Saturday, June 26, 2010
True Confessions & North Carolina
(I simply liked this painting, Tobacco Barn, by Dale Ziegler, though I didn't see many tobacco fields on my trip)
I am frequently asked how long I've been vegan, do I ever miss meat, and do I ever "cheat." I'm sure anyone who maintains what is considered an "alternative lifestyle" is asked these same questions.
First, I don't miss meat at all. I do miss people that I love feeling good about preparing a dinner for me. Or, those same people being able to take me to their favorite new restaurant without wondering what I'll be able to eat. I miss these experiences often.
Which leads to the next question: do I cheat? This suggests I'm constantly testing myself via my diet. The truth is, I'm too hard on myself already to add food to the mix. I truly love my diet and usually find eating vegan effortless. I love how easy it is, how delicious the food tastes, and the good I'm doing by supporting the part of the food industry that is least hard on our planet and bodies.
But, as I've said from the start, food is more than sustenance. And it's more than a political statement or even a value system. So, when I am with people I love, and they want to make me a meal or take me to their favorite restaurant, I go. And I don't try to change their menu, or change their ideas about their restaurant. I go and I eat happily and when they come to my house I make them something wonderful and vegan.
Now, how does this relate to North Carolina? I have two very good friends who live there, and last week I spent time with them both, while visiting for work. My one dear friend has served as inspiration, counselor and drinking buddy for about 12 years now. She, her husband and twins moved to Charlotte recently, and graciously hosted me while I was in Charlotte.
One evening we went to a divine restaurant called New South. I had wonderful fried green tomatoes, cut the tasso ham, and horseradish sauce on the side. Perfect. And for my main course I asked for shrimp and grits, without the sausage, and with extra mushrooms. It was painless, and wonderful, and we all enjoyed a perfect evening.
Raleigh was a bit more veg-friendly. My friend there has been my friend...well, I guess since we were born. My first memories of playing with her were when we were both about 4-5? And we were later roommates in college. Though we hadn't seen each other in a long while, we have taken a few of the same paths on our journey (never mind that she is married with 5 beautiful children). She teaches pilates, and when we made our lunch date she chose P.F. Chang's, as it was close for us both, easy to order vegan, and close to her little girl's singing production right after lunch. Throughout my travels I have found several restaurant chains that are friendly to those of us who opt out of animals in our diet. I believe there are lists on the internet.
I did find two amazing vegan restaurants on my trip. In Raleigh was The Remedy Diner . It was packed when I showed up for lunch, which made me smile. I bellied up to the bar, sitting beside two men who worked for Amy's, and were in town for business. That's a good sign, I think!
I ordered the bacon-avocado sandwich with vegan ranch dressing on the side, a sweet tea and a very large slice of vegan coconut cream pie for dessert. The sandwich was ok, and would have been amazing but for the type of soy bacon. I know the brand they used, and I will just say that Lightlife is the best. The guy next to me was munching on the veggie reuban, which looked divine. He said it was great, and ate the entire thing just to prove his point. While he and his partner shared their coconut pie, I happily at my whole slice, alone. I would absolutely recommend going to The Remedy Diner for both vegetarians and omnivores. They have a wide variety of beers and great drink specials.
In Charlotte I had a more challenging time finding anything truly vegetarian, but Berrybrook Farms is a wonderful market, which includes a juice bar and deli with many vegan options. I had a really fresh juice mix, that included watermelon and strawberries. It went perfectly with the Mediterranean artichoke wrap I picked up. I could have easily stayed for another hour, browsing and tasting all the farm-fresh yummies that lined the aisles. I found it to be a perfect combination of high-end whole foods store and local farmer's market.
So, I guess all of this is to say, for me, why I eat is as important as what I eat. And while I personally choose to avoid eating animals and their products when left to my own resources, nothing beats sharing a meal with people you care about. So, eat up!