Yesterday afternoon I fell into a conversation about Food and Friendship. Small differences of opinion are usually irrelevant in a good friendship. BUT dinning out with my non veggie bestie’s can sometimes complicate things!!
Table Manners is the perfect topic for this blog post. My disclaimer is that I love my friends for who they are, not for what they eat. I wish they were vegetarian for reasons such as animal rights, sustainability and - at least I believe so, their health. At the end of the day everyone makes there own choices based on personal wisdom and experiences. Also, internalized morals cannot be forced. So I live my life setting an example for what I believe in and choose to celebrate achievements rather than obsessing over losses.
I have noticed that since attempting to be a good vegan, eating out with friends has lost a certain ‘freeness’. For me, food is much more than filling up my belly: it is about sharing and creating memories. It is about laughing together and connecting with one another.
When I am at a non vegetarian restaurant that I am not familiar with, I sometimes find myself eating a ‘half’ version of what everyone else is eating. I start to feel left out and somewhat disconnected from the group. There are times when I can’t quite capture the feel of the dinning experience that friends are part of. There are also times when I find myself in the position of the ‘annoying customer’ and new friends who don’t know me very well feel uncomfortable… defiantly not dining aphrodisiac
So what do I do to conquer dysfunctional dinning experiences?
1. Research the restaurant before hand. The internet is fantastic and most restaurants now have online menus! This way I get to study the menu for 2 hours without having friends looming over me pressuring me to order something!! There is ALWAYS a way of turning two meaty dishes into a single, delicious vegan meal! The trick is having enough time to be creative. So be creative before you get there
2. Call the restaurant and ask them what they offer for vegetarians. I’ve noticed that a lot more restaurants now have special vegetarian/vegan menus. They will often offer to make something special for you …. IF you are polite and charming. Giving them notice defiantly helps your situation and the quality of food. It also creates an awareness of vegetarian and vegans needs! Restaurants always want more customers AND I feel like it is my job to help them relies vegetarian and vegan demands in the most positive of ways.
3. Have an input in the restaurants you and your friends choose. Being familiar with the place or the cuisine it will make things a lot smoother. Asian restaurants always have vegan options, Tapas usually always has delicious mushroom sides, olives, antipastos and more! Be sure to avoid grill houses and pubs… you will not be respected in these places. Sorry!!
4. Try not to talk about why you hate factory farming and mass slaughter while your friend eats his or her meaty meal. These types of conversations will only make you feel less connected to your non veggie friend. While these conversations ARE important and you want to share and discuss morals with your friends; Save it for coffee dates, not the dinner table!!
5. If all else fails, Turn it into a game: get your friends to help you mix and match a menu to suit your needs! If you still can’t get what you want, connect with your friends by indulging in a lot of wine and picking at the bread…. This ALWAYS works for me hehehehe
~ Some questions for everyone ~
Non vegetarians: how do you feel when you go out to dinner with vegetarians? Is it daunting, do you feel rude eating meat in front of them? Does it change the way you order your food?
Veggies: Do you ever feel disconnected from the group? How do you go about sticking with your values but still being able to enjoy your quality friendships when dining out?
Please let me know!