The Battle of the (Vegetarian) Veganista

“Vegetarian veganista?” you might say. Why yes, that is me! You see there has always been no secret of me being a vegetarian and choosing to not eat meat. My diet/lifestyle has been in the works for years and by now, my friends and family are used to me being complicated when we go out to dinner.

It might sound a little like this between the server and myself, “May I order the Calypso Shrimp Linguine but with the shrimp of the side and add broccoli, asparagus, and mushrooms?” (The shrimp on the side is for my husband, duh!) … almost always the server asks, “Are you a vegetarian?”

Don’t worry, I worked in the restaurant industry for years and know how both customer and server etiquette should work. I always ask nicely for my complicated requests and the servers have always been awesome.

So where does this “veganista” come into play?

This one time at an animal rescue dinner event, our entrée choices were: chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan (vegetarian option), and spaghetti without tomato sauce (vegan option.) You ordered your meal way ahead of time when tickets were purchased and I selected eggplant parmesan. I was served spaghetti. (Enter: reassuringly checking my ticket, clearly seeing eggplant parm.) When I politely pointed out the incorrect order to the server, he was confused as to why a vegan would eat cheese. Who said I was vegan? Not me! After much discussion in the kitchen (if you’ve ever been to Buca, you know that kitchen is wide open!) I was finally served what I ordered.

Here comes dessert. I was served carrot cake instead of cheesecake because I was “vegan.” Gimme that cheesecake because I AM NOT VEGAN!

I got my cheesecake and my family and I joked about my new diet for the rest of the night.

A few months after my vegan Buca run in, I learned how naïve my vegetarian lifestyle was all because of parmesan cheese. Ironic, right? I cringe at that word because it has been forever emblazoned in my brain as something evil and now disgusting. In short, cheese is not vegetarian. Which lead to learning milk is not vegetarian. And finally, eggs are not vegetarian. Even dairy cows end up being served at McDonald’s with the egg laying chickens. Need further clarification? Go do some research. It’ll be life changing.


And let personal war wage inside me. I gave up meat to not take part in horrific factory farming practices but all the while I was still a contributing factor with my organic dairy purchases. I also learned that the words “organic” “cage free” and “free roaming” don’t mean squat. I'm not okay with the idea that an innocent animal had to die a horrible death just so I can eat. No thanks. 

So, the questions that beg to be answered are “why didn’t I put two and two together all these years” and “why didn’t anyone tell me?”

Some days I think being a vegetarian is a joke and you might as well eat meat. The way I see it, there should be two black and white diets: meat eaters and vegans. Other days, I drive myself INSANE when I check food labels. The one item that infuriates me is non-dairy coffee creamer. Assuming I was safe, I bought it. No, “contains milk” was listed right on the back of the bottle. It was then I became a label reader. And heads up, milk or milk products (i.e. casein) are in a TON of food products.

Photo from: Daniel Vitalis
So where do I draw the line between sane and insane? It’s a struggle that I go through every day especially since my husband, Sean, is a meat eater and will always be one. I just have to find out what works for me especially when eating at restaurants. My biggest worry is I don’t want people to be inconvenienced by me. Honestly. I went to a wedding once where the groom panicked after dinner while talking to me. “OMG, we completely forgot you were vegetarian. Did you get enough to eat?” Ah, my heart wanted to break because the sweet bride and groom had much more important things to think about on their wedding day than what I had to eat. Don't you worry! I’ll be fine.

When I cook and bake, the transition has been a bit easier. Replacing actual milk has been relatively easy because there are many alternatives out there. Sean and I really like Almond Breeze’s Vanilla Almond Milk and I love Silk’s coffee creamers. Butter has been super easy to replace because our butter was already actually vegan, Smart Balance Light. I’m still working on the egg replacer and determining when I should be binding or leavening!

 Sean has been amazing and so supportive of my struggle. It is a HUGE step when he tries my vegan cooking/baking. I have even received the “Sean-Approval” on many of my dinners and bakings which really makes me feel great! I've even noticed that I'm feeling better with less stomach aches and my headaches are gone. I’m not sure I can ever fully commit to a vegan lifestyle which leads me to really respect those that do. It’s a tough lifestyle in an unforgiving world but I do feel like I can make conscious decisions to have a better and kinder lifestyle as a vegetarian veganista!

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