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Going vegan and new vegans in need of support or information.

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Postby fredrikw » Wed May 23, 2007 8:29 pm

for me saying that I'm allergic is quite pointless. my veganism is not about being pure from animal ingredients, but making a political change in how we view animals in our society. saying I'm allergic instead of saying I'm vegan is quite counter productive in that case.

I rarely experience problems with my veganism, as long as I make sure that the people I visit know they can always ask me if there's anything they wonder, and I always offer to help out.
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Postby XkillerX » Wed May 23, 2007 9:57 pm

+oo to frederikw, duke and gelert.

veganism is a way of life. if somebody has something against it, fine, up yours, hope our paths dont cross again. if there is absolutely nothing vegan on the menu you must be eating in a really bad place (what are you doing there in the first place?). usually i'm very polite when i'm invited, explain my veganism and tell them it's the least of worries for me to bring food for me (never happened before), although once i ended up in a place (long story) where nothing vegan was prepared and i didnt feel like eating (questionably vegan) bread, so i packed and left an hour later.

note: that was *once* in many. NEVER EVER say you have an allergy. be proud of what you are, and believe in yourself because nobody else will.
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Postby Hiking Fox » Thu May 31, 2007 10:53 am

For me, it depends on my relationship with the other people.

If I am in a temporary job for just a few weeks, I don't make any fuss and just eat chips or something. I openly put soya milk in my tea, and answer any questions that might come up, etc.

If I was to be in a permanent job with people I would actually get to know, I would be more 'openly vegan', phone ahead to make sure I was going to be catered for, etc.
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Postby xbojanx » Thu May 31, 2007 2:02 pm

I traveled a lot throughout Serbia, and have been eating in worst places. Even those shitty restaurants near the road usually have some raw salad. And bread is also usually vegan. If not, cup or two of juice should be enough for the time spent there.
On the other hand, I almost always carry around soy milk powder, just in case :)
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Postby xrodolfox » Thu May 31, 2007 2:47 pm

When I (or my kisd and/or wife) eat at a friend's or aquaintances house, we just make sure that 1) they know that we are vegan 2) they know what that means 3) that they have "positive" ideas of what we can eat (ie, instead of saying what we don't eat, we tell them what we like, down to the brand and where the item is available), and most importantly, we 4) bring something to share that can feed the whole family and some curious guests, just in case. Often, but not always, we also 5) eat ahead of time, so that if the food situation turns bad, we're not starving and grumpy.

This plan has helped a lot. Especially in cases like my son being invited to his friend's B-day party, and the family only serving non-vegan cake, and non-vegan cow milk ice cream, and celebrating with a pinata full of non-vegan candies. In that case, we brought our own candy, our own vegan soy ice cream, and we promised out kid cake for later.

I find it is a lot less rude to really be clear about my eating habits ASAP, so that the person who does the inviting can really think and process what that means, and be prepared for it. I usually take charge and just tell them to cook me barilla/spartan/etc. brand pasta, with simple tomato sauce from a can (i specify the brand), if they insist on cooking for us. What's most difficult is when people really try but get something wrong (as in buying non-vegan but vegetarian boca burgers instead of the vegan ones).

This has worked even when we visit family abroad, who have absolutely no concept of veganism. We don't count on them to figure it out, instead, we do the research and we suggest what we can eat. Only after 12 years of dealing with me (and 8 years of my brother, and 6 years of my wife, and 3 of our kids), they've actually gotten a good drift of it, and now offer vegan foods, and they actually get into it and offer some of the best native veggies ever. The native veggies to Chile are AMAZING. I have a better meal than most people since I get to try those amazing treats.


I love to travel in unfamiliar areas, and that's the only time when being vegan takes more than a second thought.

What we've learned to do is to plan the day around a meal (and now with kids, nap time) instead of planning the day around an activity. That means that we pick where and when we will eat before we figure out where will will go and what we will do.

The best results have been from going online and using the various services to find vegan restaurants where ever it is that we are. Then, we plan the day around that restaurant. The best experiences we've had have been that way.

The next best thing, when we don't know where will be stoping, is to eat at restaurants that most often have vegan foods. That means we have a backup of eating mexican, or italian, or our perenial favorite, chinese. Those restaurants most often have a dish which is vegan or at least can be easily and simply modified to be vegan without much of a hassle. Examles are the aglio olio sans parmesan at Italian restaurants, or veggies and tofu at chinese restaurants, or a simple bean and rice burrito sans meat and cheese at a mexican restaurant. As a final backup, if forced, we will eat at Subway, but luckily, there are often other cahin options including Qdoba, Bruegger's Bagels, Evo's, or one of many wrap places that've popped up.

It's been pretty simple, even if all the details make it seem otherwise. We just stick to our routine, and it's all panned out without a problem for many many years.
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Postby xbojanx » Thu May 31, 2007 3:18 pm

I find it is a lot less rude to really be clear about my eating habits ASAP, so that the person who does the inviting can really think and process what that means, and be prepared for it.

Definitely, and it's also fair towards those persons you're visiting - not to presume thta they're ignorant. Preparing vegan food might be interesting and creative chalange for them, as I have experienced (my frind with disability was cutting paprika all day into small sticks to make it interesting for me and they put the sign "for Bojan" - but lot of peopel ate the stuff). My experience also is that peopel are sometimes terrified of how they will look if they don't please you :)
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"emotionally" allergic

Postby tulia » Fri Jun 01, 2007 1:10 pm

It doesn't bother me at all to tell strangers...(the lovely people who work in the restaurant) that I am allergic to "animal protein". I am SO emotionally allergic to animal products I DO think I would become VERY sick if I partook of them. When I am a guest in someone elses home I say...."I know my vegan eating habits are strange to you...I am happy to bring some of my own stuff! I'll even share if you like!" If it is all done with good humor and no judgement things will be fine. You teach more by example than preaching...show them a happy [u]fulfilled[/u] vegan.
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Postby AbFab » Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:05 pm

I don't make a habit of saying I am allergic - it's usually a snap judgement when I think the place we are eating in is less likely to take due care. If they think I might die on their premises, I expect they'll take better care. If they think I am just being a fussy little sod, I don't feel as hopeful. I don't really see how chefs will follow through on my faux allergies and as a consequence a person with real allergies will suffer - how will the chef know??? Sorry, but this doesn't seem like a valid arguement to me. The thought of eating any animal product truly grosses me out, and I will do as much as possible to reduce my chances of eating it.

Friends have all been totally understanding, accommodating, etc etc. It's only at the occasional restaurant I feel I have cause to worry.
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Postby Enhydra Lutris » Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:26 pm

It's not so much the chiefs finding out or not as the fact that people are encouraged to say that they are allergic when they are not. If people say they are allergic when they are not, know of other people saying it when they don't like the food or whatever or have read about people encouraging others to use allergy as an excuse, then the likelyhood of them thinking that the next person saying that he or she is allergic is just using it as an excuse is much higher than if no one ever used it as an excuse.
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Postby revolushuneyz » Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:41 pm

[sorry this is so long]

I have learned the hard way to tell people up front. Especially at work. Otherwise, things get awkward.

With work colleagues, I've found this:
- I tell them "I don't eat candy" (going through the list of ingredients is a hassle and creates distance).
- I research all the restaurants in the area and then say the restaurants I can't eat at (there's actually only 1).
- I admit that being vegan is not traditional, but also let them know that they are welcome to eat animals around me. I tell them I'm as open to others food choices as they are about mine (tolerance is a two-way street).
- I don't delve too deep into my reasons unless someone pries (my professional and personal life are separate).

With friends, I'm more direct. I've chosen these friends, they better be able to take it. I've found this:
- When dating someone new (and who's openness I don't yet know), I always start off by eating out at restaurants and pick vegan-friendly ones that are pretty normal (depending on the person). Then, when I tell them (often within the first five minutes), if they look like they're thinking it's restrictive, I list of a ton of "regular" restaurants I can eat at (highlight the "can", not "do"). Or I say "I can eat pretty much everywhere, except steak houses, and even then, The Outback has a vegan dish). I allow a person to take time to get used to it and be able to do research.
- Especially when newly dating a non-vegan, I offer to cook together (at my place). Then pick something pretty "normal" (pasta, salad). That way as you pull out ingredients, you can talk about it, and they won't be too out of their element.
- I also ask about others' eating habits (so that in the future I can better accommodate them). E.g. do you like chinese, italian, etc? What's your favourite snack? What would you normally eat for dinner?
- Make jokes about how stupid your diet is (especially if you're also training).
- Some folks just don't get it, so I will generally tell them I can't make it to dinner but will show up for desert (and will bring the desert).

At restaurants (not of my choosing):
- I pick the most vegan thing and just remove something from it (that way you're not messing with the flow too much). I never ask for additions.
- I ask servers first if there are specific ingredients and base my choices on their response (if I've already asked about the main dish, I'll just ask for the dressing on the side and hope for the best).
- If I'll be at the restaurant during a rush hour, the day before I get a menu and call to ask about ingredients (when it's not rush hour). This avoids any awkwardness.
- I don't send food back unless it has meat in it. Then I make a mental note to not go there again. In addition to being vegan, I try not to waste too much, sending a dish back means doubling your food consumption (it's up to each of us to decide on our limits...that's mine).

For everyone:
-When people want to know what I can't eat, I give them a list of foods, rather than ingredients (you know that not including butter will always be vegan, but buying vegan margerine has a high potential for error).
-Refer to veganized normal foods when people want to know what you can eat (others want to relate to you, this helps with that). Over time, I introduce them to the less "normal" foods.
-Let people know they can eat non-vegan around you (if you choose that limit)
- Be up front about your limits (I don't eat multi-ingredient foods without labels, but I also don't mind not eating until I get home).
- I am big into selling the "tolerance is a two-way street" line.
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Postby Konstantin » Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:58 pm

I much prefer people to know ME first before they know about what I eat. There are so many prejudices about veganism, there's a lot of people more prejudiced about it than they are over race, sexuality and traditional bigotry subjects. I like the idea of delaying people finding out with the 'I don't eat sweets' type thing. It also helps to talk about other aspects of food before you break the news, talk about trying to eat healthily, needing to eat a lot of carbs, etc.

At restaurants I find it's essential to call first and check they're OK to adapt to suit a vegan. Before I had a restaurant lost a works visit of 40 people because they couldn't feed one vegan - I love it! Then you can just refer to the call and it should be OK.

I had a few times when I was eating and I had people take the piss, there's a few ways to deal with it. Once my friend was there when this meat-head was taking the piss, and my friend mentioned that I didn't drink, which encouraged the meat-head to take the piss more. Then my friend added that it was only temporary because I was a boxer in training and the meat head shut up and looked scared. Other times I just mention it's a 'Carl Lewis type diet' or mention that I need supplements because of the deficiencies in my diet - fat, carcinogens, second hand growth drugs, etc..

Basically reasonable people will be reasonable, and it helps not to be preachy or superior about it, and don't be fussy with the food, if it's vegan and good food, eat and enjoy.
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Postby Lovliebutterfly » Thu Jun 07, 2007 9:26 pm

Some very interesting views and experiences here. My colleagues have always known me as a vegetarian but this week I decided to annonce that I've turned vegan. I sometimes think I should have kept quiet about it! Well, work is organising a bbq for tomorrow...So, I thought I'd ask whether there'd be anything vegan and they said no, sorry hun, there'll be a vegetarian option and potato salad but nothing vegan I'm afraid!

I felt a bit hurt by the lack of consideration and don't see any point going to that bbq. But anyway, after announcing this, thousands of questions started to come from my close colleagues...
I'm starting to feel like an outsider, a freak! I'll soon start to become anti-social...
Anyway, I wished people could be more open-minded about this.
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Postby Enhydra Lutris » Fri Jun 08, 2007 12:36 pm

If you do want to go to the bbq, to be part of the companies "social" side, then you can always bring your own stuff. A lot of people go Oh! & Ah! at grilled veggies, warm potato salads etc and next time they might have some things for you as well.
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Postby Ava Odoéména » Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:51 pm

This thread is interesting to me as an anti-social freak:-) Since it highlights the different approaches of social survival strategies which are the result of living with murderers. I feel the fact that my self-esteem is not tied in with appreciation from others is a real privilege.

My social survival strategy is to make it clear in a friendly way that if everyone doesn't eat vegan I'm not coming. I offer advice and information and suggest to make this to be a chance of trying out something new and adventurous. But if people feel it's more important to them to slurp bodies than to have me present they are making a clear choice against me (they are choosing death over Ava), so what point is there to force myself onto people who clearly don't want me? My ethical values are too important for me to reduce them to be an outlandish dietary alternative. I don't have children so I can afford the luxury of being radical. I used to bring my own food to social gatherings, but found it more and more difficult to tolerate murder.

There are like three or four total vegan restaurants in the entire lands of Germany, a population of more than 80 million. Vegan food in Germany is regarded as a mythical absurdity, it's simply not possible, just mentioning it results in a blue screen of death of disbelief, panic sweats inclusive. If I must eat in a restaurant, I choose one which is not so busy because I want speak with the chef directly. I don't use service personell as a communication line and if I'm refused to be able to talk to the person handling my food, I leave. Many chefs that I've talked to, do see it as a challenge and they want to prove that they are good professionals by being able to make a nice vegan dish. Depending on the reaction of the chef I decide whether I can trust him or her or not. Any sign of rejecting, blank stare walling or other social aggressions of simulated confusion, or even derogatory behavior and I'm going. I never use the allergy lie because of obvious political reasons. The first reflex from a chef is almost always salad. Salad, salad, salad. Because of the momentary collapse of large brain regions, the chef suddenly fails to realize that potatoes, rice, nuts, beans, broccoli, aubergines, mushrooms and so on are vegan. All he sees is a single leaf of texture and taste free basic salad rotating in 3D before his inner eye, like a Microsoft system that has crashed with a running screen saver.

It's important to help the chef out of his trauma shock which resulted from the breaking down of the carefully crafted reality that vegans don't exist and start making suggestions by asking what he has available. Then you build a dish together with him (female chefs are still far and between), usually by the time he starts to get going his creativity kicks in, other brain regions come online again and this way I've come to enjoy some super vegan dishes in restaurants which had not even one vegan option. Good chefs are thankful for the inspiration and come out to gawk at you nervously how this mythical creature who lives on eating nothing is inserting something which has been through his hands.
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Postby Hiking Fox » Tue Jun 12, 2007 2:25 pm

This thread reminds me of an experience I had about a year ago.

In an effort to make some new friends in the Mancs area, I joined the local branch of a walking/climbing group. The group has always had two progressive features which appealed to me. 1. All the food on all their trips is vegetarian. 2. To include people of all incomes, they have a 'sliding scale' of costs, so each person works out their disposable income and then is placed in an income bracket from A to G. This means that the richer members subsidise the poorer ones.

I therefore expected the group to be quite inclusive and accomodating, and was surprised that this was not the case.

I met up with some of the group in a pub to plan a walking trip to Cadair Idris. I can't remember how it came up, but one of the group (a loud, middle-aged bloke) started taking the piss out of a woman who was vegan who had once gone on one of their trips and refused to eat the curry he had cooked, because he had put yoghurt in it. I pointed out that I was vegan, would also have refused to eat the curry in that situation, and asked him why he didn't simply serve up the yoghurt seperately so that people could choose whether or not to have it? He looked a bit awkward at that question, and changed the subject.

Before the trip, I made sure I phoned the person who was buying the food, so as to point out my vegan diet. She said no problem - the meals would be done vegan and she'd get some hummous as an alternative to the usual cheese butties, and some soya milk.

On the trip itself, I got up in the morning to find that someone had cooked a big pot of porridge... and as I spooned myself a bowl, someone came past and said, 'oh, that's got milk in it'. So I put another, small pot of porridge on and went to the bathroom. I returned a few minutes later to find that someone had added milk to the second pan of porridge! There wasn't another pot spare, and time was running short, so I went without breakfast. At least I got to have a cup of tea!

Later that evening, someone made a pudding of baked apples, and put honey on all of them.

I didn't go to any more socials or trips with that group. The way I see it, if a progressive, inclusive, vegetarian-minded group of countryside lovers who know in advance that I'm vegan can't accomodate me, I'm not in a position to force them to! Maybe I should have played the allergy card?

I'm now looking for another walking group. Maybe I'll set up a 'vegan hikers' club!
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