Having been vegan for over two years now, theres not a lot of situations that I feel uncomfortable in, however it took me a long time to get to that point and I have learnt many lessons along the way! One of the main situations vegetarians and vegans find themselves in is the dreaded dining out with a group of people. Although the actual idea of dining out with friends may seem fun, the experience itself can be quite daunting, from the food choices to dealing with that one person who has to call you out in front of the group! Here are my tips for the most comfortable dining out experience and some possible ways to handle uncomfortable and confronting situations.
Step 1. Check, check, and check!
Check with your friend which restaurant/cafe you are going to! This allows you to hop online and check out the menu ahead of time to save the awkwardness when choosing what to eat when you get there. If they have nothing on the menu, give them a call ahead of time and no doubt they will be able to whip something up. After you’ve checked with your friend and the restaurant, check which people are attending, if you know someone is going to give you a hard time, then you are at least prepared to shrug this off when you’re in the situation.
Step 2. Just order already
Look, I know its tough! Depending on the restaurant, your choices are likely limited to salad, wedges, chips or a tofu and soy sauce dish, but thats no reason to cause a fuss. One of the major complaints and stereotypes about vegetarians/vegans is that they are incredibly rightous, preachy and hard to be around, so the last thing you want is to cause an unnecessary fuss or grill the waiter at the lack of suitable options when you are with a group of people. If you have checked the menu before hand, you will be able to already know what you want and order without hesitation or concern.
Step 3. Ignore the call out
Depending on the group, and especially in larger ones, I can almost guarantee that after hearing that you’ve ordered a non-meat meal, someone will call you out in front of the group. I have had this happen to be more than I can count, and I have simply learnt that it is their problem, not mine! I have found the best way to deal with this person is to smile, say something polite about not eating meat and then change the subject. If they continue to ask questions in a defensive or abrupt manner such as “we are meant to eat meat, how can you say it is wrong?”, I have found it’s easer to simply change the subject and start talking to someone else. The group has come out for a nice meal with friends, not to be stuck in the middle of heated moral debate. Stay calm, change the subject and avoid talking about your dietary choices, after all, it’s none of their business.
Step 4. Break the stereotype
I have seen it too many times in my two years being vegan, a person orders a vegan burger, and out it comes only for the waiter to be berated for putting butter on the buns, or for there to be a piece of feta in their salad. Come on guys, let’s not be THOSE people. Waiters are people just trying to do their job the best they can, no need to throw it in their face or be rude about it, I mean what kind of image does that represent for us? It’s totally fine to send it back, or even ask for your money back, just be polite about it. After all, it was probably just an honest mistake!
Step 5. Don’t be the purest
Remember that being vegan and vegetarian is not about being a purest! Don’t get caught up with the passion of it all and forget that we are just people too, doing the best that we can. On that note, don’t be so attached to the word ‘vegan’. It’s just a word that stands for so much more than a book of rules and codes that can never be crossed. Don’t feel like you have to throw out an entire meal or feel guilty for days if you find out someone accidentally put a teaspoon of butter on your toast, just do your best in any situation and try to have fun with it!
Step 6. Be kind to yourself
My main goal is to reduce the amount of diary, eggs and meat that the planet consumes, not to be a perfectionist. So be kind to yourself, if you have a set back or make a mistake, don’t stress! Just start again tomorrow. If you get served a burger with butter or tzaziki and would rather not waste food, go for it! Be kind to yourself, the people around you and keep remembering that they are just people to, doing the best they can. So quit being so hard on yourself, relax, take a step back and see how much you’ve acheived!
Hope those tips help you as much as they do for me!