It's Not Easy Being Green......
I've been vegan for over a year now and there has most definitely been a learning curve, but at this point I'm pretty darned good at it. I know which ingredients to look for on packaged foods (you'd be surprised at the sneaky names they give animal products), and I know which brands I like and don't like. So on the home front I have it pretty much mastered. I don't really think about it anymore, it's just the way it is, and it's been long enough now that it's just who I am.
What I do find to be a challenge, however, is eating out. I've read a few distressing articles lately about cooks and servers who say something is vegan when they know that it isn't. This is disturbing on a number of levels. Firstly, as the mother of a teenager with celiac disease, I'm not thrilled with any restaurant who is serving me something without telling me exactly what's in it and how it was prepared when I ask. Eating out is an expense and I figure it's my right to ask those questions and get an honest, knowledgeable answer. While being a vegan is not on the same level as an autoimmune disease, it's still incredibly unprofessional, and in light of allergies, cross contamination etc it can be downright dangerous.
I think that in this day and age, a restaurant should be prepared for these questions. I'm not saying they have to accommodate me (although it's really not that difficult), but they should at least be able to tell me what is in their dishes, and what may be substituted if there is something in that dish that I don't want to eat. I can't tell you how many times I've called a restaurant and been put on hold for endless amounts of time, only to have the person come back and tell me that nobody there knows. I've run into this countless times with my daughter, and countless times as a vegan and I can sometimes tell by the bored voice on the phone or the glazed look on the server's face when I'm not being taken seriously. When an employee can give me these answers it saves me time, and money; there's been more than one occasion when I've had to pay for a substandard meal thrown together when I've been told that modifications weren't a problem.
I have a favourite restaurant here in my city, Gina's Mexican Cafe. It's been owned by the same couple for at least thirty years. They, and any of their servers, can rattle off the ingredients of any dish. They will substitute and modify anything. They will prepare my daughter's food on a separate surface in order to avoid cross contamination. They take her disease seriously, and they also accept that I don't want any animal products in my food. I can go there and not worry about a thing and the meal is always amazing.
What does the restaurant get from all this “pickiness”? They get a few things. They always get a generous tip and my repeated thanks. They get my service over and over again. They get my recommendation any time anyone asks me where is a great place to eat in the city. They get my gratitude and they get my respect. I know I can take my daughter there safely, and I know that we can both enjoy a great meal. We're heading there for her birthday later this week. It's really not so difficult.....