Along with my usual blissed out musings about being alive on the Central Coast I’m going to start featuring some of my true grumpiness here as well. Today’s piece is the first selection in a series–It’s Not Easy Being Green. Like Kermit the Frog always says in his green musings, “If life were easy then it wouldn’t be difficult.” Precisely!
I want to be green, I try to be green, but I too frequently fail. When I read accounts of people whose trash for a full year barely fills a single mason jar, or about people who live completely off the grid or use none of the earth’s limited resources for an entire year, I am moved, impressed and then intimidated. I mean, the whole thing about being a locavore–albeit inconsistently–is about living gently on the earth. But I want to do better. I will do better. In this series you can laugh at my experiences listen to my grievances.
It’s Not Easy Being Green–Installment 1:
Hello Restauranteurs and Caterers—There Are Hungry Vegans Present
I Know. It’s not all about me. I get it. But still.
Sometimes I’m hungry.
Restaurants and cooks and cheese makers and regular grocery stores and even big corporate processed food giants have done amazing things for vegetarians and vegans in the last decade. I don’t even think that millennial vegans even know what vegan “cheese” used to taste like. (Sodden cardboard, that’s what it tasted like in case you’ve forgotten.) Companies like Kite Hill and Miyoko’s, and their founders Tal Ronen and Miyoko Shinner have done fabulous work. Ben and Jerry’s make a truly wonderful vegan ice cream. Even Daiya pizza makes regular very day frozen pizza accessible to vegans. Chains like the Veggie Grill and Native Foods being vegan fast food to the masses while more esoteric places like Little Pine (LA), Millennium (Oakland) and Mesa Verde and Oliver’s (Santa Barbara) offer more elegant dining. Right now, as I write this, in my tiny central coast town there are several good vegan establishments (most notably the Shine Cafe). Nearly everybody these days carries alternative milks and butter and even mayonnaise.
Life is good.
As long as you are eating in a strictly vegan location. Or cooking at home.
The regular restaurants, the ones we most often go to with your friends and loved ones, the places that cater events and holiday parties (if we ever have those again) and birthdays and weddings still largely haven’t gotten the message.
A few waiters just smirk and suggest you dine elsewhere. Mostly though servers smile and say of course they accommodate vegans. Would you like maybe a pizza crust, without cheese or sauce or maybe even toppings? They can bring you olive oil on the side. Would you like a big expensive salad? They’ll be glad to hold the goat cheese, the heritage raised pork bits, the egg dressing and everything else. Basically, for about $20.00 you can have a big bowl of lettuce. Or as those in the business call it now: spring mix. I went to one event where they served me some sort of expensive crispy noodle dish that was burned and so salty it was impossible to swallow. (It was a banquet and while everyone else dined on salmon and skirt steak for $85.00 a pieces I had burned noodles.) I’ve been fed really bad watery pasta and once a really kind and elegant (French) hostess explained that she’d learned about my eating proclivities and had thus fixed me some chicken. Someone once offered me a big plate of beets.
In 2019 nearly 5% of the U.S.population identified as a vegetarian, with something under 3% calling themselves vegan. But 2019 was declared “The Year of the Vegan” and many statisticians put the numbers at higher levels today in 2021. 3% might not sound like very much but it means that today in the United States there are more than 10 million hungry—very hungry—vegans.
Good business practices would suggest that these 10 million people need to be able to buy real meals. And good manners would further dictate that eating out should not be so difficult.
There could easily be vegan pizzas, pastas with fresh vegetables, veggie laden salads and even the occasional slice of roasted vegetable made available to those hungry vegans accompanying their omnivore friends out on the town. Hostesses who are so attentive to various allergies, to gluten sensitivities, to starch avoidance can surely cease trying to stuff a steak down the throat of their animal loving guests. Picky children and carb hating keto counting dieters are accommodated. Why not the long famished vegan?
I know it’s tough.
But all I’m saying is that business and especially mainstream restaurants need to try a bit harder. Vegans are a small percentage of the population but so are people who totally eschew bread and they get love. Moreover whenever I’m around young people I’m struck by how many of them are vegan. So our numbers are growing.
As Kermit likes to say “If life were easy then it wouldn’t be difficult.” It sure ain’t easy being green.