Monday, March 12, 2007

Difficult To Please? Pulllease!

I know I typically just blog about the foods I eat and steer clear of any sociopolitical ramblings here (trust me, you should be glad I'm able to stay so focused, I've been known to ramble :), but in my blog lurking today I stumbled upon a great vegan website by way of Squirrel's Vegan Kitchen, SuperVegan.

In perusing their many interesting vegan tidbits of info I came across a blurb about personal growth author Kathy Freston. Apparently, she's recently written a few proveg articles. For that, I say, You Go Girl!" Until I read that her latest contribution included the following in regards to dining out at restaurants:

"You'll obviously want to avoid dishes served with meat, cheese, or eggs, but it doesn't really matter if there's a modicum of butter or whey or other animal product in the bun that your veggie burger is served on," she writes. "You may give your nonvegan friends--not to mention the restaurant wait staff--the idea that vegans are difficult to please."

ooooooh, did this make me mad. Now, I'm not one to push my veganism on anyone. I firmly believe that it's a very personal choice. I only ask that my choice be respected in turn. Granted, since becoming vegan I don't dine out much at all, and when I do it's only after careful research and usually many questions directed (politely and patiently!) at the staff. I like to think I'm polite and easy to accommodate as I don't dine at any establishment that I know beforehand absolutely cannot or will not meet my dietary needs. I've yet to have a problem. Hey, I'm also known for sneaking in my own salad dressings, vegan margarine and the like to make sure I get a full meal and can order items off the menu plain to dress myself. I don't do this to not be difficult. I blatantly smack that stuff on the table. I just do it so I can participate in the social event of dining out with friends and family on occasion.

What I don't understand is why this woman, a self-proclaimed vegan, would set us back this way, would belittle my or your conviction. I understand that there are different levels of veganism for everyone. What I don't understand is why this person would suggest her version is one all vegans should adopt so that we don't look 'difficult'. I never think of myself as difficult but one with clear choices and stable conviction to adhere to them.

So, what did I do after reading this article? I followed the link to her website and sent her (or her people) an email. I wanted her to know that this particular vegan was appalled by her standards and that she would share them with her readers under the guise of a proveg platform. After all, if you're going to let 'em slip a little bit of this here and a little dab of that there in your food just so as to not appear 'difficult'? You may as well just eat the stuff so as to not offend anyone either, right?

Anyway, just thought I'd share and see what any of you have to say about it. I suggest anyone who feels so inclined drop her an email as I did to let her know that she does not speak for other vegans out there trying to pioneer a place for ourselves in a nonvegan world.

ok, now i'm done!


Anonymous said...

"Difficult to please" is wandering into a steak house and demanding a three-course vegan meal. When going to an omni restaurant, I always call ahead to make sure there is at least some little nibble I can eat, and if I'm calling at least 24 hours ahead, I'll often ask if it's possible for the chef to make something special. In circumstances where I don't have advance warning, I sometimes end up with a salad; ah well, I can just grab a snack or a treat from a vegan bakery on the way home. I don't even consider the "Well, if there's just a little butter..." view.

Really, if I was looking for convenience, I wouldn't be vegan. Being vegan is a choice you make to be earth- and cruelty-conscious, and sometimes that means sacrifices.

You were right to email this person, and I think I'll follow suit.

Neva said...

Unfortunately I think this is a view that Peter Singer and a number of others are promoting. The idea of not appearing too strict or something.

I'm nice and polite about everything, but I'm not willing to bend my ethics. If someone with a nut allergy came in, the restaurant would either have to let them know all the ingredients or make sure the food was ok somehow.

Sadly some restaurants follow this idea too. I have a dairy allergy (not a dangerous one) but more than once I've been assured that food is vegan only to break out in hives later. I'm pretty sure there was a dab of butter or something.

Matt Ball said...

Hey, I'm curious if you have seen this at VO.

Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan! said...

anonymous- good for you. I just felt so compelled to speak to this woman, to suggest to her that what she was saying in her recent article was not being proveg at all. i thought it important. glad you do too. and i envy that you live where there are things such as vegan bakeries!

neva vegan- i'm with you. I don't see any reason to apologize for or reconsider for the sake of 'not being difficult' choices I've made that only better myself and the world around me.

veganpa- thank you so much for that. i've known of VO but had yet to jaunt over for a visit. i'm so glad i did! it's wonderful to connect with a organization who's voice is fair, non-threatening and articulate....a far cry better than my disgruntled ramblings while sucking down my morning smoothie :) i hope that i may follow their lead and utilize their kind way of being an advocate with conviction that may actually touch someone, if even by accident. thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I think it's a personal choice. If someone prefers to eat almost-vegan, they can. She does have a point that it may be better in the long run, because it will make veganism more acceptable, but I don't know. Thanks!

You might like the Vegan Forums.

Brooke said...

I totally agree. I try to be as friendly as possible when asking questions, but I don't like to back down from my preferences. I have found that most people I come across really respect that, and I think they walk away seeing that this vegan isn't crabby or pushy or difficult, but just secure in her decision to be compassionate.

Go girl!

Anonymous said...

good stuff. I agree...people that want to be strict vegans shouldn't feel like they are difficult to please. I"m the kind of vegan that would be almost vegan in a situation like this, but I totally understand and advocate for the strict vegans that want to be strict!!!!

laura k said...

I understand what you mean--it's frustrating when one vegan tries to speak for every vegan in situations that might be construed as "controversial." On the flip side, I've seen vegans tell other vegans who admitted to eating a bit of honey here or there (as opposed to refined sugar) that "if you eat honey, you are NOT vegan." I respect the choices that all vegans make regarding the strictness that they want to adhere to, and no one should make a value judgment against them for that.

Mikaela said...

Great post :)

I agree with your response because the author was suggesting what all veg*ns "should" do. As you said, it's a personal decision and veganism has many layers; if a dab of butter or a bit of whey is off-limits for a person, then I there is no reason that I see, why s/he would jeopardize her/his values in order to not be "difficult." On the other hand, if it really *is* okay to let small amounts slide on occasion, then rock on. It's a personal choice, and I can understand one's trepidation in feeling as though they're asking too many questions/requests. We've all been there, asking the wait person to go back *again* to check on yet *another* menu item. Ugh :P

Additionally, I think that restaurants and their wait and cook staff deserve a bit more credit. With the increase of food allergies and obesity, and the many different cultures and religions that may dictate food preferences, I imagine they're used to patrons inquiring about ingredients. Most of the time I ask for a vegan meal, my plate comes out presented better than any of the standard fare, and often the chef will come out to see how I enjoyed the meal. Now, I've been accused more than once of being too optimistic, but I like to think that a person who cooks for a living might actually even *enjoy* (gasp!) the opportunity to prepare a special dish :)