Friday, February 25, 2011
This week I had to run to Vegas for some client meetings. I'm not really a traveler - I like my routines. In addition, I wasn't sure how this vegan thing would play out with colleagues and clients around for every meal. So I gave myself permission to cheat and kinda geared up against the mental guilt.
Getting to the airport, the girl I was travelling with suggested we grab sandwiches for the plane. I got my usual veggies-on-bread and she was like "you aren't even putting cheese on that?!?" That opened up a discussion and, to my surprise, she seemed interested in my vegan journey instead of judgmental or defensive.
Next came drinks and appetizers with clients I had never met. The dreaded moment came when they passed a menu to me and said "what sort of appetizers should we get?" My colleague from the plane swooped in letting them know I was vegan and suggesting the hummus plate. From experience, I know when people find out I'm vegetarian sometimes they get defensive of their own lifestyle thinking I will judge them for eating meat (which I don't), and since vegan is so much more extreme I was going to try to keep it away from important clients. Instead, it was out on the table within 15 minutes of my meeting these people! I was a bit mortified. But instead of them seeming turned off, it actually opened up a great discussion. Instead of "how's the weather" conversations we all really connected on beliefs, personal life, etc. I couldn't believe the interest and support from these people I had never met as I told them my story and they shared their own.
Then came dinner with another set of clients. Not only had I never met them either, but the company they work for is in the food service industry. Definitely didn't want to offend them! As I started looking over the menu, my heart sank. Not one meatless dish, let alone dairy-less. Although I waver on the vegan thing since it is so new, I have been a vegetarian my entire life and don't compromise on that. So I was trying to think of how I was going to quietly ask for a meat-dish-hold-the-meat without coming across like a freak, when my eyes found a small line at the bottom of the menu: "Vegetarian and vegan menus available upon request". Huh?!?! An entire MENU is available for people like me?!?! I pulled the waiter aside and asked for a vegan menu. He brought me back a real menu - 2 pages of vegan appetizers, main dishes, sides, deserts. I was floored! The clients caught wind of my request and we actually had another good discussion about vegan versus vegetarian versus meat eating. They were completely open to my decision and again, very supportive. (BTW, the restaurant is Sinatra's in Wynn Encore hotel in Vegas if anyone wants to check it out - DELICIOUS food and lots of vegan choices!)
I think I have been so scared for people to label me as "weird" that I haven't realized what good could come from just being open about who I am. It's like I am a closet vegan because I am afraid people will be uncomfortable around me if they knew (especially if they are in the middle of eating a huge steak when they find out). But this trip made me realize when people hear I'm (attempting to be) a vegan, they are more curious than judgmental.
Oh, and in the airport on the way home, I stopped for a soy latte. There were 2 people in line before me, and both of them also requested soy milk instead of regular! Hearing that was a great end to a great vegan trip :)