Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are You The Vegan, Sir?

The question left me speechless and uneasy - ranking up there with, "Are you now, or have you every been a member of the Communist Party?"

This evening I was at a company dinner with 15 colleagues who were all given the choice between ordering the steak or the salmon. I quietly whispered to the waiter that I was that guy who gets a salad. The head waiter then swooped in, and not using his indoor voice bellowed, "Are you the vegan, sir?" I stammered like St. Peter sweating out my denials before the cock crows twice. "Well, I mean, I, I, if your question is, I mean, sure, the dinner I ordered is technically a vegan one..."

But why my unease?

I think it is because there is still a stigma attached to being "vegan." Tonight alone there were numerous questions from intelligent people on what a vegan actually is. If I were a vegetarian, there would be none. If I were lactose intolerant, or allergic to gluten no one would bat an eye. But veganism is a movement that is both a diet, and a social philosophy. My veganism is solely focused on the dietary aspects. But, I think it is clear that the vegan industry needs a better PR campaign.

Tonight was a big test for me. My charge of the vegan is not an easy one - even Tennyson could weigh in on this battle:

Steak to right of me, Steak to left of me, Steak in front of me, Succulent and Tempting. Into the Valley of Health rode...

We ate at Country which specializes in great home cooking. When I asked the woman at work who was organizing our dinner if I could get an alternative meal that was meatless and had no dairy she laughed. I asked again, she laughed again. I repeated that I was serious, and she looked at me as if my hair was on fire. However, she contacted the hostess, and that woman could not have been nicer. She notified the head waiter, and though his outing of me was jarring, the staff served all four courses straight down the vegan ticket - and without fanfare. I was very pleased.

For appetizer I had a salad of beats and grapes - normally I may not have even tried it, but it was quite good.

My salad was chopped greens and cherry tomatoes.

The main course was grilled vegetables - and that was quite good, although I still had my steak and salmon envy!

While everyone dove into their brownie and ice cream, I happily supped on a bowl of fruit.

Tonight as I walked 25 blocks home I felt I was sweating too much, and I was extremely thirsty. Actually, the last two days I have drank lots of water but still felt very thirsty.

Still feeling hungry when I got home I grabbed a handful of granola and had a glass of soy milk.

After tonight I have made the decision to not take the 5th the next time I am accused of being a vegan. I am. Deal with it. And if I am blacklisted from Peter Luger's and Sparks, so be it. I won't be defined by how I fuel my body, but I will not shy from that definition either! Well, unless Scarlet Johansson invites me to an intimate dinner at Smith & Wollensky's.


Tony V. said...

Peer pressure is going to be the hardest thing for you to deal with. Eventually, your body will get used to the types and, more importantly, the quantities of food that you will be eating so the hunger pains and other cravings will eventually go away. However, the pressure from others to simply conform and eat meat like the rest of us will never go away.

Stay strong, my friend, and remember that no matter what some may say, there are plenty of us non-vegan meat eathers out there who support you in your efforts 100%.

annabella said...

If Scarlet Johannsen invited me to an intimate dinner at Smith and Wollensky I might shy away from the definition too...

I find that I've never had a problem with restaurants making special accommodations if I can't order off the menu for some reason, and most of the time they are pretty nice about it. Then again, I've never tried it in a steakhouse - there, I tend to make meals out of sides (I'll have a salad and then a bunch of vegetables and potatoes) without drawing much attention to the situation.

Do you see a difference yet in how you feel?

Terrence said...

Annabella - thanks! And thank you Tony! Yes, I am definitely feeling lighter, and healthier!