Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

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Veganism in the Workplace

question.gif - 1.4 KI work in a large office and (as far as I know) am the only vegan. Any tips for dealing with group lunches? (either in a restaurant or in a conference room)

answer.gif - 1.3 K Most vegans and vegetarians prefer not to draw attention to their food choices when dining among omnivores. Office environments can be especially awkward, depending on the corporate climate.

If you've worked in the office for any length of time, chances are your co-workers have already observed your "unconventional" eating habits, so learning that you are vegan will probably come as no surprise. A broad disclosure, however, could lead to undesirable comments, teasing, goading, or just a slew of questions, all of which can be distracting or annoying. In addition, broadcasting personal information in the workplace may be interpreted as inappropriate and unprofessional.

If you are comfortable talking to the individual who selects the restaurants or orders food for your business meetings and conferences, speak with that person privately and discuss your concerns. It actually may be quite easy to choose alternatives that will provide acceptable options for everyone without singling you out unnecessarily. She or he might even request your input about what foods to serve at meetings or which restaurants are vegan friendly. You could mention that there are probably numerous other employees who also would be grateful for vegan and vegetarian alternatives, including people who are simply concerned about eating more healthfully.

If you are friendly with some of the other workers who attend these luncheon gatherings, let them know how much you would appreciate their support. Suggest they join you occasionally in ordering vegan items so you don't feel like "the odd one out." If you've been vegan or vegetarian for a while, you know how omnivores typically ogle our vegetable plates, pasta dishes and salads, often dropping comments like, "Ooooh, that looks delicious. I should have ordered what you're having." So, it may not be all that difficult to convince a few others to "come on board," even if it's only for an intermittent meal or snack.

Some circumstances may require you to frequent restaurants without being forewarned or without being given a choice of establishments, and you easily could be put in a tight spot. Call ahead, if possible, to find out if any vegan options are already on the menu, or if the chef could prepare a standard dish without the nonvegan ingredients or whip up an expressly vegan creation. Bear in mind that some chefs are overwhelmed by having to make an out-of-the-ordinary concoction, particularly at busy lunch or dinner times. On the other hand, some chefs rise to the occasion and relish the chance to be inventive. You may have to do a little educating, since many people have no idea what the term "vegan" means. If you can speak with the chef directly, you may have the most success. When you are unable to call ahead, try to speak with your server discreetly, away from the table, if necessary, so as not to attract attention. Ideally, sit among colleagues who know you are vegan so you can discuss your needs with the waitstaff more openly.

When worse comes to worse, you can always order a vegetable salad. You'll need to inquire about the dressing or ask for oil and vinegar to apply at the table. Skip the croutons if you have any doubts (milk products and eggs are sometimes used in bread dough and croutons are sometimes fried in butter or dipped in cheese). If there is concern about your co-workers raising their eyebrows, try to keep your choice and your ordering low key. It's not necessary to make a fuss. Even if you're obliged to visit a steak house, you can generally get a good salad bowl and baked potato (minus the butter and sour cream, of course).

Salads and other light meals may not be very satisfying when you're particularly hungry, so keep a quick snack in your briefcase or desk drawer. Fresh and dried fruit; fruit leather; crackers; pretzels; trail mix; instant vegetable broth; fruit juice; soy and grain milk beverages, nondairy shakes, and amasake in aseptic containers all make quick, handy snacks when lunch is on the skimpy side (or whenever the general munchies strike!).

Sometimes, even the best intentions fall flat. For instance, the day the whole gang decides to order in cheese pizza without your knowledge. Instant soups and grain or bean dishes "in a cup" (the kind where you only need to add boiling water) are great for lunch emergencies. In fact, it may be a good idea to stock up on these. Consider having one BEFORE a lunch meeting if there's any concern that nothing would be available for you to eat. This way you won't be going into an unpredictable situation ravenous.

The office is not a smart place to preach "the vegan gospel," so be selective in what you say, how you say it and to whom. Proselytizing is often tempting but rarely welcome. It's challenging but wise to be prudent and respectful of your colleagues and the corporate milieu while honoring your vegan beliefs. I wish you every success!

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