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With all the amazing vegan food I get to eat when I travel it would be easy to assume that being vegan is always simple and fun. While it’s not nearly as difficult as I used to think it would be there are still some challenges when you’re vegan.
Going out to Eat
Going out to eat can be tough in some places such as Greece where veganism is not widespread. While there are some vegan restaurants in Athens, it’s much more difficult to find vegan food on the islands or in smaller cities. Our recent trip to Ioannina was a disaster with regards to vegan food. At the first restaurant we went to they didn’t seem to fully understand what vegan means, and I’m convinced that there was butter in my spaghetti sauce (I felt pretty sick later on in the day). During the rest of our stay, we cooked at home, but on our last day we had to go out for food again after leaving our Airbnb. We found a place that offered a vegan wrap, so I was excited to have discovered a restaurant in Ioannina where they would certainly know what vegan means. Unfortunately, there was a mistake so I got a chicken wrap instead which we had to send back until I finally got the vegan wrap. Other times, I have been at restaurants where people who had claimed to know what vegan means, apologized that a dish had coconut milk in it. If you think coconut milk is not vegan what other foods are you keeping from me?
Essentially, it’s imperative to always ask about all the ingredients used to prepare a dish. Some vegans will even call ahead to make sure that there will be vegan food at a restaurant.
This uncertainty of whether or not a certain item is vegan continues when going grocery shopping. I have always been quite good at reading labels because even as a vegetarian I wanted to know what I was eating, but being vegan makes grocery shopping even more difficult as there are some really bizarre ways in which animal products are incorporated into foods. In general, I don’t buy processed foods in the supermarket anymore. I go to the supermarket for fruits, vegetables, pasta, and other simple food and buy the rest at the vegan store where I know I won’t be forced to read labels. (I do check some vegan labels because I try to eat less processed foods, but at least at the vegan store I know I can always get whatever I want even without checking the ingredients first.) Having to read labels does improve the overall quality of the food I eat, though, as really long lists of ingredients nobody can pronounce turn me off these days even if they’re vegan.
Most vegans probably agree that eating vegan is not all that difficult until it is in a setting with non-vegans.
As a general rule, I try not to bring up the fact that I’m vegan because I want to avoid the interrogation that usually follows. It seems that people get so offended by people refusing to eat the same food that they start questioning vegans about everything. When vegans answer those questions truthfully they’re told that they’re being too preachy. People seem to feel that just by mentioning that you’re vegan you are judging them for not being vegan themselves. As a result, they go on the defensive and start asking questions they wouldn’t ask another meat eater. Don't get me started on all the "hilarious" comments people will make. Of course, when you don’t find these jokes funny you’re the one who doesn’t have a sense of humor.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes non-vegans eat the vegan options and don't leave anything for the vegans. A few months ago, we had ice cream at the office: The vegan option was out before I could even get any because people actually liked the vegan flavor more.
Let's be clear that being vegan is not enough to make two people get along. Sadly, the vegan movement is full of horrible people, including racists and sexists. Then you have the vegan police that judge everything you do. Making connections with other vegans who actually agree with you on other issues as well can be quite a challenge in and of itself. Because of this many vegans actually prefer to deal with all the awkwardness of being the only vegan in a given situation.
What do you find most annoying about being vegan? Let me know in the comments.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.