The 3 Things That Surprised Me Most About Going Vegan

Nope, it wasn’t my boyfriend rolling his eyes at me. Or having to explain for the billionth time to someone that getting protein is easy (Coulda predicted that one too). Or that, yes, I know, I’m taking a B12 supplement, so don’t worry. So maybe I couldn’t have told you that I’d be eating a lot more of 86 Lemons’ Chickpea Ratatouille. But read on for the three real whammies that I discovered after making the plunge.

1. “Vegetarian” options at Chinese restaurants aren’t safe.

By now, I’m well versed in all the junk that gets thrown into seemingly innocuous dishes. But pre-vegan days, I thought, “Hey! Cheese and dairy are nowhere to be found on the menus of Asian restaurants. As long as I order veggies/tofu dishes, I’m totally safe. Hello Takeout!” Wrong. Turns out, a lot of sauces use fish or meat products and even items listed on a “Buddha’s delight” or “Vegetarian” section of a menu aren’t safe even if animal products aren’t named in the description. I’ve searched the internet high and low to try and figure out what exactly the standard recipe is for “brown sauce,” only to discover that it varies tremendously. After doing some informal surveys on my own at my go-to takeout joints, I discovered one uses chicken stock as the base for it’s brown sauce (and it’s white sauce too!), another is “vegetarian!” until you pry a bit and learn their definition of vegetarian means no pork and it actually contains oyster sauce, and a third is corn starch and water based, and totally vegetarian friendly. So ask, ask, ask away. And when in doubt. Order no sauce and get extra soy sauce on the side. P.S. Half the fun of take out/delivery is eating pre-made food in the comfort of your own home, so surely you could splurge for a $4 bottle of vegan teriyaki or other condiment of choice and just order your dishes sauce free and BYOS to the dinner table.

2. I have to worry about Blood Mary’s.

If you know me, you know that there’s one drink I crave breakfast, noon and nightcap: that savory blend of tomato juice, spice, enough olives to justify having to add it to your weight watchers point list and a (few) splash (es) of vodka. Sadly, Worcestershire sauce is typically made with anchovies, so it’s not on the “safe list” (I’ll trade accidentally vegan Oreos or Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips to get Worcestershire sauce on that list any day). So what’s a BM-aficionado to do? Sling a bottle of Annie’s Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce in your purse to have on call for a brunch spot near you.

3. …But I don’t have to worry about everything.

Okay, so confession: I don’t actually walk around with Worcestershire Sauce in my purse (Though Annie’s is darn good). And I don’t even double check with my waiter at buzzy Manhattan liquor dens to ensure they’re using the vegan kind (A little voice in my head likes to cajole me by whispering “C’mon Perri, this is Manhattan, of course this trendy spot knows to pick one without anchovies. I mean, they’re charging me $1112 a glass, they must be splurging for the organic vegan version…”) And I’m okay with that. I used to think going vegan was an all or nothing type thing. No animal products. None. Ever. But the more you learn, the more you realize how that’s pretty much impossible. And striving for a compassionate lifestyle that mitigates as much animal suffering as possible is better than driving yourself insane and spending all day obsessing over your food choices. Get worked up all you want about your veggie stir fry being tossed in the same wok as a pork dish that came before it and is left unwashed (trust me, it happens), but at the end of the day, the .000000003%  animal contamination it’s resulted in on your meal is probably better than the additional animal suffering that would result from washing that wok with a tallow-laced soap that led to more demand for cattle slaughter.

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