One Girl, Two Cities

On being vegan: Chicago VeganMania

road trip new.jpg

This was the 7th Chicago VeganMania but my first time attending. It started at 10am but people start lining up as early as 9am in the hope of getting the highly coveted swag bag. We were not those people. They had arranged 6 awesome speakers, 7 panel discussions, and 6 cooking demos so it was easy to fill the 7 hours. 

cooking 3I enjoy attending the cooking demos because you get additional free food samples that are not available in the exhibitor area. This time it meant sampling Korean BBQ tacos and jackfruit tacos from Upton’s Naturals – yum! We also stuck around for the Native Foods Cafe demo but the pumpkin parfait wasn’t all that great. And in the end, I got the most out of the panel discussion Strategies For Effectively Communicating Your Vegan Message. While it didn’t get quite as in depth as I would have liked because time didn’t allow for it, they covered a lot of good questions.

This has since led to a couple discussions about why I’m interested in attending veg fests and what I’m looking to get out of them. In the rest of the post, I am not speaking for other vegans; I’m purely speaking for myself. And please know that I am not directing anything in particular at anyone, and it’s a challenge for me to share these thoughts. Being vegan is alienating, but it’s my strongest conviction and I walk a very fine line between comfortably expressing my true feelings and not feeling like I’m further distancing myself from people because of my views. Gee, this couldn’t be contributing to my depression and anxiety, right??

Why I’m vegan: I am vegan, first and foremost, for the animals. The people working in the animal agriculture industry mutilate, beat, starve, rape (the euphemism they use is “artificially inseminate”), and in many other ways grossly mistreat animals. It breaks my heart and I’ve shed many tears over it. I also understand how easy it is to ignore the horrific lives they lead because you rarely see it with your own eyes. If you can’t make it through the video below without closing your eyes, I would encourage you to think more about what you put in your mouth because it’s the norm.

I am also vegan for health and environmental reasons. Consuming meat and dairy contributes to the occurrence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and the list goes on and on. The website Nutrition Facts has countless videos full of easy-to-digest scientific information, and they all have written transcripts if you’re not a video person. We’re also destroying the environment by depleting our water supply, the methane produced by cows is the greatest contributor to global warming, and we’re over-fishing the oceans. Current projections show that our oceans could be depleted by the year 2050. That’s a mere 34 years away which means we could live to see this happen. If you’re interested in more information, I recommend watching Cowspiracy (also available on Netflix).

VM 1On feeling isolated: Eating a vegan diet is easy. Actually being vegan is not. One of the first things I typically hear when I disclose that I’m vegan is, “Oh, I could never be vegan. I couldn’t give up bacon.” My current response is, “Actually, you could.” I get that people aren’t open to hearing what I have to say – I mean, it’s not like I’ve been vegan my whole life so I get it, and I don’t offer anything further unless people ask. But please know that it’s incredibly rude to respond this way.

I love eating out as it’s an easy way to socialize with friends, but I’m more and more hesitant to do so because honestly, it’s challenging participating in meals where people consume meat and dairy. Would I ever ask people to eat vegan with me? I actually have and it’s been awesome, but I’m not at that comfort level with most people. So I push my feelings aside for the hour or two and try to focus on the company. Or take food out of the equation and participate in a non-food related activity.

Eating out with omnivores also usually means that it’s up to me to pick the restaurant which can be a lot of pressure. If you have a vegan friend, please know that it’s a lot of responsibility to continually place on them. Consider occasionally looking at menus online to see if a restaurant marks their veg options, or take it upon yourself to contact a place and see what they offer. I promise it would mean a lot to your friend. Happy Cow is also a great resource.

This is one area where veg fests are great. You know you’re in a place with like-minded individuals. Not everyone who goes to them are vegan or vegetarian, but if they’re there, they’re at least veg-curious or are there to support a veg friend.

vm everyoneOn trust: Finding vegan food is easy. Trusting that restaurants are serving you food that’s actually vegan is not. Many ethnic restaurants are at least vegetarian-friendly, but I’ve had to deal with the language barrier so often that sometimes you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best. Once, at a local restaurant, I requested a dish vegan that is marked “vegan upon request,” only to have it come out with cheese on it. At another establishment, the server was telling me the vegan options and she mentioned egg noodles. I immediately questioned it and she backtracked to say rice noodles, but of course the trust was already lost. And there was no language barrier in either of these situations.

I try to cut myself and others a little slack, but this is stressful. Veg fests (as far as I know) require that vendors sell only vegan food and that exhibitors only bring vegan food samples. This is for sure the case at VeganMania, and Twin Cities Veg Fest. I love being able to relax and enjoy the environment without playing 20 questions regarding ingredients in the food. For other events, I’ve either had to go out of my way to contact the planner and/or make sure to eat beforehand because I can’t count on them having a vegan food option. Which is fine, believe me. I don’t expect people to cater to me (unless the event actually includes a full meal, anyway), but it’s just one more instance when I feel isolated from others.

Awhile back, I came across a quote that said, “Be the vegan you wanted to know when you weren’t vegan.” This is something I repeat to myself when I’m struggling to interact with others regarding my opinions. I know people don’t want to constantly see a barrage of graphic images, and I know expressing anger usually won’t do any good. This creates a lot of internal conflict because I want people to see what they’re paying for and I am angry sometimes.

For the vegans out there, how do you handle these kinds of things? I try and keep things light and have respectful conversations when prompted. And I hope that those who know me personally see me this way, too. And veg or not, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on the topic! I’ll include a few more thoughts on my Fargo/Moorhead Veg Fest post. Thanks for reading.

12 thoughts on “On being vegan: Chicago VeganMania

  1. Heather @ Simply Save

    Thank you for sharing your story! I’ve never thought much about being vegan so this has given me a lot to think over. One thing I’m immediately taking away is how you brought up the pressure of always having to choose where to eat. I have a friend who is gluten free and vegetarian and I know we’ve put a lot of decisions on her. Also I know I’m guilty of saying, “I could never give up chicken.” Stopping that right now. Thanks for opening my eyes. 🙂

    1. Laura VanZandt Post author

      I appreciate your input, Heather. 🙂 And I can’t wait to hear what your friend says when you make your recommendation! Thanks for allowing your eyes to be opened; it’s awesome!

  2. Beth

    I applaud you for this post – there is a lot of good information here and I really appreciate your honesty, I’m sure it wasn’t easy to put it all out there!

    1. Laura VanZandt Post author

      Thanks, Beth. <3 You're right - it was easy to write but once I hit "publish," I was surprised at how emotional it made me. Very therapeutic though. 🙂 More to come!

  3. Kati Rose

    I’ve worked my way towards being more veg-friendly as I’ve gotten older. I don’t know if I could be fully veg because I grew up an incredibly picky eater and it’s still something I struggle with to this day. But before you think I’m heading on the same path as you said was a peeve above I want to say the reason why me even possibly becoming full veg one day is because of friends like you. I am happy when you speak up about places you can and can’t go to and why you choose the vegan lifestyle. It makes me go outside my comfort bubble too. I’ve tried so many new foods and places because of my vegan friends. Things that I would have NEVER tried otherwise. I would have never discovered that there were things I enjoyed that I once thought were so “yuck” and slowly but surely I make my way to a healthier lifestyle and not eating like a 5 year old.

    1. Laura VanZandt Post author

      I think that’s really wonderful, Kati, and thanks for making me laugh at your “eating like a 5 year old” comment! 😀 I appreciate your openness more than you know. Keep working on popping that bubble!

  4. Allison

    I hear what you’re saying about not always picking a restaurant, but honestly your next point about trust is pretty much the reason why I almost always insist my food-sensitive friends (whether that’s vegan or gluten-free) choose the restaurant. I would feel terrible if I picked a restaurant that gave my friend a hard time or wasn’t as vegan-friendly as I anticipated. I would think that individual would already have a handful of restaurants that they like so we don’t have to worry.

    1. Laura VanZandt Post author

      I get what you’re saying, and I know friends who want me to pick a place are coming from a place of love. But also like I said, anyone can easily see if a menu has their veg items marked, and of course I would double check myself when a suggestion is made. But honestly, I would be so delighted and it would mean so much if someone went out of their way to look into it on my behalf from time to time, and I’m inclined to think that other people with dietary restrictions would feel the same way.

  5. Pingback: Minsgame Monday - A Preview - One Girl, Two Cities

  6. Pingback: Twin Cities Veg Fest 2015 Recap | One Girl, Two Cities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.