Friday, August 16, 2013

The lesson here? Vegan food is never as hard as we make it.

For the celebration of my 20th anniversary working for the MSF, I had requested that all the food be cruelty-free. It was important to me, and even though it was going to be an added stress for the staff who were doing the planning, I figured I could be excused considering the occasion. I gave them the information for some vegan caterers and bakeries.

Yesterday at the party, after what I'm sure was extensive planning, we had a fabulous vegan meal. The menu was:

Spring green salad
Penne aglio e olio with broccoli
Grilled vegetable wraps
Cheese-free pizza with grilled vegetables
Garlic rolls
Fruit salad

A sorbet station with sprinkles and marshmallows
Thin mint cookies
Chocolate cake

It was marvelous... and it wasn't from a vegan restaurant at all. It was just from the gang's favorite Italian joint across the street and from Whole Foods and Publix.

The ladies had gone through all the options, trying to work within the budget (which, since we're a charity, is rightly minimal - we're super conscientious about what we spend) and were just having the hardest time, from what I heard. But that's because I had unnecessarily made it harder on them by steering them towards vegan restaurants.

The fact is that most restaurants today can and will accommodate vegans. Vegan food does not have to be outside the mainstream. It doesn't have to be difficult. And it doesn't have to be more expensive, either, despite the fact that many of us are used to paying more at all-vegan restaurants. Sometimes it's just as simple as the chef agreeing to leave off the cheese.

I'm really grateful that my colleagues figured that out, and I'm so grateful that they cared enough to make this happen for me. To me, watching that cheese-free pizza disappear and hearing people say about the cake, "But... it just tastes like cake!" was one of the best things that happened all day. Because the lesson they taught me with their solution to the catering problem is the same lesson I was trying to teach everyone there: eating vegan is never as hard as we make it out to be!