Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't Shy Away

I got this comment on my blog, Marty’s Flying Vegan Review, (, about a post involving a vegan meal at an IHOP.  It got me thinking and here's the result.
“I live in Florida just outside of Jacksonville and when I saw your post I said "Wow this guy is brave". I would have run into a grocery store for some fresh fruit first. That "fake" butter looked really strange. Are you glowing? lol
Curious why you wanted the vegetables cooked real soft. I'd be afraid of anything touching their grill or cutting services. Glad it worked out for you!”
I know I can always run into a grocery store and get an apple but where would this blog be then?   That’s my backup and there are places I’ve been where I’d do just that.
I also don’t like when I order cooked veggies and they come out warmed, still on the raw  side, and merely covered in oil as proof of their travels into a pan.  It makes me think that at best the chef was in a hurry.   
I strictly follow the words and advice of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, (, which I heard in a pod cast many moons ago. "Do your best.  You can't control what you can't control.  Do what you can and don't do nothing because you can't do everything."  Or words to that effect.
I will not eat anything that has any animal ingredients but until we transform this world I have to deal with the fact that sometimes, in some places, if I choose to eat out I will end up with traces of stuff I don't care for.  I can't drill down into a restaurant's ingredients or cooking processes to assure everything is 100%.  What percent of waiters or chefs know that bone char is used in the manufacture of some sugars, let alone if the sugar used in their dishes were made that way?  
(Almost every candy bar has the disclaimer that it is made in a facility that processes milk products.  It’s your choice if "trace" is ok or you're going to perhaps not support a growing company that must share production facilities but is solidly on the vegan path.) 
There also has to be a fair amount of trust, so if I ask something be prepared vegan and it's not, I can just return it with a request that it be corrected or I can hit the ceiling.  That all depends on the transgression and the response when brought to the attention of the waitstaff/management. 
I will never forgive the owner of Johnny Chih’s in Westhampton, NY, ( for not understanding, (or caring actually), that it wasn't ok to serve me stuff made with ONLY chicken stock because it had no "chicken" in it. Yet I will be giving Blockheads another chance because they (said) they re-trained their waitstaff and redid their menu to make their vegan choices more clear.  Big Nicks is off my list because after they said they'd retrain the staff I still got a waiter who had no idea what I wanted and gave me soy cheese with casein even after my 5 minute explanation.  There was recently an article about a facebook posting by a chef, (true or not), who previously worked at Tavern on the Green in NYC’s Central Park, (now closed), who intentionally served wheat pasta to diners who specifically requested gluten free ... and supposedly laughed that they never knew.
That being said we all could starve if we avoided eating anything raw that might have been fertilized by cow manure.  Or cooked if we didn't meticulously wash every molecule of animal remnant off every leafy green we ate.  It just realistically can't be done.
So I go in and ask for no butter, no dairy, no stock, no this and no that but have no control if a chef is cooking in a frying pan, or on a flattop, that still has bacon grease on it, (I hope not!), or some butter or milk or cheese.  If he wiped it off is that good enough or do we need it steam cleaned and atomically blasted?  The only way we're going to assure ourselves of that is to eat only at vegan restaurants.  (Even then you can’t be sure.  See Quarrygirls expose here: I try to do that as often as possible but flying with another crew member who demands meat on his plate at every single meal is the norm for me and often we don't have time or the means to eat separately.  I have friends and family with the same set of dining rules.
We are burdened enough, and I use this word loosely, with merely explaining who we are and what we believe in and how it translates into preparing our food almost every time we eat out.  There are more and more places with “vegan” on the menu so we’re making inroads for sure.   At places with indicated “vegan” selections, when inquiring about other options that might be “veganized” I still have to say, “No, honey isn’t good, No, fish sauce isn’t good.”  Where we think we’re understood due to in house training, it’s not a given that our servers really understand.  One shouldn't assume.
We have to keep educating wherever and whenever we can, one person at a time.  It’s what we do as quiet activists.  As part of the fight for animal rights, better health, a cleaner environment, at whichever stop you boarded the vegan train, we explain and educate but still we're going to, I believe, have to put up with these minor traces of animal products in our food.  I will keep eating out, asking, telling, educating and of course sending food back to be re-done.  I hope it becomes easier for us in the long run.
The only other alternative is to never dine out with our less than enlightened friends, co-workers, and relatives, which for me is not an option.

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