As a vegan apprentice (have only been vegan since September 2009, hence the self-imposed title), I am still dealing with situations that are testing my resolve, moral fortitude, values, etc. I suspect that how I handled my meal yesterday at Clare and Don's Beach Shack would be frowned upon by the most ardent of vegans, but hear me out on why I did what I did.
Hubby and I ordered both appetizers and entrees at this very casual but fun restaurant which serves not only seafood and Cajun-style goods, but MANY vegetarian selections. The "uncrabcake" is one example. "Phish and chips" (or rather, deep-fried tofu and chips) is another. My entree was not a problem--swamp rice with tofu and veggies. My appetizer proved to be the issue, though, but I did not know this at the time I ordered it - buffalo tofu. As a former lover of buffalo wings, I was thrilled to find a restaurant which brought the same taste and sensation to tofu. We ordered the appetizers first, and I had started to eat it, when the waitress came by to take our order. When I asked if the key lime vinaigrette was vegan--I know, you're thinking, NOW she decides to ask questions!--, to her credit, the waitress pointed out that the buffalo tofu I had was NOT vegan--the sauce had butter in it. My stomach dropped. I had already taken a bite of it but even if I hadn't, once served, the dish could not be given to anyone else. I opted (rather shamefully) to keep and finish it. Thought process: to throw away prepared food is a waste in a world where so many are starving. What would that have proven? So I ate the tofu but had misgivings. My husband said I ordered this in good faith so no big deal. Tossing out the tofu would have added another wrong to a poorly made food choice.
I know, maybe I should have asked the waitress beforehand if the sauce was vegan. But I had honestly assumed because it was tofu, that the whole dish would be vegan (Yes, I KNOW, when you assume, etc. etc.) In retrospect, why one would assume that all tofu dishes are purely vegan is silly, I suppose. But that is what I was thinking at the time and now I ponder--what would Peter Singer have done? (For the uninitiated, Peter Singer is essentially the founding father of animal rights; I highly urge you to read his 1975 book ANIMAL LIBERATION. Visit him here at http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/)
I suspect he may have agreed with me, but even his views are somewhat controversial among animal rights activists (e.g. he has said in the past that some experients on animals may be morally justified if the experiment would have tens of thousands of human lives,but that over all, animal experimentation is wrong.)
At the end of the day, I know that as vegans we will not agree on everyone's actions and how they respond to certain situations as the one I describe (even Peter Singer has detractors in a world where we are all supposed to be focusing on helping animals.) I also know that people who eat meat are thinking I am being ridiculous and overthinking this. I was eating TOFU, not chicken, after all--no animal DIED for my meal, at least not directly. Still, every choice matters, and on this one, I blew it, however innocent my intentions were. So I vow to do better next time. : )
Oh, yeah, and when you find buffalo tofu on a menu--ASK before you order what's in the sauce.