Friday, March 7, 2008

How flexible must a vegetarian be?

How flexible are you as a vegetarian? (No I am not talking about yoga...)

Ever since I became a vegetarian in 2002, finding vegetarian food has always been a breeze. In school there's a vegetarian stall at each of the major canteens. When I was a temp staff, I get to go with my collegues out to vegetarian stalls within the vincinity and there was a vegetarian stall at my workplace if we can't go out.

Now things have changed in my current job as you may have read in my previous post. I can't walk to the vegetarian stall everyday and I can't bring my own food everyday. So I have to resort to eating mix veg rice from the non-vegetarian stalls. They do have plainly vegetables for you to choose from, but you can't be picky about whether they clean their wok after cooking meat stuff, or what they fry in the oil before cooking your vegetables, or whether they use garlic or not. Non-vegetarian places will use garlic in their vegetables almost always.

Eating from non-vegetarian places can bring about some distress as well. I recently ate a vegetable pau thinking it was vegetarian even though it smelled really bad. I assume it was so because it was placed in the same steamer as the meat paus. This was a terrible mistake.

Rule number one to protect yourself from accidently eating non-veg stuff: Never Ever Assume.

The "vegetable" pau contain dried shrimps. A few days ago, I ordered vegetables from the mix veg rice stall and specifically ask for vegetables cooked without meat. Later, I found that one of them was cooked with ikan bilis. Luckily, I have not eaten them yet, but it did made a part of my rice taste bad and I have to discard them. (This was actually a less scary experience than last time).

After these experiences, how vegan do I call myself I really don't know. Maybe some vegans will die-die stick to a vegetarian stall. I admire their spirit and will. Others are fine with eating from non-vegetarian places offering "vegetarian" labelled dishes. But I still very much prefer eating from a vegetarian stall both to support their business as well as avoiding the need to thinking twice if the vegetables are really "just vegetables".


Billy said...

This is exactly why I eat at vegetarian and vegan restaurants only. I do make an exception if there is a separate vegetarian menu at a restaurant, or if they food is clearly labeled as being vegan. This is extremely easy to do here in Seattle.

If I lived elsewhere and wanted to eat out, I'd just have to get to know the owners and make sure the food is really vegan.

You're still vegan. It's not your fault you were misled. Also, just because food is cooked on shared equipment doesn't make you not vegan.

That's my opinion.

madeinalaska said...

I feel ya! I went to a restaurant and under there veg. part of the menu was tofu stew. I assumed it was veg.. but, they used beef broth - that had bits of beef in it.. OHHH YUK! I assume no more and will ask. I think there has to be some give though. We sometimes eat at a noodle place that uses a big grill and well, everything is fried there meat and all.

Anke said...

I totally feel with you. I've been served "vegetarian" stir-fries I later found out were fried in chicken fat. I've been served "vegetarian" soups I later found out were chicken broth-based. I now stick to the canteen where I know they at least use vegetarian ingredients only, even though the food is horrible...

zlyrica said...

Ur office no microwave or such?

Hmm, maybe can invest in good thermal container which keep your food hot from home.

Well, I'm not very particular about separate woks for non-veggy or veggy. It only make life more difficult. As long as the food is free of animal, i'm happy. But i do have issue with garlic n onion, simply bcos i just cant stand it. And chinese food stall like to have plently if not chunky garlic in their vegetable dish. Why???

So true about the vegetable bao, why they called it that is really a puzzlement to me. But we always ask. Vegan or vegetarians in s'pore must have thick skin, esp vegan, hahaha...

I'm fine with non-vegetarian restaurant if they don't mind cooking up a few vegetarian dish for me. Some are quite accommodative, but if can, i still prefer full pledge veg restaurant, easier mah.

Hope you found your solution soon!

Anonymous said...

"Middle way" - that my key and my attitude on going vegetarian.

Therefore, going vegetarian never post a problem to me. Going vegetarian is mainly because of compassionate toward the animals and at the same time i should be compassionate to myself too not being so strict.

- I ok with dinning in a non-veg places if there is no choices of veg. eateries.
- I'm even willing to pay more to have my veg. food at a veg restuarant if there is no veg stalls around.
- If there are non-vegetarian eateries around, i will go for items like vegetables pau but check first.

I am not worry about whether they wash the wok or not before cooking my veg. dish in non-vegetarian eateries. Whether they wash or not, does not contribute to any killing of animals for cooking my dish that I eat. I find it rather difficult to explain my point. :p

Ok, take an example, if i go for veg sandwiches in a non-veg place. I would not request them to change their gloves (which can be contaminated with meat), why, not to waste resources and no animals died in the process of veg sandwiches, unless I can’t stand the fishy smell.

Vegetarian or Vegan – the name is not important to me. It is just a label. Even if I can manage a total vegan lifestyle, I would like just to be known as vegetarian.

Dreamy, what you are going thru now, isn’t it a good experience. It lets you understand more and can really think about it. It makes your life so interesting, full of wisdom.

--- crystal

Alicia (aka Veganrella!!!) said...

Accidentally eating something that isn't vegan automatically revoke your license to be a vegan. You learn from your mistakes and learn to ask a million questions. Now if you were to intentionally eat something that wasn't vegan then that's a whole different story but that doesn't sounds like that's the issue here at all.

I second getting a large thermos, they're cheap and keep anything and everything warm, old cold. Get a couple in different sizes and you've got an entire warm meal. If push comes to shove you've always got that old PBJ and carrot sticks as a standby if you have ZERO time one morning. And of course, packing a lunch the night before is always great and you can just grab it out your fridge and go in the morning. Good Luck!

Jari (travelling-vegan) said...

Yeah, never ever assume, that's what I really have to get to my backbone as well!

Over here there aren't these stalls and the proper restaurants at least supposedly can wash their dishes and use different oil and such when making veg dishes. I do ask them to do so when in such places, but I only eat in regular restaurants if it's a work meal or something. And the canteen in the company nowadays has vegan food every day, not very tasty but very cheap.

Anyways, as others have pointed out, accidents happen and they don't make anyone less vegan. Not bothering to verify if they wash dishes doesn't either, I think the main thing is not (knowingly) funding animal suffering. Hope you find a lunch solution soon!

dreamy said...

Hi everyone, I really appreciate you for sharing your experiences, it's good to learn what you do when in a difficult situation! :)

Zlyrica: no my office's got no microwave, but even if it has, i won't be using due to the cancer-scare link to microwaved food... :S

Edanator said...

There's no link between microwave ovens and cancer. The only negative data I've ever heard was a reduced amount of anti-oxidants in broccoli.

Stay strong!

anna ( said...

i'm a tad confused - how is garlic not vegan?

dreamy said...

Hi Anna,
garlic is vegan, it's just that in Singapore, there are many vegetarians and vegans who don't eat garlic for religious reasons.

anna ( said...

oh, i see! thanks for clarifying that...

on a different note, i grew up in singapore (now live in nyc) so i really enjoy your blog! i wasn't vegan then so it's nice to know there are a ton of places to go eat good food!

dreamy said...

Thanks anna :) I hope the blog can help u out when u visit sg :)

sorn said...

If you're vegan for ethical and not religious reasons, then if you buy a dish with meat in it by accident and you end up throwing the meat bits away, doesn't it defeat the purpose? In fact its worse because the animals that provided that meat suffered and died in vain.
Just an opiniong, would love to hear yours (:

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