I’m Back!! Well, sort of. I’m staying in Gillespie for a couple of days, so I almost feel like I’m still on vacation. Can’t I just be on vacation for forever? I mean, I’ve still been productive: I read 3 books, wrote quite a lot, and – you know – got engaged. More on that later! Must tell you about the vacation in sequential order or else I’ll lose control in all the mushy lovey happiness.
This vacation was a bit of a test for me, as I’ve never really gone out of town as a complete vegan, and definitely not with a family who is firmly un-vegan. On my own, I can make use of two very fine-tuned internal radars: one finds coffee, and the other hunts down vegan restaurants. I’ve also got one that’s pretty handy at locating gyms and Yoga studios.
But while I feel at home in raw, vegan cafes, I had to keep in mind that my fellow vacationers are more comfortable in BBQ settings. Challenging? Sure, but it ended up not really being a big deal. Sean’s family respects how I eat and I respect how they eat, so we ended up finding a nice balance. We either:
- Found a place with both vegan and non-vegan options.
- Ate at a place where "vegan" might as well be a banned word.
- Split up, so Sean and I went to one place, and his family went to another.
When option 2 came into play, as it did a few times, I just made sure I had something a little more substantial than an iceberg salad after dinner. In the past, this situation would have freaked me out, but I recognized that going out to dinner isn’t just about the food – it’s social. Wimpy salad aside, I still had a good time. It’s easy to have a good time – and lots of laughter – with Sean’s family. Who cares that I have to eat a protein bar after dinner? That’s just a bonus!
I am so grateful for the way Sean and his family accommodated me. We only fell into option 2 when it came to a few restaurants that his family really wanted to visit, and that was perfectly fine with me. Other than those few occasions, they did everything in their power to make sure we went to a place with vegan options.
Not really my kind of place.
The only time I could feel a rush of panic build up in me is when we ate at Lamberts Cafe yesterday on our way back home. I had looked up the menu online – it’s one of the unhealthiest places I’ve ever seen. It’s mostly fried southern food – lots and lots of fried chicken, fried okra, fried pork, meatloaf, huge rolls smothered in sorghum. This is a place for gorging. Plus, they throw their rolls at you, and I can’t catch. I went once when I was little, but I don’t remember much aside from the mounting anxiety as a dinner roll was lobbed at my head.
I took a couple of deep breaths and found that they had a veggie plate, where you can choose four vegetables from a list. Lacking in protein, for sure, but I could deal with that. From the menu:
Baked Potato, Candied Yams, Cottage Cheese, Baby Carrots, Cole Slaw, Turnip Greens, Sliced Peaches, Corn, Baked Beans, White Beans, Green Beans, Sliced Beets, Fried Apples, Homemade Mashed Potatoes, Potato Salad, Cold Chunky Applesauce, Pineapple Walnut Salad, Cucumbers & Onions
When the waitress arrived at our table, she listed the vegetable options for me. I could be picky and mention that beans are not vegetables, but legumes, but I let her get away with that. The thing that really threw me for a loop was when she also listed cottage cheese as a vegetable option. WHAT?! Sean picked up on the shock I tried so desperately to hide and squeezed my hand under the table.
I told her I wanted the baby carrots, corn on the cob, a plain sweet potato, and a side salad. I also reiterated that I’d like all of them plain – completely plain. (Because no one seems to understand that request.) This was the response:
"Well, the carrots come with brown sugar and butter – is that okay?"
"Uh, alright, that’s a ‘no’ on the carrots, then. Is the corn plain?"
"No, that comes with butter. Not too much, just enough."
None is enough for me.
"I can’t get it without butter?"
"No," she said simply.
"How about the sweet potato, can I get that plain?"
"You can get it with brown sugar and butter."
"How about the white beans or the green beans? Are those plain?"
"Yeah, they only have meat in them." She shrugged, as if this was the only way to eat beans.
My jaw fell open.
"I guess I’ll just have the side salad, then." I said weakly.
"We don’t offer just the side salad here.
I had no idea what to say. I was completely stumped, with a little disgust, shock, and deep sadness for humanity thrown in. Poor Sean shriveled in sympathy next to me.
Since all I could do was stare at the waitress, she said, "What is it you’re looking for, exactly?"
"I’m vegan," I explained. And trust me, this is not a fun explanation to give, as a lot of people have never heard of veganism. Even worse, once they learn what veganism is, they look at me as if I’m a leper. "I don’t eat anything that’s animal based – meat, cheese, eggs…"
She looked unsettled. "Oh! Well, let me see here….you know, I’ve worked here for 32 years and this is the first time I’ve been stumped…the only things we can get plain are sliced beets -"
"Okay, I’ll get those -"
" – Cucumbers and onions – "
"Okay." Things were looking slightly up.
" – Cottage cheese – "
Whoa. "No. Thank you."
"How about peaches? And I can see if we can get a plain baked potato."
"Alright. That’s fine."
So here’s my meal:
The peaches were canned and drowned in some kind of syrup. Didn’t eat them. The beets were canned and dry. Didn’t eat them. I ate the cucumbers and onions, and those were fine. The baked potato was fine once I salted the heck out of it and covered it in mustard. I only ate half of that because I’m just not the biggest baked potato fan. Sweet potatoes for the win.
Thank goodness for good company, or I would have lost it. I’d be the poor vegan curled up in the corner, bawling at the thought of all the chickens that are slaughtered for that place. I mean, this place is proud of the fact that "Last year we cooked 132,743 lbs. of choice round beef. It took a herd of 265 USDA choice steers to serve our customers!” Not to mention “253,980 lbs. of chicken,” “368,940 eggs,” “48,409 lbs. of fresh Mississippi pond raised catfish,” “399 pounds of pork per week”! Almost worst is “it takes approximately 17 cows, working night and day, to supply the milk we use at Lamberts.” If that’s not slavery, I don’t know what is. They’re proud of all this.
But I had Sean and the fam to keep me distracted, so all was well. You can bet I had some snacks afterward, though:
Cherries! A protein bar followed shortly after, and my phone died shortly before that.
So it wasn’t the best dining experience in the world, huh? That’s okay, wait till I show you the good meals! But first, I’m going to the gym. Oh, the wonderful, wonderful gym. At last.