Guest post: Captain Marty’s rules for vegan dining in a non-vegan establishment »
I fly a charter jet for a living and I’m usually in the air 15-plus days a month. Sometimes I fly somewhere, wait for a few hours, and fly home; other times I’m away for a week. Sometimes I spend that week in one place and others I do 14 landings in different cities. I eat out a lot. And I’m a vegan. And the other pilots I fly with and eat with aren’t.
You know when a flight attendant gives that briefing five times a day? That’s the way I feel when I look up into my waitress’ eyes. Well, I might feel some other things too but I hear the same litany in my mind, the one I just gave at lunch and here we are at dinner. Déjà vu all over again. Here’s what I go through to get my vegan victuals while I’m on the road.
I have a few rules:
- No one knows what you’re talking about.
- No one cares, really. You’re the freak and the pain in their culinary ass.
- No one has ever heard of a vegan before. Perhaps the chef read a paragraph about these weird diners he might encounter in culinary school.
- When you tell your waitperson you don’t eat any animal products they don’t think about the butter, milk, lard, bacon grease, or chicken stock that the chefs use. They just think, “No prime ribs? OK. Got it.”
- You must be patient.
- You must be a teacher.
- You will get what you want most of the time.
- You have to have faith. If you don’t think the waiter asked the chef then you shouldn’t eat the food. If they tell you no animal products are being served in your food, you have to go with it unless you can prove the opposite. (This means finding chicken pieces in your food).
- You will with certainty get, “Oh, you know, I never even thought of that!” I’ve learned that this is my fault for not explaining well enough what my restrictions are. (Did you know that Outback Steakhouse cooks their baked potatoes in bacon fat? Now you do).
- You’ll get the most amazing vegan fare where you least expect it and get served food with hidden animal ingredients where you least expect it. (John Bozeman’s Pub in Bozeman, Mont. served me one of the most amazing vegan dinners. Bozeman, Montana?)
- If you go south of New Jersey there is bacon grease in everything.
- If you go south of Virginia there is bacon in everything.
- If your server doesn’t speak English as a first language and you don’t speak their native tongue as a second language you should have a copy of Veggie Passport on your phone. This has translations for our needs in a bunch of different languages.
- Assume all soup is not vegan.
- Read the menu like a proofreader. Sometimes we’re in a hurry and imagine the food is going to come the way we make it at home but you ain’t in Kansas any more—or maybe you actually are! “Who would put butter on THAT?”
- Veggie burgers always have egg and cheese in them unless you find out otherwise.
I like to tell my server I’m a vegan and ask if they know what that means. Their answer gives me a good indication of how much explaining I have to do. You’ll get good at judging. “OK, so no meat right? But chicken is OK?” is vastly different than, “OK, so no animals or animal products of any kind, including cheese or dairy?” I’ve had both. In the first case you just have to take a breath, dig in, and start from the beginning. “No, no animals. Nothing that was made from anything that came off of or out of an animal, nothing….” In the second case you can skip the primer and start to ask very specific questions such as, “Is the rice made with water or chicken stock?” Most servers don’t really think in the same terms we do. They never even thought that the rice might not be vegan so it’s up to you to explain it.
I go from the general explanation to the specific questions. Take the Mexican burrito. This should be easy. A no-brainer but right off the bat you have to ask:
- Is the tortilla made with lard?
- Is the rice cooked in water or stock?
- Is there lard or pork in the beans?
- Is there bacon in the spinach?
- Is the soy cheese vegan or just vegetarian?
- Are the vegetables sauteed in butter or oil?
You go through all this and send the waiter back into the kitchen four or five times (you had better leave them a good tip. I think if you get a person working that much above and beyond, 20 percent should be the standard vegan tip rate. Plus, isn’t it nice to create an image of vegans who are generous and appreciative? Pay it forward). You finally sit back with your vegan glass of water and eventually the food is put before you.
Two more rules:
- Re-question. This involves asking almost every question again but this time you get to point to every item on your plate. Is the sour cream vegan? What’s in the BBQ sauce? Are you sure they used the soy cheese? I never ask, “Is this vegan?” That’s too easy to just agree with. I will say, “What’s this?” and let the server say, “Oh, we have a vegan mayonnaise, or we use Earth Balance vegan spread.” Of course, sometimes you just get that look and, “Oh, crap. I’ll have them make it over.”
- Examine your food like you’re a pathologist looking for a clue on CSI. If you order a veggie burger and they serve the burgers with mayo, guess what you’re going to get with your veggie burger? Yup. Been there, done that and have many t-shirts.
This is by no means a complete list. It’s a good start and if you take nothing else away from the list take this: Until this upside down world changes, if you have a vegan meal in a non-vegan restaurant, they did it right. If you didn’t get what you wanted, just smile, ask for your food to be redone and take away a lesson about how you can do it better in the next place, the next time.
Five vegan heels I’d wear if I hated my ankles »
Alternative title: I get cranky in high heels. But dang it, sometimes I just want to dress like a stripper. Every time I try though, I become a total asshole. A taller, hotter asshole but still, you can’t go around being a jerk just because your feet hurt. But if I were capable of tolerating them, these are the crazy high heels I would wear!
I enlisted the help of my kid sister Cally as she knows everything about fashion (and very little about anything else!). She’s such a dear, the poor girl. Ever since I found the “gmail this” bookmarklet, she gets gaggles of emails asking for her opinion on every vegan shoe from here to outer space. She’s always nice when she responds and tells me all the shoes I like are ugly. Now you too can benefit from her fashion expertise as all these shoes are Cally-approved! Let’s start this party:
Sea Peep-toe Pump from olsenHaus. I actually managed to pick this pair out myself! Cally’s thoughts: “I LOVE these ones. Totes cutes. You could wear them with tons of stuff and they would even be cute with tights in the winter.” Totes.
Galaxy Hokkaido Foster Glitter Pumps from Stella McCartney. These are the hotness, or as Cally phrased it, “they are like wham bam.” Wham bam, indeed.
Glamour Pump from Hearts of Darkness by Cri de Coeur at Mooshoes. This pair I picked out too though it’s hard to go wrong with a black pump. But these are hella tall! And with the amount of whiskey I drink, anything over two inches is just irresponsible. Cally’s thoughts: “They are be-a-utiful. Love a good black pump.”
GoMax Ashland 13 from Lulu’s. Now these shoes are only $31 which normally I would think is a great thing but I feel like that means you will DEFINITELY break your ankle. Cally’s thoughts on these: “Pretty shape.” Word.
Nashira from Neuaura at Mooshoes. OK, these are not approved! They are my wild card that Cally officially rejected: “I don’t like the weird colors.” But they remind me of Mondrian and that’s dope. I’d be walking all around like, Check me out, jerks! What? I can’t hear you over how hot I am! Everyone would really like that.
That’s all for today! Let’s all thank Cally for dropping some knowledge.
Eleven tips for new vegans! »
Have you considered being vegan? Are you unsure of how to get started? Well I’m here to help! Here are 11 of my personal tips for new vegans.
Before we get this party started, I’ll just say I’m vegan because I want to do as little harm to animals as possible. The environment and health are great reasons to go vegan but I am vegan because of the animals and that’s what my opinions and ideas will reflect. If you want to learn more about which vegan foods are best for the environment or what’s the healthiest way to be vegan, there are lots of great resources. This probably isn’t one of them.
1. Play the game!
You have to have a good attitude if you want to be a happy vegan like me. I don’t think being vegan has to be this big hardship—it’s fun to be vegan! It’s like a big problem-solving game! When you’re an omnivore, you can eat anything—what kind of game is that? That’s like playing with blocks when we all know Tetris is more fun! When you’re vegan, you’ve got to figure stuff out and find the best way to win. Are you at a super un-vegan restaurant? Hack their menu to find vegan food! On a road trip? Hunt down the best vegan restaurant in the city! Love mac and cheese? Hold your own vegan mac and cheese recipe contest! When you’re vegan, a simple trip to get ice cream is a fun adventure.
2. Think about what you like to eat!
I read once that people basically have 11 staple meals they rotate between. For me, it’s about three. I like avocado maki, english muffins, and burritos. So, to start yourself off, think of several meals you like that are or can be made vegan. You like spaghetti? That’s one dinner right there! Make a list of these things and keep writing them down as you think of them. Once you see all the stuff you CAN eat, instead of just what you can’t, you will feel capable of success!
3. Learn what’s vegan!
A lot of food you already like is vegan! Peta has a great resource, Accidentally Vegan, that tells you all the regular old food that just happens to be vegan. There’s junk food but there’s also the likes of Cheerios and Triscuits. You will find that some of the stuff you really enjoy is accidentally vegan. What do I like? I’m glad you asked! Some of my favorites: Nature Valley peanut butter granola bars, Wheat Thins, Corn Chex, Bisquick. Look on that site and jot down the stuff you like on your food list from tip number two!
4. Get to shopping!
Go to the grocery store. Bring your list. Buy that stuff! Your best defense from “slip-ups” is to be prepared! You need food for meals and food for snacks. Get all the ingredients for all the many meals you like and get ready-to-eat snack items too! People act crazy when they are hungry. If you have vegan food around that you like, you won’t be so tempted to fall off the wagon when you are hunger-crazed.
5. Read ingredients!
While you’re shopping, make sure you read labels for non-vegan ingredients. Easy cheat: most products now have a bolded part at the bottom of the ingredients that lists any allergens—that includes dairy! If I see dairy in this bolded line, I throw the food back on the shelf; if I don’t, then I scan the rest of the ingredients to double-check it’s vegan. You will get the hang of this! It’s not so hard! It’s also pretty exciting when you find something that is accidentally vegan. Oh, watch out for whey! They add it to the oddest things! Other things to look for beyond the obvious milk, eggs, butter: casein, rennet, and carmine. But don’t overwhelm yourself! Start watching out for these ingredients and work your way up to more esoteric non-vegan ingredients down the line. Really, whey is usually the most exotic offender you will find. Besides, lots of times the packaging will just be like, “MILK FAT” and you will be like, “EW, moving on.” Easy.
6. Don’t forget about fruit!
Fruit RULES. When we think of vegan food, sometimes we think about a bunch of veggies and grains—but don’t forget about fruit! I always have bananas, apples, grapes, and clementines around. Fruit brings back the simple joys of childhood! Fruit makes people happy! Plus, most fruit is good to go. No cooking, no fuss. Easy.
7. Learn to cook!
If you can cook, any vegan dream can come true! The best way to learn to cook is just to try recipes. I happen to be a fantastical cook and it’s just because I used to hustle threw cookbook after cookbook as a kid. If you already know your way around the kitchen, you have a headstart—now you can use new recipes to learn your way around the vegan kitchen! Vegweb has a ton of recipes and really, there are recipes all over the internet! Vegan bakers be blogging! Shit, even Vegansaurus has recipes! Besides that, there are SO MANY amazing cookbooks. Go to the store, pick out a few. Or don’t go to the bookstore—as soon as you become vegan, all your relatives will probably start giving you vegan cookbooks for every holiday. You’ll be set! I got Veganomicon as a gift and it’s great. Usually I go for cookbooks with BIG PICTURES. That’s pretty much how I decide what I want to cook: whatever looks pretty.
8. Don’t be so center-centered!
When you eat meat and crap, there’s so much focus on some giant protein-heavy center of the meal you’re supposed to have. Screw that! Sure, vegan lasagna is great when you can get it, but you don’t need some big main dish to have a meal. Eat some steamed broccoli with some couscous and bean pilaf. Hell, throw in some french fries for good measure! This is 2011, not 1950: you can do whatever you want! You don’t have to be square.
9. Remember why you’re vegan!
This is just in case of emergency! Anytime I feel down about being vegan, nothing snaps me out of it more than watching those super-awful undercover factory farm videos. Seriously. Really miss M&Ms? Watch a baby calf at a dairy farm being held down and punched in the face and see if M&Ms still seem important. Plus, you’re in good company because not only are we rad (we are very rad), the best fools on earth (dead or alive) are vegan. Hello, Coretta Scott King, Brian Greene, and Ellen Degeneres! All awesome, all vegan. BAM!
10. Get a posse!
Join listservs (do those still exist?? I don’t know, I’m not a nerd and already have plenty of friends, OK?), Yahoo groups, meet-ups, comment on local blogs, post on Craigslist, whatever it takes! I was reading Vegansaurus long before I was writing for it and it helped me out a lot when I first got to SF. Most cities have vegan groups to join or blogs where you can meet friends. And find community in the forums on sites like VegWeb and the PPK. There’s power in numbers, and they always have your back. Unless you’re in a fight about what’s the best vegan cheese and then shit can get really real, real fast. Don’t cut the omnis out of your life (besides who are the next vegans if not those same omnis?) but it’s always nice to be able to turn to other vegans when you need a hug. Except me, I’m not into touching strangers!
11. Get to stepping!
Go out and find all the great vegan stuff the world has to offer! Is there a vegan bakery near you? Go get a cupcake! Is it your birthday? Go to the finest vegan restaurant in town! Look on sites like Food Fight Grocery and order whatever crazy vegan stuff you can’t find in your hood! It’s a big vegan world out there, dive in.
Seriously, being vegan is the raddest best. It feels so good to know that you’re not contributing to the torture of poor adorable animals. Now give yourself a hug! Hell, feel yourself up! Because you did it! And you will continue to do it! One vegan day at a time.
Weekend events, miracle stories, bacon-hate, breast injections, a passel of crazies and more in this week’s massive post-holiday link-o-rama!!! »
Opening tonight at the Roxie: Mine, a documentary about New Orleans residents searching for their lost pets after Hurricane Katrina. Tickets are still available for tonight’s shows at 7 and 9, and it plays through Thursday, Jan. 14. The Roxie is at 3117 16th St., between Valencia and Guerrero Streets.
The long-awaited first-ever East Bay Vegan Bakesale is happening tomorrow, Saturday Jan. 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Issues, at 20 Glen Ave. at Piedmont Avenue in Oakland!! This will be super-exciting, don’t be a jerk and miss out!!
After Saturday’s bakesale, head over to the Rocket Dog Rescue and Muttville fundraiser beer bust at Mix Bar, at 4086 18th St. at Castro Street. There’ll be snacks, entertainment, and a raffle; the fun is scheduled for 3 to 7 p.m.
On Sunday, Jan. 10 from 3 to 7 p.m. is the Food Not Bombs Vegan Chili Showdown! It’s at 3030B 16th St. at Mission Street, across from the 16th Street BART station. The entry fee is $7, and FNB will provide music and cornbread. MUSIC AND CORNBREAD ALL RIGHT.
Have you heard of Green Coriander? It’s a new take-out-only Indian place in San Francisco that’s offering a 20 percent discount to anyone who mentions they read about it on Mission Mission (you could say you were directed to them through MM via Vegansaurus, too, if you wanted). This week’s menu is nearly all vegan, too!
The Kitchn lists its top 25 meatless recipes from 2009, 19 of which are vegan!
A (borrrrrrring) Q & A with Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner, in which he says he is “not setting out to be a vegetarian,” which, duh and shut up, although he does say something about “chang[ing] the argument” of a libertarian, so that’s not so bad.
And then the LA Times comes back with a sound op-ed on food and farming, and not yelling so much about all of it because civility.
YES YES YES times 1 billion: the first page of the first chapter of Nicolette Hahn Niman’s new book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms is available online now!!! Hypocrisy has a new handbook, AWESOME!
Even Foster Farms is grossed out by the “water, salt, lemon juice solids, natural lemon flavor, cane juice, corn syrup and other natural flavorings” injected into chickens post-slaughter to make them more appetizing to consumers.
Did you catch the Bob Barker interview about the Sea Shepherd on Rachel Maddow’s show on Tuesday night? It was great, as is nearly everything to do with the great Bob Barker.
Finally, Grub Street proves that we are not the only ones totally grossed out by bacon on goddamn everything.
Vegan feminist hero Jill at I Blame the Patriarchy alerts us to the repulsive practices of the Bravo Meat Packing slaughterhouse in New Jersey.
It’s an epiphany miracle: a frozen kitty comes back to life!
"This guy is really afraid of cats and his friend is trying to help him with his fears! That is so helpful and nice." We really, really love The Awl.
We really, really do not love crazy people who get their cats tattooed. Also, who the fuck tattooed the cat? All of you are insane assholes.
Francis Lam rebuts that ultra-obnoxious “plants have feelings, so get off your high (figurative) horses, vegetarians” New York Times op-ed; unfortunately, he ends with precious little “just say grace for everything you’re eating” attempt to absolve the eater of culpability for everything on his/her plate, including animal products, and in doing so resolves nothing. Nice going, smarty.
The Huffington Post thinks it’s clever: a fake meat slideshow! Look, without Tofurky deli slices, Soyrizo, or shrimp crafted from root vegetables, it is incomplete to me.
What’s going on with soybean cultivation? Oh, only that growing so much of it to feed all those animals you omnivores eat is the main contributor to the destruction of South American rainforest. No big.
Ecorazzi Lists Top 5 Animal Rights Victories of 2009 »
Though the list is a bit premature, no? You totally still have 20 days to save polar bears and stuff. GET ON THAT, SLACKERS!
Image: Flickr/JelleS, via Creative Commons