We Want To Eat Well, Too, When Dining Out!
In this post, I depart a little from my usual high vibe, Law of Attraction writings and offer a wee bit of a rant. I'd apologize if I was actually sorry, but I'm not. If I offend anyone, well, I prefer to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Let me know if I owe you an amends after reading. One will be forthcoming. If you are wondering who "we" are, we are vegan. We eat a strictly plant based diet, for a whole host of very individual reasons.
Some vegans are motivated by personal health reasons, some are guided by the mandates of a particular spiritual path that they follow, others have made the decision based on compassion, for the sake of of the animals affected by humans carnivorous desires. Desires, not to be confused with needs. From a nutritional standpoint, no one needs to consume flesh, or dairy products. (Despite what the powerful lobbies of the Cattlemen's Association or Dairy Council have paid millions to make you believe.) Still other vegans maintain the lifestyle because it is the most "planet-friendly" and ecologically sound choice for everyone; human and animal.
I personally, have been vegan for 20+ years, and we (vegans) do a wonderful job cooking for ourselves, our families, and friends at home. We enjoy beautiful, colorful, delicious, and healthy appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. Dining out, however...usually falls into one or more the following categories-
*Stressful/Unpleasant (for the vegan and those dining with)
*Bland and tasteless
*Over or unfairly priced (when substitutions are made or ingredients removed.)
It's stressful and can be unpleasant when you are planning a meal out, not to know if there will be anything on the menu that you will eat; and not just stressful for you, but also for your dining companions who worry that there will be no offerings for you to choose from, and if you didn't choose the restaurant, they sometimes feel guilty, as well. Jeez, that sounds like a fun experience!
What is offered, is often bland, tasteless, and oh so predictable. The exchange with your server can sound a lot like this-
*"We have salad." (I am not a rabbit, I am a vegan!) And very often there is one dressing to choose from that is dairy free; Italian, which I don't especially care for. Most salads these days come with meat or cheese in them and even if you asked to have it removed, the price of the dish remains the same.
*"You could order fries or a baked potato." Hmmmmm, whole lot of nutrition going on there! And what shall I put on that a la carte potato, sour cream? Butter?
*"We have a veggie burger!" Oh yay! (This is my least favorite response, by the way, as I have choked down so many really bad veggie burgers.) While my companions are dining on freshly prepared food, I will do my best to muster my way through a frozen, then microwaved veggie burger, many of which are made with egg, and act like I am enjoying it.
*"I'm sorry, we just really don't have anything." Translation-We don't have anything at all that does not have meat, fish, cheese or other forms of dairy in it, and the kitchen is unwilling to make accommodations.
It doesn't have to be this way. With a little forethought and creativity, almost any restaurant could offer at least a few delicious, healthy, freshly prepared dishes for vegan patrons. With information so readily available on the Internet, vegan recipes are easy to find and most often, easily prepared as well. It just takes a little thought and planning. So much effort, creativity, and culinary talent is put into creating menus for the general public, it would be wonderful to have the same energy directed toward the creation of a vegan menu. We would like to enjoy eating out, too!
My future daughter-in-law is the chef, menu creator, and person in charge of ordering at two local restaurants. One, a fine dining establishment, and the other is more of a pub type atmosphere. Last year, she and I worked together to create some vegan menu options for both locations. The menus did very well once introduced and continue to do so a year later! Best of all, it was easy, hassle free, and the change has seen many vegan patrons pleasantly surprised! Now, in our area, which is not exactly robust with dining out options, groups of diners with a vegan or two in their party are much more likely to choose either of these two restaurants so that everyone can enjoy their meal. Restaurateurs, are you listening?
It doesn't even mean having to redo the entire menu. Perhaps just a line at the bottom of the regular menu saying something along the lines of "Ask your server for our vegan menu." Or, just print out a 5"x7" one and tuck it right inside the regular menu, so it doesn't seem so much like an afterthought. This was the solution that the two previously mentioned restaurants opted for.
This past weekend, I went out with my daughter to a new, and lovely little bistro that opened up a couple of months ago in our area. I was excited to visit. It was delightful! Chic in it's design, super friendly staff and management, great atmosphere,and amazing cocktail offerings. I assumed since it was attached to a wellness center offering yoga and the like, I would have no problem finding vegan options. Once again, I was disappointed. Not a single one to be found on the menu. However, much to their credit, they allowed me to pick and choose vegan items from other gourmet sandwiches and create my own. I also ordered onion rings, which came highly recommended, and a member of the kitchen staff was thoughtful enough to come out and let me know that they were not vegan. He then offered a substitute. Bravo! Well done! The sandwich I created, with lots of tempeh, yummy pesto and veggies was absolutely delicious! Their willingness to make accommodations and substitutions was truly refreshing, and very much appreciated.
That said, it still would have been nice to have even just a few vegan options already on the menu to choose from, and avoid everyone having to scramble and figure out what to offer "the vegan". Even fellow patrons chimed in with suggestions! (Adorable, but just a teeny bit embarrassing, too.) Because they were so accommodating, I definitely plan to return.
Anyway, thanks for listening. I appreciate your time and your ear. And I'm just going to throw this out there, if your in the restaurant business, I am more than happy to help you bring this much needed change to your establishment. Feel free to shoot me an email- firstname.lastname@example.org It's an idea whose time has come, and actually, is long overdue. C'mon folks, even Burger King, McDonald's and KFC have made changes to their menus to accommodate veg heads. Surely quality restaurants can do better!
Are you vegan, looking for new recipes to try? Or not vegan , but wondering if plant based options can really taste good? I'd love to recommend one of my very favorite websites "Minimalist Baker" Minimalist Baker is a place for recipes requiring 10 ingredients or less, 1 bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. All eaters are welcome. (Not all recipes are vegan, but the majority are, or are vegetarian.) If you have a plant based kitchen, chances are, you already have most of the ingredients on hand! I welcome your comments and feedback.
We vegans just want to go out and enjoy a meal with friends and family without feeling like a burden, or an afterthought on the part of the establishment. The number of vegans and vegetarians grows daily in this time of rapidly expanding consciousness and concern for the planet. I feel like it's time for restaurants to keep pace with the changing times.
Thanks for listening to my little "rant". It may not be the last on this topic.