It's Not a Sacrifice; It's an Adventure

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Once upon a time I had a friend who, every time we dined together, would say to me, "I just can't understand why you'd limit yourself to being vegetarian. You miss out on so many food experiences." This same friend would order the same chicken sandwich from the same restaurant nearly every time we went out. But I was the one limiting myself? (He was also one of my many omni friends who doesn't understand why I don't worship at the altar of Anthony Bourdain.)

As I briefly pointed out in my most recent post, I don't see veganism as a sacrifice, in that I've not given up on eating well, I've just made different choices in what I consume. It's not so much a sacrifice or challenge as it is an adventure. In fact, I've found that being vegan has opened up a huge world of culinary experiences to me.

Before I went vegan I had never eaten Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, or Vietnamese food before. (All cuisines that are now staples of my diet.) Part of this is due to my upbringing in a household where the only "ethnic" food we ever had was Chinese takeout. But part of it is also that when you eat meat, unless you have food allergies or some other restriction, you can walk into any restaurant. It's safe, and many people choose to play it safe by not exploring outside their culinary comfort zones.

On a recent trip to Long Island, the region where I grew up, I was lamenting the fact that our hotel listed as "local restaurant favorites," Applebee's and TGI Friday's. These were, in fact, basically the only two restaurants I ever ate out at until I went to college. Those people I know who never left LI still eat there regularly. When not pushed to be creative with our food choices many people don't bother.

What's worse is when these "open-minded" omnis refuse to try vegan food (as if it's this separate category of food and doesn't already likely make up some of their favorite snacks and side dishes.) Many people I know won't go anywhere near a raw-foods restaurant. (At least not without some snarky comments.)

But one need not spend much time reading vegan food blogs to know there is a wealth of creativity and adventurousness within the vegan cooking community. My favorite meals often aren't the ones that try to replicate meat dishes, but the ones that use vegetables, grains, and legumes in new and surprising ways.

Today I made sunflower seed burgers with avocado and sweet pickles for lunch. Last week I made grilled gnocchi with creamy red pepper sauce. One of the best dinners I've ever had out was dill cous cous cakes with fiddlehead ferns at Millennium. Sounds a little more excting than a chicken sandwich, no?


Anonymous said...

What the hell is an "open-minded" omni! Open minded in terms of what?

I think what makes most people not try vegan diet is the way most vegans promote being vegan (I hate the term veganism) Vegans tend to proselytize and have an air of a closed religious cult like attitude towards people who are not vegan. Vegans really need a better marketing department!

Sharon Troy said...

Hello, Anonymous, thanks for your comment!

In the context in which I used it, "open-minded" was in quotes to reflect the fact that the person I referenced in my example claimed he was more open-minded than I, and yet wouldn't try the food that I eat. Thus his claim of open-mindedness was ironic.

Can you cite some examples of where you think I market veganism as a "closed religious cult?" Seriously, I want to change any rhetoric that has any religious connotations and I'm not sure what you're referencing.