Saturday, August 27, 2011

Guest Post #2!

"Serve Me Anything That Didn't Have a Mom"
- Carol Schneider (MY Mom)

What is the most common query of non-vegans? “Isn’t it hard to eat as a vegan in a restaurant?” The answer is, unequivocally, “No!"

Picture this: We are led to our restaurant table and left with a menu. Here’s how the menu looks: plants, plants and more plants - with regular inclusion of animal flesh. But plants always win! That’s right! There are far more plant products on a menu than animals; animal flesh is expensive, and plants tend to be cheaper. You might even think the toughest restaurant would be a steak house, but it’s not! And the more ethnic you get, the easier dining is. And, if you are a good communicator in a restaurant with a cooperative server, you can create gourmet delights!

Let me offer one disclaimer before I offer dining ideas. I am what I call Virtually Vegan; that means I’m 99% pure vegan, but I’m not perfect. If I were pure, it means I would have to give up all leather, feathers in pillows, animal testing in products, among other things. I’m working on improving as a total plant-based human consumer, but I’m not there yet.

As a Virtual Vegan, I don’t feel the need to review the grand total of each and every ingredient that goes into every menu option. On occasion, I’ll ask what kind of broth is used in a soup to avoid chicken stock; or I’ll say I don’t eat dairy to avoid a creamy dish. But mostly, navigating mainstream restaurants is as easy as saying, “Hold the cheese!”

Here are some guidelines to help you become a vegan voyager! 

- Tell the reservationist you’re vegan when you make the reservation and a good restaurant will always comply.

- Tell the server you’d like to request the Chef prepare a vegan plate using any plant/legume/rice offerings that aren’t cooked in animal products. What will happen? Mostly you’ll have the most beautiful and colorful entree of all of your party, as Chef piles on the vegetables.
-  Greens, Beautiful Greens and Salads - your closest friend, and only require that you request no butter nor cheese, nor turkey, bacon or the assorted other animal toppings. I also try to get value for my dining dollar by requesting that they add extra vegetables to replace the products you’re leaving out. They usually comply.
-  Bread is your friend. Dine and enjoy it, and don’t think of “carbs” as killers. “Carbs” aren’t killers, but eating animals will kill. 
-  “Hot” restaurants, these days, often offer bean purees, tapenades (careful the anchovies, though some don’t use them), tomato and bean purees to enjoy with bread - much more exciting than simply fat. 
-  Olive oil is always available instead of butter (personally, I enjoy a teaspoon of butter occasionally on my last couple of bites of bread before the entree arrives). 
-  Avocado is always a great substitute for cheese in salads and in veggie burgers. 
-  Baked Potatoes are available from steak house to drive-thru fast food restaurants. However, even if I didn’t mind a shred of cheese on occasion, I couldn’t accept gratin and mashed potatoes because they’re heaped and piled with empty fat calories 
-  Rice of any kind can stand in as your entree. I’ve even discovered Italian restaurants whose risotto recipes don’t include cheese. 
-  Beans are also entree stand-ins, in Southwestern, as well as Italian restaurants (take a Bean-o pill before you dine if you’re worried about gas) 
-  Pasta is a natural. Is there egg in it? You choose; but it’s a minute amount anyway. 
-  Hold the Parmesan. The dairy lobby has saturated the world with cheese, cheese, everywhere. Make pepper, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, soy sauce, etc your stand-in for cheese. 
-  Lemon Juice is nirvana! It can become your major flavor booster - as well as a hand sanitizer pre-dinner! 
-  Salsa is not only all vegetable; it’s raw! Top everything with it and feast!  

Final reminder: enjoy moderate alcohol. That’s right, cocktails or wine with dinner are natural vegan treats and meal enhancer s(although there are a few cases where animal products are used in production of liquor).  
If you find you’re still hungry, after dining vegan style, don’t despair because you “need protein”. Keep hemp seed in your bag or frig. Hemp seed has more protein - including all of the amino acids - than any other food - plant or animal - on earth - and it’s tasty by itself or sprinkled on sweet or savory dishes!

I gave my carnivore husband a challenge when my daughter and I first started eating a vegan food-style. I ask him this: if you were forced to choose between two restaurants, which would you choose - all plant or all animal? He chose the all plant restaurant; because he knew he could still enjoy fine wine or cocktails, salads, terrific bread and gourmet, unprocessed vegetable/carbs/legumes with olive oil and amazing herbal and juice seasonings.

Go out and challenge ANY mainstream restaurant with your vegan requests. I can guarantee: they’ll be ready for you!

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