“My own view is that being a vegetarian or vegan is not an end in itself, but a means towards reducing both human and animal suffering and leaving a habitable planet to future generations.”
– Peter Singer
I became a vegetarian early in 1990 beginning with eliminating red meat from my diet a few years earlier on the advice of my mother. Her reasoning was that since my father had died of colorectal cancer (CRC), the third most common cancer in men, and several studies suggested that there was a connection between CRC and the consumption of red meat and especially processed meat, that I should consider not eating red meat.
This sparked my interest in a vegetarian diet. First, I read Frances Moore Lappé’s book, Diet for a Small Planet, which argued that industrial meat production was a major contributor to environmental degradation and to global food scarcity, an issue of social justice. I followed by reading John Robbins’, Diet for a New America, which focused on the environmental impacts of factory farming and animal welfare/rights.
Then, in researching seafood, I learned that American and European fisheries had been overfishing areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, disrupting food chains and depleting food stocks from local indigenous peoples—more issues of ecosystem degradation and social justice.
I thus became an environmental, social justice and animal welfare vegetarian at the age of 36. Later that year I met my wife, Suzanne, who also adopted a vegetarian lifestyle and we married and have raised our children vegetarian from birth.
In October of last year, I switched to a mostly vegan diet, shedding eggs, dairy and most processed foods from my diet and found that I really felt better and enjoyed cooking more.
As you might imagine, eating out is more challenging and finding road food that meets these requirements can be challenging. Not all hotels and restaurants even know what “vegan” is. Most servers think it is the same as gluten-free and although we did meet some very helpful vegetarian and vegan servers in the larger cities, rural areas were a challenge. Trained chefs are a different story and I have found that most chefs, especially in hotels and fine dining establishments today, like the challenge of using their skills to create something unique to satisfy a diner’s food choices. Furthermore, Vegetarian and Vegan are catching on in restaurants to the point where, at least in most major tourism destinations, eateries that do not have these choices on the menus are the exception.
For breakfast, my mainstay oatmeal is nearly always available but usually not what is advertised. The misleading term adopted by most restaurants is steel cut, which actually means that the whole oat groat is chopped into several pieces rather than rolled, yet 99% of the time when the menu states that it is steel cut, the oatmeal is rolled. Almond milk, thankfully, has found its way into many restaurants—especially hotels. The most authentic steel cut oatmeal of our trip was at Montage Deer Valley’s Apex Restaurant, where when I mentioned to the wait staff that I was vegan, she said they would make it from scratch with almond milk. Good food and good training make all the difference.
Thankfully, veggie burgers have become more common. Most restaurants, even in rural areas, had a veggie burger of their menus, but many were made with egg white and/or cheese. A vegan brand called the Impossible Burger® has recently made headway into foodservice. Also hard to find outside of natural food stores is authentically 100% whole grain items such as bread and burger buns.
Asian restaurants are a natural, especially Thai, Indian, and Chinese where finding tofu dishes is a good bet. We dined at some really great Asian restaurants—the best of which was Khu Larb Thai in Port Townshend, Washington. One surprise was the National Parks, which were very accommodating—especially Yellowstone.
I usually do not opt for strictly vegan or vegetarian restaurants with some exceptions. I often use Eater, a site I use to find unique local restaurants and farm-to-table restaurants when I travel and at home. For example, at Eater Vancouver, I found Gringo, a fun, inexpensive taco bar in the Gastown section of Vancouver, BC with vegan menu choices.
I also found an excellent Vegan Jerky at a natural foods supermarket in Jackson, Wyoming. I guess Brokeback Mountain isn’t the only stereotype breaker in Cowboy Country.
Note to Restaurateurs & Chefs: Vegan is growing
- Creative Vegan Menu Choices
- Vegan Menus
- Tofu as a protein choice
- Vegan Veggie Burgers & 100% Whole Wheat Buns | Hopdoddy gets this right
- 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust with Vegan Mozzarella | Picazzo’s gets this right
- Trained wait staff
- Waitstaff who start rattling off specials without asking if anyone has specific food choices
- No vegan menu choices
- Steel Cut Oatmeal that isn’t really steel cut
- No non-dairy milks
- “Whole Wheat” menu items that are not 100% whole wheat