Leaves of Grass

I love my job, but I wish they would stop buying me food.

As you know, Bob, I am a vegan. That means no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no animal products at all. But that doesn't mean I'm picky! I have adopted a fairly lax set of rules for eating out, particularly when I'm eating with others. I don't eat obviously meaty/dairy-y food, but I don't grill the waiter for an ingredient list when I order. If something generally has stealth-dairy or meat (like onion rings or baked beans, respectively) I'll ask before ordering, but usually I'll just be casual about it. I've probably eaten more than a few restaurant meals with butter or cheese in them by accident since I became a vegan, but on the whole I think I do a good job. And if I order something and it comes with some surprise dairy item (for example, a plate of pasta that the chef decides to sprinkle with an unadvertised dollop of parmesan cheese) I take a can't-unshit-the-bed attitude and just eat it. I'll remember in the future to specify no cheese, but my sending it back won't decrease the restaurant's net cheese usage. My feelings would be different with unadvertised meat, but that's a different kettle of fish, if you'll pardon the expression.

So I'm about as accommodating when eating out as a vegan can be, and I generally don't make a big deal out of things. The problem with this accommodation, though, is that it makes it easy for the omnivores I work with to ignore my diet in selecting restaurants.

Thus: two weeks ago I had a choice of two restaurants for lunch: Just Chicken, the restaurant that serves chicken and nothing else, or Maria's Cuban restaurant. Now, Cubans are a fine people and I have nothing against them, but their cuisine, at least as instantiated in Americanized Cuban restaurants in New York City, is not particularly Vegan friendly. I had a choice of ten chicken dishes, five pork dishes, two goat dishes, and an ox dish. Among the appetizers there were three chicken dishes and two pork dishes. Sides were similarly meaty.

I eventually found the three plausibly non-meat dishes on the menu, rice and beans, fried plantains (green) and fried plantains (sweet). I'd say there's a greater-than-even chance the beans were cooked in some sort of animal fat and the plantains had whey in them, but I did what I could.

Last week some other interns and I worked late three nights in a row, and our attorney bought us dinner each night. Which, I hasten to add, was very nice of her. The trouble, for me, was that the first two nights we got food from a Vietnamese place with one non-meat dish, the third night from a dinner which had a few veganable items, provided you were willing to order a chef salad, hold the cheese, hold the eggs, hold the bacon, hold the chicken, hold the dressing. Which got you chopped lettuce and some cherry tomatoes.

What annoyed me most, though, was that my attorney started making snarkastic comments about how long it took me to find something to eat. Things to the effect of, "I realize this is the most important decision ever for you, but could you hurry it up?" I was tired and hungry at that point and barely kept myself from snapping "Well, it takes a while to search a two-hundred item menu for the one item that doesn't have meat in it."

Relatedly, for anyone who finds themself in this position in the future: Yes, I realize that your meat item tastes good, and yes, I am sure that I would not like a taste. While there are undoubtedly vegans out there who don't eat meat or dairy because they detest the way that meat and dairy tastes, similar to the way that I don't like onions, I am not one of those vegans. The fact that your chicken is very tasty is an utter non sequitur when levelled as an argument against the reasons I will not eat it. So, if in the future you feel a desire to ask whether I would like to try your chicken, even if just one bite, pretend that you have already asked the question and I have already replied "No, thank you."

I wish I had a vegan cupcake right now

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on June 4, 2007 7:08 PM.

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