Vegan Dilemmas of Eating out Post Covid with Non Vegan Friends
With the easing of Covid restrictions comes a return to some sort of normality, the new normal. I have so far been hesitant to visit restaurants because, despite the government suggesting otherwise, Covid is still very much a threat, it has not gone anywhere, and although I am double jabbed, I still fear catching it and I fear my daughter catching it. No one really knows how the virus and its mutations works, especially the long-term effects on children. However, I do miss going out for lunch with friends, socialising with friends, so, when a friend recently mentioned going out for lunch in their hometown, a friend who I had not seen for some time, a compromise was needed, somewhere with outside seating.
Finding somewhere with outside seating in an area you are unfamiliar with is difficult, finding somewhere with outside seating that served vegan food seemed to be mission impossible, even with the help of Doctor Google. Nevertheless, it was not beyond the help of social media! I posted a message on several vegan Facebook groups near where my friend lived in the hope someone there could make a recommendation. This post yielded fruit, further research confirmed this recommended restaurant had recently created a new vegan menu. I was delighted. Now, all we needed was good weather so we could eat outside.
Pre Covid going to new places was always a source of anxiety… I worried I would get lost, I’d worry there be no vegan options, or limited options especially for a fussy toddler. Post Covid this was no different. On the morning of the arranged meet up, I was quite anxious about finding the location, especially as I was meeting my friend first, at another new venue and I was anxious about what food would be suitable for my daughter. I had made her a packed lunch, just in case there was nothing suitable. It didn't help that I had the added anxiety of being a Slimming World Member, although, as I am at target, some of this pressure is removed as I know that if I gain any weight, I can lose this fairly easily, if need be, moreover, I have only been out once for a meal during covid, so I deserved a treat, within reason, after all Slimming World is meant to work around your life, not the other way round. I deserved to enjoy myself.
With the explosion of the vegan market, in these enlightened times, it pained me to have to take my daughter a packed lunch, it also disappointed me that not every town was as enlightened as I thought. My town is progressive, so I wasn’t used to a Victorian one. It made me, just for a minute, question whether I had made the right choice for my daughter's diet, made me question whether this was a sign of things to come, isolating her from eating out with friends, making her different, and the consequences of this for her. I felt that my dietary choices both veganism and Slimming World had at times made what should have been an enjoyable social event, a stressful one. However, it was perhaps exacerbated by eating out for only the second time since Covid arrived and in an unfamiliar place. Hopefully, with a return to this new normal, it would get easier…
Unfortunately, on arrival at this new venue, my anxiety was further compounded by being served by a young, inexperienced member of staff who had no clue about the vegan food that they served. This heightened my anxiety because you feel as if you are causing a scene, that you are an inconvenience, an anomaly, not that my friend did anything to make me feel that way, so again, for a second, it made me question my veganism. When you see that a venue has a vegan menu you expect to feel included, not isolated. The waitress brought the chef over to discuss the vegan food options; and the chef was very accommodating. It was just a shame that the printed menu was not more vegan friendly, especially as they had been promoting their vegan menu on social media.
My meal, which we managed to eat outside, was amazing, it was higher in syns than I intended, but at least avocado was a good fat. My daughter’s meal a vegan sausage and chips looked great, the chips, which I stole several of, were amazing.
However, the more I looked at the unusual, realistic looking sausages, the more I questioned whether they were vegan or not. This again heighted my anxiety. I asked the waitress, but her unhelpful response was that she had told the chef our order was vegan sausage and chips. She did not go and double check. Having my daughter with me, and a non-vegan friend, meant that I was unable to challenge this. I therefore spent the rest of the day agitated that I had exposed my daughter and I to meat and I was worried that she would be ill. I then posted on Facebook to see if I could find out what sausage it was. This, whilst comforting in some ways, resulted in a lot of responses to hundreds of comments, until I remembered to turn the commenting off. There was no clear winner of which sausage it could be, so I emailed the restaurant, however that bounced back, so I messaged them via Facebook messenger. I am yet to receive a response…
Whilst I did question my veganism briefly, I of course would not advocate a return to vegetarianism as the result of some short-lived discomfort, as my discomfort is worth the lives of the animals it has saved, and our health and the survival of the planet is worth this. I know that there will come a time in the future when I again question our vegan life, when my daughter starts school and I must navigate the world of birthdays and parties as I see many posts about this on Facebook, which are a source of great comfort and support, so I know I can learn to manage this somewhat successfully. Fingers Crossed!