When veggie options just aren’t happening

My parents have been so supportive of my new lifestyle decisions. They don’t question my choices, they try to cater to my preferences and even my mom has shown some interest in the new, awesome food I’m fixing.

That doesn’t mean, however, that my lifestyle fits in with what’s going on when I visit home.

This past weekend, I visited my family in Olympia. Downtown Olympia is a hippie haven and there are wonderful indie restaurants that are veggie-friendly. My family, however, lives closer to Lacey, which features much more corporate and less diverse fare.

This was the first weekend where it wasn’t just the vegetarian daughter going home, but the “No seriously I’m gonna be vegan now” daughter.

When I came home, my dad served me a lovely plate of carrots and celery – with ranch dip.

Granted, this is before I “came out” to them, so I accepted it and was thankful to him for thinking of me. This is a process, not an overnight thing I’m doing.

Dinner was chicken tortilla soup. (Wahhh.) I guess I could have picked out the chicken, but then it was made with chicken broth.

My dad is a fantastic cook. He roasted tomatoes and reconstituted peppers and shit to make this meal. My parents both apologized to me, saying they just forgot and they’re not used to thinking about my new choices. I’m pretty sure they don’t know a single vegan. (Heck, I don’t. Not in person.)

With nothing else, I ate a bowl of the tortilla soup. I added tortilla chips, cilantro and avocado my dad laid out and bypassed the sour cream and cheese (not easily, mind you). I left a lot of meat in the bowl and gave it to my dog. I also passed up the corn bread my dad made because I assumed it contained eggs and butter.

Ugh, what a wonderful meal my dad made and I just felt like an ingrate for not indulging in all of it! I have no reason to feel that way, but a sense of guilt – both for not fully appreciating my family’s meal and also for not being a good vegan – loomed over me.

I figured that I should ask ahead about food next time I go home and bring my own if necessary.

The next day, my brother and I had lots of errands to run for our grandma and mom. In the middle, we decided to stop somewhere quick for lunch.

In my “vegan on the inside, vegetarian on the outside” days, my quick go-to was a seven-layer burrito and cheese quesadilla at Taco Bell. But I didn’t want all that dairy anymore. But I still suggested Taco Bell because I was pretty sure that its new-ish veggie cantina burrito was vegan. So I ordered that.

However, I looked up the contents of the burrito later because I was afraid that the cilantro-y sauce on it contained dairy. Alas, it did indeed contain milk.

Goddammit. I was faring really poorly on this trip.

Dinner: Meconi’s. My mom suggested it.

Now, Meconi’s is a local Italian sub chain that is AMAZING. When I think of signature Olympia food I think Meconi’s. I used to get the same thing there all the time: the turkey sub. God, even their mayonnaise is amazing and mayonnaise is one thing I have never felt strongly about.

I’ve been so excited since a new one opened up just two minutes from my parents’ house. But walking in to examine the menu for choices I wanted, there was nothing.

The “veggie” sandwich was basically a triple cheese sandwich. C’mon, can’t an Italian sub shop serve an eggplant sammich?

Even the salads were laden with meat and cheese. So I ordered what I thought was safe. The “garden salad.” A double size, at the cashier’s suggestion, because the normal size is too small for a meal.

My heart sunk when the food came out. Lettuce. Tomato. A heap of mozzarella cheese.

I wanted to cry, knowing that Meconi’s nonexistent vegan offerings would render the restaurant absent from my life in the future.

It’s kind of hard to eat around shredded cheese, but I did what I could to minimize the dairy intake. My mom, feeling bad, offered me her potato salad. I declined.

“What’s in it that you can’t have?”

“Eggs and mayonnaise.”

That’s the problem. These things are so infused in everything that people don’t even think about it.

(Side note: I don’t like to think of my lifestyle as limiting, as in “this is everything I can’t have.” I like to frame it more as “this is what I choose to have. These are my wonderful options.” However, this trip was making that hard.)

On my way home the next day, I decided to stop at the Lacey Taco Del Mar before hitting the freeway. Taco Del Mar is safe. I dictate exactly what goes into my burrito and watch people assemble it.

I was greeted by this:

taco del mar

 
And I was like:

Not very welcoming. In fact, I think it makes excellent business sense to cater to vegetarians and vegans because you’ll expand your customer base that way. (And I will rave about you.) And as for the demonization of vegans as not “real” eaters … that’s for another rant.

I still went inside. Even with that stupid banner, it was still my best quick option in the area. And my first truly vegan meal in a couple of days.

Then I got to go to my boyfriend’s house in Ballard and make stir fry. My way.

What I’ll do during future visits home, I’m not sure yet. I do know that this is why I put off my vegan ambitions for so long. When I’m not in control, veggie options are nearly nonexistent. And I feel like I’m being difficult for wanting to stick to my plan here. (No one is making me feel that way. Only me.)

I do, however, want to cook an awesome vegan meal for my family someday. Maybe I’ll do that. And, like during another recent visit home, just bring a bunch of hummus and veggies to nom on.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. howtobejillian
    Jan 13, 2015 @ 10:54:38

    This is exactly what broke me when I was a vegan. I spent too much time feeling like I was inconveniencing others and just gave up. I have been a vegetarian for almost 13 years, but only vegan for about two of those. I have always leaned more vegan, but not perfectly for quite some time. Now I’m starting to learn that I can almost always make it work, and that I need to honor myself and what is important to me. Good luck to you 🙂 It can be really tough. Wait until you have to take a trip to the Midwest or the South. I thought I would starve to death in Kansas.

    Reply

    • Lynsi
      Jan 13, 2015 @ 11:06:17

      Things have gotten way better for me since I’ve established myself more as a plant-based eater and my family is becoming educated on my options – I’m lucky to have a supportive and not hostile family. But yes, stand by your beliefs and preferences and people will take you seriously. Also it often helps to come equipped with your own food and, if people are open to it, offer to cook for them and dazzle them with the wonderful food you eat! I find the best evangelism is to lead by example.

      And yes, I imagine the Midwest or South would be tough! I haven’t traveled too much since going vegan, so adventures surely lie ahead!

      Reply

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