many dishes happen to be naturally vegan, so when a non-vegan comes across them, they may order a particular item without even thinking whether it's vegan or not. I know that my dad is terrified of foods boldly labeled "vegan," even if he loves all the ingredients. I can guarantee you that his eyes will skip right over an item if it's labeled "vegan." However, vegans can recognize that something is vegan without the labels. If the abbreviations appear, then it reassures us that it's "safe." If you are a vegan like me, you will just simply just ask before ordering for clarification. Vegans know how to study the menu, ask questions and make informed decisions on their own. Many menu items that aren't labeled at all can actually be "veganized," so just to be sure, ask your server is it's possible. Another piece of advice I would offer is to POLITELY request that your server ask the kitchen staff for confirmation that an item is indeed vegan, should the server not be sure. Servers aim to please, usually, and want to make the customer happy. They also enjoy learning something new so that they can be prepared for the next vegan patron. Sometimes I get lazy or careless (vegan burnout) and quickly order something without further "investigation." It never gets old when a server lets me know that the fryer isn't dedicated or that the dressing has honey/dairy in it, when I make it known that I'm vegan. Much appreciated!!!
We recently went to visit our children who live in Tennessee. We went to a breakfast place called Milk & Honey in Chattanooga, which was very vegan friendly. The menu had a small VO label on several items so, of course, I was thrilled and even had a hard time deciding. When we were looking at the porridge bowl, it was labeled VO but as we read the description, every ingredient was vegan. The server confirmed that the item was vegan but rather than the big in-your-face VEGAN word, which could steer folks clear, they added a very subtle VO, as they did with several other items. It was then that I realized how clever that was to have a little label/symbol next to an item that most customers won't notice but those who prefer vegan/vegetarian foods will understand and appreciate :) I would be remiss if I didn't mention the restaurant "Cashew," also in Chattanooga and 100% plant based, so...NO LABELS NEEDED (except gluten/nut free lol)!! It's complete nirvana when we find a vegan-dedicated cafe/restaurant where the only thing we have to worry about is having to choose from a plethora of delicious options as well as saving room for dessert!!
The word "vegan" is on its way to being a household name. In a perfect world, everything would be plant based and cruelty free where we can do away with labels altogether! It's remarkable to see just how many vegan-dedicated restaurants are popping up all around us. They are still few and far between so in the meantime, let's just celebrate how easy it is to find mainstream restaurants that can accommodate us with a variety of noteworthy vegan options! Don't SAY vegan...just do it!