Monday, April 30, 2007

Veganism at work

I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only vegan who cringes when another co-worker says, "Let's go to lunch," or the boss says, "We're all staying late. Don't worry, I'm ordering food." Oh, I usually manage, but I'm likely not happy about it. Unless it is a vegetarian restaurant, not likely, or a vegan friendly restaurant, also unlikely, pickings are slim. I had only been at The Brownsville Herald for a couple of months when we had a meeting of all of the city editors from Valley Freedom Communications. In all, there were eight of us, and no one had a clue I was a vegan, and I'm picking at this miserable excuse for guacamole. "Is that all you are going to eat?" one of the other city editors asked me. "Oh, this is great," I said, trying to avoid additional inquiry into my eating habits but thinking to myself how miserable the food was. In situations like these, you can't help but think about what you'll be able to eat that night when you would get home for dinner. A meal with co-workers usually equals a missed meal or one sorely lacking. Also while I was at The Herald, it was an election night tradition to have the editor order pizza for everyone. I trained the editor to get me cheeseless, meatless pizza. It wasn't until recently, since I left the job, have I come to the realization that the pizza I was consuming wasn't vegan at all. Having experience making pizza at home, it never occurred to me that someone would put dairy into the dough, but Pizza Hut does. They use whey. I can't tell you how pissed I was when I found out. You normally can't check a restaurant's ingredients while you are there. You can inquire about it, but usually you get back a bunch of uninformed nonsense from the servers. I had actually checked with Pizza Hut, and a straining server brought me the huge box of sauce they use, and showed me that it was vegan. I didn't ask for the dough, too, dreading the server having to lug another huge industrial-sized container again. Besides, I was confident that the dough would be OK. Most pizza crusts are water, flour, yeast and salt, sometimes with a small amount of oil. That's it, but one day I was surfing the Internet and found out that you could check the ingredients in the menu for many of the chain restaurants. Needless to say, Pizza Hut was not OK. I did, however, find out that Papa John's and Little Caesar's had vegan crusts. Of course, before I even had a chance to get acquainted, on the first day I started working at the University of Texas at Brownsville in February, they took me to the country club for a meal. I had a baked potato and danced around the "Is that all you are going to eat comments." I fantasize that I will one day remark: "What else do you want me to eat? You took me to this meat-loving restaurant, but I don't eat any meat. Thanks."


  1. Man, that sucks. Sometimes, this is the cross we bear. But still, I wonder, why don't you suggest alternatives that might have vegan options, or let them know you're a vegan?

  2. Interestingly enough, on the first day of work at the university when they took me out to lunch, I had every intention not to tell anyone I was a vegan. When I got the baked potato and got the "all your going to eat comment," one of the women who was there asked me if I was a vegetarian. "Yes," I replied. Then she did an ode to the dairy products at the buffet bar. "I don't eat those, either." As the years have past, it's been a lot easiser letting everyone know I'm a vegan. It just takes a little time to get around to everyone. The people at The Herald knew I was a vegan, but I'm not entirely sure they knew exactly what that meant. If they asked questions about it, I would answer them, but I didn't go around explaining it to them unless they brought it up. During some event where pizza was ordered at The Herald, the secretary ordered a cheeseless pizza with everything on it, including sausage and pepperoni, etc. I tried not to complain, but when she asked me why I was eating anything, I'm afraid I said I don't eat meat a little too forcibly. She apologized, but of course, a new pizza wasn't ordered to fix the wrong. When people at work know you are a vegan, rarely does that factor into their restaurant considerations. You deal with it the best you can so you do not appear antisocial, and you satisfy your appetite later.