THIS NEEDS TO BE SAID

Hopefully this will help some of you understand why vegans have issues with eating out at restaurants, or eating at the same table with non vegans.

I originally started writing this as an open letter, after seeing plenty go viral recently, but after never having written an open letter I decided to read up on them.

Much of what I found seemed to be political, addressing a real world issue, or attacking a certain person/organisation. I guess you could say this is political, or that it addresses a real world issue, but not in the most conventional sense.

I’ve been vegan now a few years and to the surprise of my friends, the only thing I really miss out on is being able to eat at restaurants fairly easily and without restraint. It’s the same for my mother who struggles, because she used to love eating out at restaurants and after turning vegan a year ago has only eaten out a couple of times.

However, with that said, the reason I’m writing this is about a conversation I’ve been reflecting on which happened close to a year ago. My best friend isn’t vegan, sadly, so usually during our meet ups a vegan conversation will pop up and it’s always civil, but he brought up a point which was a little difficult to consider from my perspective, but I understood why he brings it up.

As already mentioned, this was a while ago, but he said something to the effect of “I fully support what you’re doing, but my problem with veganism in general is I can’t just have a normal meal with you anymore without you being uncomfortable. I feel like as the world goes more vegan it’s just going to create a larger divide where you have to go to one restaurant and I go to another”

Firstly, if we take the first part “I fully support what you’re doing, but my problem with veganism in general is I can’t just have a normal meal with you” there’s a lot to be said here. This kind of links in with what a lot of non vegans say which is along the lines of “I respect your veganism, but you should respect my food choices too”. The crux of this relies on the choice of food, because in the mind of my friend, he’s just eating something completely normal. However from my perspective, he’s funding something I’m abhorrently against. If you sat across from someone eating a human child, that wouldn’t be considered a ‘normal’ meal, and I wouldn’t be expected to sit happily across from that.

A huge part of our friendship and what friends do together is now compromised, with no sign of returning to normal. Few lifestyle changes you can make truly affect what you and your friends do together in such an obvious way, so I’m not surprised this would come up.

The second part of what he’s saying, I want to bring up later on.

QUICKLY ADDRESSING HIS POINTS

I can’t eat a normal meal with you: 

What you consider a normal meal, should be considered a crime.

Or… Why is a plant based meal not considered a normal meal?

Or… I can’t enjoy my normal meal, because I’m sat across from a meal that disgusts me. While non vegans love to joke that vegans only eat salad, nobody is truly disgusted by salad. They may not like it, but disgusted but it? Not a chance. A corpse on the other hand, that’s pretty disgusting. (This will bring me onto a point later on)

As the world goes more vegan it’s just going to create a larger divide

As the world goes more vegan, there will be far more choices as to where I can happily eat. Which begs the question –  If there are plenty of places serving delicious food that didn’t require an unnecessary death, why would you choose it?

AN ACTUAL WORRY

Being Poisoned

At this point, you’ll likely have heard of the chef who had to resign because she was saying how she spiked vegan food, well that’s not an isolated incident. Before that story you could find forums and other places on the internet where people liked to brag about it, but those are harder to find now that google has just about every news site and blog posting about the one story.

Here’s a nice little selection of other times it’s happened:

For some reason it makes certain people feel proud to brag about feeding vegans meat in some manner. We’d like to say that this is a minority, but who really knows? I’ve only eaten out maybe 5 times in the last 3 years and you might think that small, but 3 of those times I’ve been fed cheese. Who knows if it’s intentional, or that they just don’t care enough, whichever it is, it’s a problem.

If I consume the smallest amount of dairy nowadays it will incapacitate me for at least 2 days. I won’t even get out of bed. Besides having very little choice for restaurants that serve vegan options, being poisoned is a real concern and is why I’ve eaten out so few times.

While my choice to not consume animal products isn’t down to allergies, there are many vegans who are actually allergic to certain animal products. If you told someone you have a severe allergy to nuts, they don’t mess around because they know it could kill you. Why then should you have to tell someone that you don’t consume dairy because it will hospitalise you for them to not put it in your food? If you don’t want to consume dairy, you shouldn’t be forced to. What are you supposed to do when you can’t trust the people who prepare your food?

COOL PRANK BRO

My friend, when I brought the fact that people spiking vegan foods is a thing was in disbelief at the concept. We went to college together studying hotel management and catering and he now works in a really top position in the hospitality field. In no way could he ever imagine himself or someone working for him ever sneaking something into a customers food. It’s why he is the only non vegan I trust to cook me a meal.

However, that being said, while I trust him, nobody else has done anything to earn that trust. I know I’m not the only one in this situation. Especially, as in the videos, it’s socially acceptable to make someone believe you’ve just fed them something they purposefully abstain from in a hilarious prank.

CROSS CONTAMINATION

This one will make sense for all the purists out there, but cross contamination is a real issue, similar to the above. This isn’t aimed at the people who are deathly allergic to dairy or any non vegan product, but instead the purists. Though that probably isn’t accurate. There are multiple levels of cross contamination you have to worry about, but you’ll make your decision personally.

I don’t care: This would be that you don’t mind if your food is cooked in the same pan or oil as animal products, but you aren’t consuming the animal products. You’re pretty much guarunteed to have animal fat in your meal if you are on this level, but you aren’t physically consuming it.

I do care: This would be that you ask if the food is cooked in the same oil and if it is, you’ll order something else.

I’m vigilant: When you eat out you will either eat at 100% vegan places or if that isn’t an option, not only will you ask about the oil, but you’ll ask things like if the same gloves are used for preparing non vegan and vegan foods. If the knives are washed to prevent cross contamination and if the same kitchen work station is used for non vegan and vegan products.

I’ve gone nuclear: Knowing that they change their gloves isn’t good enough, especially knowing that if (Subway as an example) they add salad to an order which has animal products, they are touching the food with gloves that have touched animal products, so the cross contamination is on the salad now. You won’t eat out at any places where this is even a possibility. You also have thought of other ways cross contamination can happen that I haven’t. For the record, I’m half way in between vigilant and nuclear.

As mentioned above, this is relevant for the purists. As far as I can tell, for the purists, any time something non vegan comes into your system by mistake, it’s the same as if you’d eaten meat on purpose and so technically you wouldn’t be vegan any more and would have to reset the clock. I understand the mindset behind this and I’ve beaten myself up in the past over accidentally consuming cheese, but it doesn’t reflect on me and my ethical values. I don’t believe in resetting the clock, because it doesn’t really make any logical sense. If I’ve been vegan 10 years and accidentally consume dairy and someone asks me how long I’ve been vegan, replying 1 day just isn’t accurate.

With that said, the reason I bring up cross contamination in the first place is that it’s a real issue. Like for someone who has a nut allergy, we don’t want to be consuming animal products by mistake, or having the ingredients which make our meal sat next to a slab of meat during the production. Of course, this isn’t an issue at a vegan only restaurant.

VERY FEW PLACES TO EAT OUT

Vegan Options

I mentioned it before that as the world goes more vegan, there will be more places for me to eat. When you have options to not do harm, why would you pick the option that involved the killing of an innocent, sentient being. Currently that isn’t the reality for so many people, me included. I hate living in cities with a burning passion and it bothers me that if I want to find a good vegan meal, I have to go to the city.

I have friends who live in Manchester, which I know for a fact is filled with vegan friendly or fully vegan restaurants, and more recently I’ve spent time in Melbourne and there were plenty of great options. Where I’m from however it’s a drastically different story. To my knowledge, there is a cafe which has a vegan menu and a few of the other restaurants have a very minimal selection, usually by taking things out of non vegan meals you can make it vegan. The price doesn’t change by doing this and you end up with half a meal.

I do have to give credit to TGI Friday because they’ve added ‘vegan’ to their key at the bottom of their menu, which I would consider effort if they had more than tomato sauce on their menu that was safe for vegans. I haven’t been yet, but I look forward to going out with my friends and sipping on 3 courses of marinara sauce.

I’m willing to bet that this is why my friend has his problems with vegan food, because he sees how limited that I am by what’s on the menu and thinks that there’s no way he could be that limited. It’s something that bugs me and I’m going to write an article aimed at chefs looking to veganise their menu or at least have an idea what to do for vegans calling to ask what can be done vegan. Specifically what bugs me is that chefs seem to have no idea what vegan even means, and if they do, you’re getting a baked pepper stuffed with cous cous as your main, sandwiched between two courses of fruit for starter and dessert. Usually watermelon starter and fruit salad dessert. I’m fed up of it, I don’t want to say that you can’t cook, but if you can’t think of ANYTHING to cook which doesn’t have meat or dairy in it, you need to expand your repertoire.

Saying this, I’m guilty of thinking vegans are very limited because I always said that I’d never be able to date a vegetarian because what would I cook for them? Then I met a girl off tinder who happened to tell me she was vegan as she arrived to my feast of animal based foods and I wanted to cry. Luckily, I had heard of ingredients that weren’t meat, eggs and dairy, and knew how to cook them so it wasn’t too hard to cater for her on the fly. Then the next day when I wasn’t taken by surprise I managed to whip up a main course and dessert (chilli and apple crumble). From then on, I realised that vegan food was easy and when I went vegan, I had no problem.

The reason I’m bringing this up

Chefs, everywhere, you need to step your game up, because I’m fed up of seeing half arsed attempts at pawning a stuffed pepper and some water melon off as a good meal. It’s not hard, you just need to be able to think on your feet, just a little bit.

To the vegans out there, you need to stop accepting a stuffed pepper and watermelon, it’s not doing us any favours. Whether or not you absolutely love those two foods, until non vegans start seeing a bounty of choices that vegans can eat, they aren’t going to be swayed to our cause (and yes, I know that they should be swayed to stop animal abuse, rather than selfish reasons, but that isn’t the reality for so many people). I challenge you all to write to your local restaurants telling them how you would eat there if they served proper vegan options, after all, money talks.

If there are 10,000 vegans in London and they start writing to restaurants requesting vegan options, quickly things will change. Then it will be easier for non vegans to see the increased demand, then to see that there are tons of options, then perhaps they might make the switch. Then as more vegan options and restaurants open up, other potential restaurant owners will see the growth of vegan restaurants and they’ll get with the curve and things snowball.

The Vegan Pledge

Okay, I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if there is actually a pledge, but one of my facebook friends posted that she was doing this pledge.

It’s simple, you pledge that you refuse to eat at the same table as anyone consuming animal products. Whether they are family, friends, or otherwise, you will not be at the table with them if animal products are also present. This includes for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other events that typically see animal products appear. 

It can be difficult, especially for very traditional families, who might be so deep in their traditions that have gone on for decades and can’t fathom any change. For me, it was extremely important for my mental well being as during the 2 years I’ve spent developing Vegan Know How, I’ve gone through serious periods of depression where my life was in an incredibly dark stage. Day in, day out, seeing the absolute worst of what the human race is capable of, seeing worse and worse cruelties and ignorance. It really affected me, and still does to this day. It got to the point where I didn’t want to be alive because I couldn’t handle feeling powerless and knowing that everyone around me is committing atrocities and won’t listen to reason.

Every 6 months or so, sometimes more, sometimes less, I’ll have to take a few weeks off from working on the website and scrolling social media to allow myself to recover mentally and be refreshed. Hopefully this explains why when I see cruelty every day and then go to dinner with my best friend and in front of me he is doing the exact thing that is damaging my mental state.

It seems like it would be this huge, impossible change, that would end up ruining your friendships and family relations, but in reality it doesn’t have to be that way. If my friends want to go out for food with me, I give them two choices:

Choice A (My Preference): We can go out to eat, but if we do, we’ll be going to a vegan restaurant or a non vegan restaurant and you’ll be eating a vegan meal.

Choice B: We can meet up at a place where food is being served, but we’ll just be getting drinks and you’ll have already eaten, or will be eaten after we part ways.

This philosophy (I guess you could call it that) extends to anything where you can physically see your friends contributing to anything you don’t agree with. If I go out for coffee with my friends, they’ll either have it as soy milk, or they’ll order it when I’m not around. With things like coffee, it’s not blatantly obvious that it’s an animal product, however a steak being put in front of you is obvious. In case you were’t aware… You can meet up with your friends and hang out where food isn’t involved.

Something I do want to mention about the pledge

Having vegan Christmas and Thanksgiving is absolutely possible and delicious. For some reason, it’s tradition to gather around a slaughtered animal, I think it’s about time we change that tradition. In addition, the pledge is my thing, but far more of a rarity than you’d expect. By no means do you have to do it and the majority of vegans (educated guess) are fine eating at the same table.

By |2018-03-05T23:57:19+00:00March 5th, 2018|Categories: Featured Restaurant, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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Chris

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