Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Joy of Freedom

While I am a proud, flag-waving American conservative vegan (yes, we do exist), the freedom I wish to talk about in today's blog concerns a matter near and dear to every vegan's heart and that is, the freedom of choice on restaurant menus.

When I first contemplated going vegan, the first depressing thought I had was, I would never be able to go out for dinner again. Or at least I didn't think it would be worth the effort. I am not one to make fusses at the table. "Yes, waitress, could I have the portobello steak sandwich but hold the steak, mayonaise, and oh could you be sure to cook it on a grill that has not been used for meat?" That is not me and never will be me. So what is a shy vegan to do? Obvious answer: only go to vegan restaurants. Problem: They are a rare breed, especially in my part of the world and my husband, an omnivore, would not be thrilled at such dietary restrictions (Welcome to my world, dear.)

While visiting family in Massachusetts this month, I had the rare joy of going to an all vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Watertown. The Red Lentil was an oasis for me. I did not have to settle for the one (usually bland) item on the menu that had no dairy, eggs or meat in it. I had OODLES of choices, and the sheer variety provoked such happiness that the food could have tasted like moldy cardboard and I still would have found the experience to be well worth it. Did I want the three bean chili or the vegan caesar salad? A tempeh reuben sandwich or the tuscan portobello sandwich? The spiced lentil nut patties sounded yummy too. Oh, decisions, decisions! What a sweet joy to be able to ask the waitress to give me a few extra minutes to decide on a vegan meal! Omnivores can never appreciate the joy of such freedom, the world has always been their oyster, so to speak, when it comes to dining out.

Still, this occasion is all too rare. I keep hoping that more restaurants will become more conscious of vegan diets and will provide more options on their menus. As chefs like Tal Ronnen (THE CONSCIOUS COOK) have proven, vegan meals are as delicious as any other, and provide pleasure to the consumer. Who wants to spend money on an evening out and have to settle for a garden salad and limp pasta primavera? Just give us a little freedom with our food options. That is all we vegans ask.

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