24 January 2009

Top 5 Tough Veggie Choices

The article below will be published in the upcoming NCVA newsletter. It is meant to be a bit tongue in cheek (or tongue in broccoli if you will).

Greetings fellow parsnip lovers (to be honest, I don’t actually like parsnips – just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I love each and every vegetable!) This is the first in what I hope will become a series of personal articles on my journey as a vegetarian through a meat lover’s world. Living in an omnivore’s world is never that simple; Michael Pollan’s work aside, many of them do not see a dilemma in their lifestyle choice. Far be it from me to suggest otherwise – I have enough trouble navigating fighting off my own taste buds at times. As such, below is not any sort of indictment of anyone’s personal choices, but rather reflections on the part of a vegetarian who at times struggles to uphold the morals of such a title, and who at other times strives for the avocado laced roads to veganism!

I now present the top 5 most difficult situations for Vegans and Vegetarians. These are listed in no particular order, and reflect my own personal situation.

#5 – The hockey game hot dog

Of all the bastions of North American cultural experiences, sporting events rate pretty low on our otherwise indulgent gastronomic adventure (you can throw pretty much any social outing into this category, including the theater, music concerts, and even most tourist locations). Simply put, one does not attend a live sporting for the food. Forgetting for a moment any semblance of a vegetarian diet, there is very little food of ANY nutritional value at a hockey arena – potato chips, cola, chocolate bars, popcorn, and let us not forget the poster boy of sports food: the hot dog. Hot dogs – contrary to the popular myth of how little meat they may contain – will make any self respecting vegetarian running for the hills (vegans must be miles ahead hiding under a rock). So what is a hungry vegan or vegetarian to do at a sporting event? Other than gulping down beer after beer, not much. Attending sporting events usually requires some forethought and planning – grab diner before the game and indulge by sneaking some trail mix in your pocket!!

#4 – Your mother’s turkey diner

By far the most common eating dilemma that any vegetarian or vegan will face is confronting your lifelong food provider. Few of us are fortunate to be raised in a vegetarian friendly household, and most will have experienced the lamentable cry of outrage my a parent at coming home and announcing you have renounced meat – to some, you may well have announced you were a serial killer and it would have caused fewer problems! Simply put, a general lack of information on vegetarian or vegan diets lead mothers (and hopefully fathers) to worry for what they view as “a poor dietary regime.” Faced with such difficulty, mealtime can become problematic, especially during annual holidays or family events that, in the past, have included a variety of animal products. By offering to help out, or by cooking your own dishes to serve to others, this can help others be more accepting. After all, omnivores don’t turn down good food (note to reader, become a decent cook for this strategy to work!)

#3 – A cultural spit roast

As a vegetarian, one of my own personal most difficult situations to deal with is my own desire to sample cuisine from other cultures and countries. We are lucky in Canada to have the choice of alimentation, although you may not realize how lucky we are by the choices that most people make. When I visit other countries, there is an innate desire to taste their foods and experience their dishes. Beyond such ethical barriers, there is the simple fact that in some areas of the world, you would be hard pressed to travel on a vegan diet. The best bet is to research tour companies that will offer vegetarian or vegan based packages. Notwithstanding this, visiting local markets and grocery stores will allow you to prepare food to carry with you on your travels within the country.

#2 – Summer-time BBQ

This activity is actually becoming easier and easier for vegetarians and vegans. With a great selection of vegan hot dogs, burgers and an assortment of other tofu based foods, it is quite simple to attend communal events with your own food. Most people will most likely not even realize that you are eating non- meat alternatives. One difficulty may present itself for those who wish their food to be cooked on a separate surface from one that cooked meat – for this one, you may need to be creative by bringing your own grill or your own pan. A point that bears in mind here – thank goodness beer is vegan ☺ ([Editor's note: unfortunately not all beer is vegan but if you want to find out which ones are go to http://www.barnivore.com/beer/])

#1 – Pizza anyone?

Finally: the group pizza order. Should you find yourself often in social outings that order pizza, you may find it difficult to “fit in”. A friend of mind who was raised vegetarian from birth would tell me that when he was a kid, he would attend birthday parties where pizza would be served. As he recalls, friend’s mothers would usually simply encourage him to “pick the pepperoni off.” Well that is one solution, although one I would think most readers would prefer to avoid. Should you be vegetarian, this one difficult situation can be manageable, as groups will usually have no issues with simple cheese pizza. For vegans, the pizza order can be grating. Just hope they don’t ask you to pitch in $5 for your share of food you won’t end up eating!

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