Sometimes I hate being a vegan. It can be a total pain in the ass way to live. It restricts where I can eat and what I can eat. It rules out huge sections of food in grocery stores and involves an awful lot of label-reading, doubly so if my gluten-free son is visiting. It causes confusion among my friends and an awful lot of eye-rolling in certain circles. I get mocked, teased and, on rare occasions, shouted at. So why on earth don’t I just give up and grab a chicken leg or munch on a steak sandwich?
Let me try that last sentence again. It’s not “grab a chicken leg.” It’s “grab a chicken’s leg”. Or munch on a bloody slice of a slaughtered cow. Ah. Now I’m beginning to remember why. But sometimes it just seems so damn hard!
Alan and I have just returned from a trip to Montreal, which is the reason for my heavy sighs. We went to see the UFC (ultimate fighting championships for those of you not well versed in such matters) on Saturday night, which required us to find meals in Quebec. French is the first language over the river from Ontario, but it’s not the European French I learned in school. It’s Quebec French, and I don’t understand a word of it. To make matters even more fun, Quebecois apparently can’t understand my French either. I kinda gave up years ago and now claim that I don’t speak French, period. My attitude towards this works fine most of the time, but the knock-on effect is that I can’t read much French anymore. Give me a German menu and I’ll have a good go at it. Give Alan and I something in Japanese and we’ll pour over the kanji, grinning happily every time we find one we know. But if you put me in a Quebec city where everything is written in French I get an instant headache, even if the English translation is written (in a government regulated smaller font) underneath.
Here I am getting a lecture about speaking French by a Montreal statue: Lunch time on Saturday found two hungry Ontarians wandering along Rue De St Catherine in the newer part of Montreal searching for food. We found many (and I mean “many”) diners boasting about their excellent Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. We found French-style restaurants with the words “cheese” and “cream” written so often that I think sometimes they overlapped. We found cheese panini, pulled pork and quiche. We were just starting to despair when I spotted a sign up a side street with the words “Resto Vego” on it. I accosted two people as they were descending a flight of stairs. “Is there a vegetarian restaurant up there?” Yes, there was!! So up we went. The food was buffet style, and wasn’t very hot, but there was a good selection and at least 4 of the dishes were vegan. Woo hoo! I had Indonesian tempeh, stir fried peppers, bean chilli, rice and a vegan cheezecake, and it was all good. Phew. Omni-Alan was equally happy with his vegan meal. Why can’t eating a plant-based diet always be this easy and tasty?
Fast-forward to dinner time, and we’re seated in a Korean restaurant which had assured me that providing a vegan meal would not be a problem for them. “Korean food is very adaptable” the server said. Alan’s dinner arrived first, and was piled high with thick udon noodles, crab pancake, stir fried beef, salad with an orange dressing, steamed rice, miso soup and kimchee. My dinner arrived shortly afterwards. It was a small bowl of plain rice topped with shredded vegetables and a few pieces of cold tofu straight out of the packet. Alan laughed. “This is why I’m happy to be vegan at home but an omnivore when I eat out.” I could see his point. Sometimes it totally sucks to be a vegan. Thank goodness there would be lager at the fighting later on!
On the morning after the night before, we decided to skip the $18 per person buffet at the hotel and find a diner for breakfast. We settled on one which was clean and friendly, with about 50 items on the menu. Of which I could eat……..three. My choices were dry cereal (they didn’t have soy milk) with a banana, a plate of fruit (for $12!!!!!!) or a BLT without the bacon. There were baked beans on the menu, but they contained pork 😦 I looked at Alan’s plate piled high with a variety of items, then at my meager meal of sliced tomato on toast and understood why people might be reluctant to give up being an omnivore.
And as for Sunday’s lunch…..don’t even go there. Old Montreal is a very pretty place to wander around, but totally sucks as far as vegan food is concerned. Maybe locals and frequent visitors know the secret vegan haunts, but as a tourist I found no joy there. We got in the car and left, munching on a bag of chips as we drove, heading for the well-stocked vegan fridge back in the comfort of our home. Being vegan is sometimes a total pain in the ass.
But all is not doom and gloom in vegan-land. Today, back in my old stomping grounds of Ottawa, I headed out to Strawberry Blonde Bakery to buy some vegan, gluten-free, nut free cupcakes for my son’s 21st birthday. They’re delicious, nicely priced, and make being vegan sooooooo easy. Then I walked across the road to “the Herb and Spice Shop” to pick up some vegan “chicken” bites and veggie bacon for Alan to have for breakfasts with tofu scramble. They’re tasty, healthy and cruelty free, and cook in minutes. My next job is to book a table at the Taj restaurant for dinner tonight, happy knowing that they serve vegan and gluten free items and everyone will have a good meal.
The next time someone tells me they can’t be vegan because they can’t give up meat I’ll remember my meals in Montreal, and maybe have a bit of sympathy for them. But then I’ll recall how easy it is to buy and cook vegan meals at home and my level of sympathy will go down considerably. Yes, sometimes it sucks to be a vegan. But most of the time it’s a great way to live. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and grab a cupcake and a cup of tea. Right now being a vegan doesn’t suck at all!!
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