Monday, August 1, 2011

Planning Ahead for Vegan Un-Friendly Event

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You want to see an angry vegan? Invite them to an event with no vegan food. This blog post is for my sister who is going to try a seven day vegan challenge. First - congrats and it is going to be fun! We are both attending a wedding next weekend and  she will be officially in day two of her challenge. I am really glad she didn't change the date of the challenge because of the wedding. I think if you want to really get a taste of a vegan lifestyle, going to an event where you don't know if you will be accommodated or not is actually probably the biggest challenge.

As someone that goes to events regularly, I have learned some ways to ensure I don't die of starvation or turn into a rabbit. It is not that hard, but does take a little planning ahead. My suggestions are not the only way to prepare, but hopefully give you some ideas on what you can do to ensure you have a good time and aren't wasting the day stressing over food.

  1.  Make sure your host knows you are vegan - So easy to forget this, but it really isn't fair to just show up somewhere and then expect them to be ready for you. The sad truth is, most people don't know how easy it is to accommodate you. Make sure to tell the host with your RSVP and then I usually remind them about a week out again in case they forgot. Maybe it is overkill, but I also remind someone on staff when I get there as well. Sometimes even when the venue is told about your dietary request, they forget. Do you due diligence to ensure that kitchen has the time to plan for your meal.
  2. Be specific with your request - If you are like me, you do not want to spend a day eating lettuce and berries while everyone around you is getting served meat dishes, rich sides and decadent desserts. In my experience a lot of venues really take the cheap way out when they accommodate for a vegan. If you aer going somewhere all day and night, make sure your request is specific. some people have a letter ready that goes so far as to explain what they specifically want. Ask in your request that there is a protein source and a grain with your dish. It is amazing how many times I am served a plate of roasted vegetables and that is considered a meal. Never assume that people can read your mind. If you are really worried, you can even ask to speak with the chef. most places will allow this as they want you to be happy.
  3. Don't complain - There is already a stigma out there about vegans. We are often told we are preachy, we think we are better than everyone else and we are know-it-alls. I am sure there are other things people think.. The fact is, food is political and I don't know why, but people can be threatened by the diet choices of others. If you show up to an event and people aren't accommodating, don't whine; try to solve the problem in a polite way (and take to your blog after!). Sometimes, regardless of planning I end up eating green salad for days on end at conferences. After a while, I start to get cranky. I do like salad, but I do not consider it a meal if it just greens. To fix the problem, I ask the kitchen if they can make me a smoothie with soy milk or add beans to the salad or maybe get me hummus and bread with my meal. Even just asking for a bow of mixed nuts can make the difference. I try to keep things more positive so they don;t just think I am complaining or being picky. Say things like, 'The salad is great, but would I be able to get ___ with it?' Don't just ask for vegan protein, be specific.
  4. Leave your feedback - after the event, always make sure to get some feedback to the venue. This is so important. People will never learn if they don;t hear from the customer. If the food was good and planned well, say so. If it wasn't, say so! This is where you can put in your complaint and I always try to put a suggestion as well.
  5. Always thank the host / venue - This is just common sense, but if someone goes out of their way to work with your dietary needs, thank them.
Now, keeping the above in mind, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead. Just like when I go to BBQ's and a plan a vegan BBQ kit, I think it never hurts to be ready when attending a conference, wedding, or whatever it is you are going to. I don't always make a pack, but every time I have, I am thankful I did. It is pretty easy to do and depending on the length of the event, whether you have access to a fridge or not and where you are going should be factored in. Below are a couple of examples of things that I pack with me.

One-Day Event Vegan Kit
  • Soy milk (the single juice box style)
  • bag of mixed nuts with dried fruit (Or try these - Sugar and Spice Almonds)
  • Apple or other packable fruit... but apples are great because I find them more filling
  • Protein bar
  • Packable dessert (Vegan cupcake or vegan rice krispie squares are good examples)
  • Hummus and crackers or bagel
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Multi-day Events
  • Soy milk (the single juice box style)
  • Instant oatmeal
  • bag of mixed nuts with dried fruit
  • Apple or other packable fruit
  • Protein bar (one per day with different flavours)
  • Quinoa with basil, lemon and olive oil
  • Succotash or other bean salad
  • Packable desserts
  • Vegan granola
  • Hummus and crackers or bagels

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So, for a multi-day event, the list is similar, but I just pack a bit more and plan for a variety. I think one of things that makes me grouchy more than anything is eating the same thing every day. I don't know why, but it truly drives me crazy. Sometimes I really wish I could just eat the same thing day after day. Life would be a bit easier, but then I wouldn't have much to blog about!

So, I hope this was helpful. It probably seems like common sense, but it's this common sense that can be the difference between a cranky day of hunger and enjoying wherever you are with a fully belly.


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