The Battle of the (Vegetarian) Veganista

“Vegetarian veganista?” you might say. Why yes,
that is me! You see there has always been no secret of me being a vegetarian
and choosing to not eat meat. My diet/lifestyle has been in the works for years
and by now, my friends and family are used to me being complicated when we go out
to dinner.
It might sound a little like this between the
server and myself, “May I order the Calypso Shrimp Linguine but with the shrimp
of the side and add broccoli, asparagus, and mushrooms?” (The shrimp on the
side is for my husband, duh!) … almost always the server asks, “Are you a
vegetarian?”
Don’t worry, I worked in the restaurant industry
for years and know how both customer and server etiquette should work. I always ask nicely for my complicated requests and
the servers have always been awesome.
So where does this “veganista” come into play?
This one time at an animal rescue dinner event,
our entrée choices were: chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan (vegetarian
option), and spaghetti without tomato sauce (vegan option.) You ordered your
meal way ahead of time when tickets were purchased and I selected eggplant
parmesan. I was served spaghetti. (Enter: reassuringly checking my ticket,
clearly seeing eggplant parm.) When I
politely pointed out the incorrect order to the server, he was confused as to
why a vegan would eat cheese. Who said I was vegan? Not me! After much
discussion in the kitchen (if you’ve ever been to Buca, you know that kitchen
is wide open!) I was finally served what I ordered.
Here comes dessert. I was served carrot cake
instead of cheesecake because I was “vegan.” Gimme that cheesecake because I AM
NOT VEGAN!
I got my cheesecake and my family and I joked
about my new diet for the rest of the night.
A few months after my vegan Buca run in, I
learned how naïve my vegetarian lifestyle was all because of parmesan cheese.
Ironic, right? I cringe at that word because it has been forever emblazoned in
my brain as something evil and now disgusting. In short, cheese is not
vegetarian. Which lead to learning milk is not vegetarian. And finally, eggs
are not vegetarian. Even dairy cows end up being served at McDonald’s with the
egg laying chickens. Need further clarification? Go do some research. It’ll be
life changing.
What?!
And let personal war wage inside me. I gave
up meat to not take part in horrific factory farming practices but all the while I
was still a contributing factor with my organic dairy purchases. I also learned
that the words “organic” “cage free” and “free roaming” don’t mean squat. I’m not okay with the idea that an innocent animal had to die a horrible death just so I can eat. No thanks. 
So, the questions that beg to be answered are “why
didn’t I put two and two together all these years” and “why didn’t anyone tell
me?”
Some days I think being a vegetarian is a joke
and you might as well eat meat. The way I see it, there should be two black and
white diets: meat eaters and vegans. Other days, I drive myself INSANE when I
check food labels. The one item that infuriates me is non-dairy coffee creamer.
Assuming I was safe, I bought it. No, “contains milk” was listed right on the
back of the bottle. It was then I became a label reader. And heads up, milk or
milk products (i.e. casein) are in a TON of food products.
Photo from: Daniel
Vitalis
So where do I draw the line between sane and
insane? It’s a struggle that I go through every day especially since my husband,
Sean, is a meat eater and will always be one. I just have to find out what
works for me especially when eating at restaurants. My biggest worry is I don’t
want people to be inconvenienced by me. Honestly. I
went to a wedding once where the groom panicked after dinner while talking to
me. “OMG, we completely forgot you were vegetarian. Did you get enough to eat?”
Ah, my heart wanted to break because the sweet bride and groom had much more
important things to think about on their wedding day than what I had to eat. Don’t you
worry! I’ll be fine.
When I cook and bake, the transition has been a
bit easier. Replacing actual milk has been relatively easy because there are
many alternatives out there. Sean and I really like Almond Breeze’s Vanilla Almond
Milk
and I love Silk’s coffee creamers. Butter has
been super easy to replace because our butter was already actually vegan, Smart
Balance Light
. I’m still working on the egg replacer and determining
when I should be binding or leavening!
 Sean has been amazing and so supportive of my
struggle. It is a HUGE step when he tries my vegan cooking/baking. I have even
received the “Sean-Approval” on many of my dinners and bakings which really
makes me feel great! I’ve even noticed that I’m feeling better with less stomach aches and my headaches are gone. I’m not sure I can ever fully commit to a vegan lifestyle
which leads me to really respect those that do. It’s a tough lifestyle in an
unforgiving world but I do feel like I can make conscious decisions to have a
better and kinder lifestyle as a vegetarian veganista!

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