Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Veganism is an eating disorder???

Does anyone out there worry that veganism will jump start a life of disordered eating in their child? I'm an over analyzer, so of course the thought has come to mind - but it was a passing thought. I worried that putting restrictions and emphasis on food would make them closet carnivores, anorexic, bulimic. Then I realized that it's not an issue any more than any other diet it, be it the SAD,  diabetic, low sugar, kosher, or vegetarian.  I mean seriously - how can teaching my kids about nutrition and where their food comes from be a bad thing?  I occasionally take inventory of their diet, make sure they're hitting their growth milestones, and I'm confidant they're much healthier than the majority of their meat-eating counterparts.

This article (click here) aims to instill fear in parents that their child will develop an eating disorder if they're vegan. While the article says veganism is used as a cover for "something darker", it's full of innuendos implying that veganism is the gateway drug to anorexia or bulimia.

"For people who refuse to consume any animal products, acceptable food can be hard to come by—which makes veganism a perfect cover for those hiding their anorexia". Okay, point taken. But as a parents, it's our JOB to pay attention to our child's food intake! Whether cake and ice cream or broccoli and sprouts, we need to be aware that their nutritional needs are being met. (Side note: it always kills me when people point this out after hearing we're vegan. Not once as omni's did anyone ever caution me about kids nutrition, and I was feeding the Mc-freaking-Donald's every week!!)

Another statement: "...(used veganism) as an excuse to avoid her mom’s New Orleans-style chicken-fried steak". Well, should we really be feeding our kids chicken-fried steak? I'm just sayin'.

And the worst of all: "Dr. Herrin tells parents not to let their kids be vegetarian until they go to college, echoing that the diet can create a “ruse” that loved ones can’t see through. “Most families don’t have the time to prepare vegetarian entrées,” she said. “What’s at risk is the child’s growth and development, and potentially an eating disorder.”

Hold up!! What?!?! There are so many things wrong with that statement I wanna shout! If a kid's going to have an eating disorder, they're going to have an eating disorder, regardless of what you allow - or force - them to eat. Most families don't have time to prepare vegetarian entrées? Really? 'Cause I'm a single working mom of two, and have become a rocket scientist in the kitchen - I can get a healthy, VEG, meal on the table in 20 minutes when I need to. Yeah, sometimes  it takes longer. What about making our children's health a priority? And really, does anyone believe it takes longer to cook a veg meal? Comeon, now. As far as it being a "ruse", again - look at what they're eating! If they're dissing vegan cupcakes, you might have a problem. Just kidding! I'm not a doctor, or a nutritionist, or a rocket scientist. But common sense dictates that parents just need to pay attention to their kids diet. whatever it may be, and make sure they're getting what they need. 

The article ends with: "... many dieticians and eating-disorder specialists hesitate to recommend a vegan diet as a path to recovery. “It’s like an alcoholic who likes to spend time in bars,” says Herrin. “It’s very risky to take on any system of eating that’s restrictive and passes judgment on food that’s not founded on health principles."

I agree with being aware of the restrictions when recovering from an eating issue, but ummm... since when are beans, grains, fruits and veggies not founded on health principals? Grrrr! 

My grrrrrrr for the day!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This is what a vegan kid looks like!

Pictured above: VEGANS!! 

Sorry I haven't been posting! We've been on a week long amazing veg-cation! LOL... okay, so that was a little lame and over the top. ;-)

More to come soon!

Friday, July 16, 2010

“People up north don’t trust anyone who doesn’t eat meat. And frankly, I find soy stupid.”

If you've been reading for a while now, you may have noticed I'm just a little bit of a SF Giants fan! My kids and I absolutely love baseball, so I'm always using veggie players as examples that yes, you can hit a home run without meat! 

Prince Fielder currently plays for the Milwaukee Brewers (boooooooo!!) I'm pretty sure he's vegan, but most websites will say vegetarian. Anyhoo, the Giants are looking at bringing him to our side, so I was googling to see if my memory was correct and if he's in fact a freaky vegan like the rest of us. 

This is what I found: 

Among 3, 750 other entertaining headlines. But this one - this one I HAD to share, because it's just so damn-roll-on-the-floor-laugh-your-vegan-butt-off funny!
All Star Game

Prince Fielder’s success at the ballpark is so sought after, the Brewers are willing to do anything they can to retain him, including giving him a salary increase at the expense of the residents in Wisconsin, according toOnMilwaukee.

A vegetarian tax is being proposed, with a 5% charge on such items.
But Republican representative Scott Newcomer is certain the pinch will hardly be felt by those that eat the food.

“These vegetarians are wired a little differently. Most of them live on the East Side and they wear funky T-shirts and beat up old sandals, but you know they have money.”

“You have to be affluent to be a vegetarian. They pay extra for organic produce and free-range bean curd. I don’t even think they’ll notice the extra charge.”

With Fielder’s success on the field, you’d think more people would be encouraging vegetarianism as they see not only is the diet tasty, but can physically support the endeavors of a major league baseball player.

But some people are apparently worried about their cows.

Jeffrey Mursau, a Republican from Crivitz, said, “This is a no-brainer for me, given that there are a lot of cattle and dairy farms in my district,” he said. “People up north don’t trust anyone who doesn’t eat meat. And frankly, I find soy stupid.”

“I think this tax is a great idea because real Brewers fans eat bratwurst. They don’t want expensive tofu dogs that taste like cardboard.”


So I'm reading this, thinking WTF?!?! Seriously?! And I'm looking at the website, and nope, it's not The Onion or the Enquirer, so WHAT IS GOING ON??! Okay, so maybe I'm a little yuppie, haven't traveled outside of California much, my FaceBook 'about me' says "semi-crazy vegan liberal recycling composting mom who truly believes that humanity and compassion can save the world", and no, I don't think I ever have met anyone from Wisconsin, I know they're all about their cheese there, but really, a veggie tax? Who are these Republicans? Maybe we need a constitutional amendment that one can not be taxed due to their race, creed, religion, sexual indiscretions, or veganism? And as I start thinking 'holy (or is it wholly? wholie?) crap, it's like Nazi Germany all over again, we're gonna have to wear arm bands and be branded with a giant V on our foreheads, I catch this at the bottom of the page: 

"One final April Fool’s story to add to the day’s mix."


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Lesson in Humility

Beautiful sunny afternoon, on the deck of friends home, overlooking amazing rolling green mountains. Enjoying spending a weekend in a strictly vegan household, no worries about the "food".... the smell of BBQ'd veggie dogs hangs in the air. There, 8 vegans sit - 

Enter friends non-vegan friendly family members. Whom are well accustomed to the freaky way vegans eat.  And are not quiet about their disagreement with this choice of life.

Non-vegan family members:
(Pull out blocks of curdles mammary gland secretions (i.e., cheese) and places in middle of all vegan food table)
"We brought lunch!"

10 year old vegan:
"Wow!! Vegan cheese!! It kinda smells funny......."

Vegan friend:
"Oh, umm, I don't think that's vegan".

10 year old vegan:
"Mom, isn't everything vegan? Can I try it?"

Mom (me):
"No, honey, sorry, that's not vegan."

Non-Vegan Family Member:
"Oh, I think it might be... hmmm, it should be okay, it's made with raw goat milk......"

The 10 year old vegan wears an expression of shock and horror. The 8 year old vegans beings to giggle. 

Hegan's eyes grow wide and he attempts to hide a smile. 

Mom (me):
"Ummm, no, I'm pretty sure it's not". 

This is when I realize I am wearing an express that clearly says "are you freaking kidding me?!?"  Picture eyebrows raised to the ceiling, jaw dropped to the floor. To my luck, she's distracted slicing the pus lumps.  I realize that my kids are looking to me to understand how to react and respond to this inadvertent (intentional??)  ignorance.

This is one of those mom moments where we have the power to teach that compassion extends to all beings, not just the animals.  Should they have known raw goat milk wasn't vegan? Yes, seeing they had previously argued over it before. But clearly, for whatever crazy reason, the bell wasn't ringing. Damn I wish I had had a gong.

So, I look at my kids who are on their damnedest best behavior, erase the shocked look from my face, and gently shake my head at them. And when it looks like they're going to protest, I raise one eyebrow and shake it a bit harder. And everyone goes back to eating.

For more info, please read this

Later,  I explain to the kids why I didn't speak up - that it wasn't my place, that I expected it to start an argument, and most importantly, that I didn't want to make her feel badly. While I'm not convinced, she may have thought it was vegan. I said maybe!!

I wish I could tell you that I spoke up for the animals, that I explained that not only was it not vegan, but told her the plight of dairy animals. I wish so badly that I had shown my children how to be compassionate while being informative. I wish I berated her for encouraging the suffering of animals just to please her palate.  I wish that I did those things. But I didn't, I made a choice to be tolerant, to be compassionate, to show humility. And I'm glad I did - I'm glad I was given an opportunity to teach my children when to hold them, as opposed to when to throw them. As I've said before, damn it's hard being the moral center of the universe. :-)


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Here's a picture of a typical lunch for my kiddos!

(I'm still without a real camera, so apologies for my crappy phone pic!) 

Pictured above:

Diced potatoes seasoned with salt and nutritional yeast 
Zucchini bread (made with homegrown zucchini! Heck yes I'm that awesome!!) 
Celery sticks, pre-packaged PB, and grapes
Pre-packed PB Ritz crackers


Monday, July 12, 2010

My Experience at Sleep Away Camp

So, when I was at camp, I had many odd experiences with the food problem! Mom decided to give me a bag that we gave to the head of the kitchen, who gave it to the head chef who helped put my bag into a freezer that was very cold. Just in case you're wondering, my bag had extra food in it in case there was stuff that I couldn't have such as an English muffin (they had the sauce) and soy cheese. But I didn't use it because they had their own vegetarian options that they give you. It's usually vegan but sometimes there was dairy in it. When that happened, I got some stuff out of my bag.

The chef (who was nice) didn't know that eggs weren't vegan. I didn't realize that eggs didn't have milk in them, so I told him that eggs aren't vegan because they have dairy in them. The only milk the whole camp had for cereal was soy milk! Not sure why they did that. There was always vegan cereal and oatmeal with brownsugar for breakfast.

Dinner was always fun. Mom is asking if I ever got served anything that wasn't vegan, but it didn't happen. Oooh they had vegan sausages (I liked to dip in into syrup). Hmmm..... what else?

Mom: "Did anyone notice or comment that you were eating differently?"
Dylan: "Only the first day, they asked me why I had an extra bag of food".
Mom: "What did you tell them?"
Dylan: " I told them that I was vegetarian and lactose intolerant because that is an easier way of telling people so they don't think you're crazy  because they don't know what it is".
Mom: "After the first day, did anyone make a big deal out of it?"
Dylan:" Nope. And most of the kids wanted to eat the vegetarian food anyways, and they didn't like the eggs.
 One of the kids in my cabin was vegetarian".

(Mom is noting that the whole $100 bag of specialty groceries was left at camp, and they were so accommodating almost nothing was used! Maybe I went a little overboard??)

Something that just camp to my mind that has nothing to do with the food problem is that this one kid in my cabin sleep talks. One night he yelled "GAGA BALL!!" (gaga ball is a game - you can look it up online). Then he fell out of his bed. He had the top bunk.

So that concludes my blog.


(Mom typed this, but I said every word and most of the punctuation).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Safe" Restaurant Foods for Kids


When we first went vegan, the thought of eating outside of the home totally freaked me out. I think my first conversation as a vegan with a waiter was like "Umm, so there's no meat, right? And what about eggs?? We don't eat eggs. Or milk. Is there any animal seasonings in the sauce? What about lactose? Can you please check the bread for mono- and di-glycerides?" and on. And on. AND obnoxiously, on. I felt there were hidden animal products lurking around every corner!  I'm not that insane now (okay, I am, but in different ways!) I wished I had a list that told me the okay foods, the not so okay ones. So here are some tips that I hope help if you're as crazy as I was (okay, okay, AM!) There is also, of course, varying degrees of vegan comfort, so please

When planning to dine out, I always start here:

1. Google search:  vegan + the name of the restaurant 
2. Check out the menu online
3. Call the restaurant
4. Ask the waiter
5. Say thank you!

If it's an unexpected meal, here are a few GENERAL guidelines:

"Safe" foods to order (and what to watch out for)

Sometimes it's not the best, and twice I've visited places that literally had NO vegan options (including salad and fruit!!) But generally, they have one of the below options, or something that can easily be modified to exclude dairy, eggs, and meat.

Pasta with olive oil (not butter, white sauces)
Pasta with marinara sauce (meat free)
Bean and rice burrito (lard, chicken broth)
Plain white or brown rice
Veggie Burger (cheese and egg)
Pizza, sans cheese (check sauce for chicken stock)
Hummus, falafel, pita
Veggie chow mien
Tofu (check for oyster sauce)
Sno cones, Popsicles
Oatmeal (water, not milk)
Hash browns (ask for oil, not butter)

Fries (shared oil, seasoning) 
Pretzels (Urea)  
Cotton Candy (Red dye) 

Thai and Chinese:  Fish sauce, egg
Indian: Dairy 
Mexican: Lard, chicken broth
Italian: Cheese, egg 
Japanese: Fish
American: Everything 
French: Good luck finding something vegan! My brother managed a French restaurant, and even then we couldn't get anything vegan! 

Vegan Fare at Restaurant Chains
Credit to:

Arby’s offers a baked potato and a garden salad or side salad with Italian dressing. Finish it all off with an apple or cherry turnover.

Backyard Burgers, a restaurant chain in the South and the Midwest, offers a delicious garden veggie sandwich.

Baskin-Robbins Dairy-free and gelatin-free ices and sorbets, which are just as yummy and cooling as ice cream—without the pus and hormones.

Bennigan’s: A delicious vegetarian Boca burger and a fresh garden salad are your options .

Boston Market has several vegan options, including the steamed vegetables, zucchini marinara, tossed salad (without the croutons and dressing), apple cobbler, chunky cinnamon applesauce, cranberry walnut relish, and fruit salad. The servers will also happily customize sandwiches upon request.

Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery has several breakfast and lunch options for vegans, including its blueberry, chocolate chip, cinnamon sugar, cranberry orange, pumpernickel, and rosemary olive oil bagels, which can be topped with fresh vegetables, Dijon mustard, or vegan hummus spread. Bruegger’s also serves several vegetarian sandwiches, which can be made vegan by leaving off the cheese and dressing.

Burger King’s BK Veggie™—a flame-broiled vegetarian burger (contains dairy products)—has enjoyed continued success. Every time a customer sees "BK Veggie™," it is a reminder that "having it your way" doesn't have to mean taking a bite out of Bessie.

Carl’s Jr. : The French fries, hash-brown nuggets, breadsticks, English muffins, and CrissCuts at Carl’s Jr. are all vegan. In the restaurant, there is an all-you-can-eat salad bar that offers a variety of fresh vegetables and a three-bean salad that can be topped with fat-free Italian dressing. Carl’s Jr. also offers Great Stuff™ baked potatoes, which can be ordered with all-vegetable margarine.

Cheeburger Cheeburger: The grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and Boca burger are vegan at Cheeburger Cheeburger, which can be found throughout the Midwest and the South and on the East Coast.

Cheers offers a vegan veggie burger. Load it up with all the fixings for a filling meal.

At Chili’s, you can have the tostada chips and salsa as appetizers, followed by the veggie quesadillas—replacing the cheese and sour cream with extra vegetables—or the Cadillac Fajitas without the meat.

Chipotle offers a vegetarian fajita burrito, but be sure to order it with black beans—the pinto beans are cooked with bacon.

The pizza sauce and dough at Chuck E. Cheese, Little Caesars, and Papa John’s are vegan, while Pizza Hut uses vegan sauce, and its Thin ’n Crispy and dessert crusts are vegan. By omitting the cheese and choosing your favorite vegetable toppings, you can easily make a delicious vegan pizza.

Cici’s Pizza is inexpensive and will deliver to your home. Just be sure to ask about the vegan status of each item on your pizza. Cici’s also offers a pasta-and-salad buffet with many vegan options.

The Broiled Portobello Stack at Claim Jumper is vegan if you ask for an unmarinated portobello mushroom.

Coco’s offers a delicious Boca burger that’s vegan if you order it without the mayonnaise.

A hot veggie sub is your vegan option at Cousin’s Subs.

The Daily Grill, located throughout California, offers a vegan grilled vegetable plate.

Dairy Queen offers a vegan "ice cream" bar called Star Kiss. Dairy Queen also has vegan slushes in cherry, grape, blue raspberry, lemon lime, watermelon, and kiwi strawberry flavors. The selection varies by location

Even Denny’s—known for its traditional breakfasts, lunches, and dinners—has some vegan options. Denny’s vegan foods include oatmeal, English muffins, bagels, grits, applesauce, fresh fruit, vegetable plates, seasoned French fries, baked potatoes with several vegetable toppings, garden salads with light Italian or oil-and-vinegar dressing, and sandwiches that can be made with several vegetable options. It also serves a vegetarian burger.

5 & Diner has several vegan options, including a vegetarian burger and the Veggie Delight.

The vegan option at Flamers Grill is the Veggie Pattie.

Hard Rock Cafe offers a vegetarian burger, a veggie sandwich, and salads.

You have several vegan options at Hard Times Café, including the Café Veggie Burger and the Veggie Chili. Be sure to tell your server that you don’t want any dairy products in your Veggie Chili.

Harvey’s, with locations in Canada, offers a vegan veggie burger.

Houston’s offers a veggie plate and the Vegetarian Burger. Just be sure to order the burger on vegan bread.

Swing by a Petro truck stop and you’ll find the Iron Skillet restaurant, where you can refuel with the stacked salad bar and spaghetti with meat-free sauce.

The Garden Po’ Boy, the Portobello Wrapini, and the Spinach Veggie Wrap are your vegan options at Jason’s Deli. Be sure to ask about the vegan status of each of these dishes—it varies by location.

John Harvard’s offers a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and a veggie burger. Be sure to check the vegan status of your choice when ordering.

Johnny Rockets features the Streamliner, a vegan Boca burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mustard.

Kelsey’s, with locations in Canada, has several vegan options, including Kelsey’s Vegetable Burger, the Roasted Vegetable Wrap, and the Vegetable Fajita. The vegan status of these dishes varies by location, so be sure to check with your server when ordering.

Macaroni Grill has several vegan options, including all the pastas with garlic and oil and its Capellini Pomodoro. Try these tasty bites without the cheese: Tomato Bruschetta and Penne Arrabbiata. When opting for a salad, choose the house or garden without the cheese and top it with the restaurant’s balsamic vinaigrette, Italian dressing, or roasted-garlic vinaigrette.

All of Manhattan Bagel’s bagels are vegan, except for the jalapeño cheddar cheese and egg varieties, and its bialys—a flattened onion-and-poppy-seed bagel—are also vegan. The Manhattan Grille and Vegetable Garden sandwiches can be made on a bagel, a roll, or a tortilla and are vegan if you omit the spreads and cheese.

To keep up with the times, McDonald’s is offering a McVeggie burger in California and New York City. This is a trial run, and support for this tremendous addition is vital so that the rest of the world can also have access to this quick, animal-friendly burger. No animals were harmed for this burger—talk about a “happy meal”!

The Veggie Stack sandwich is your vegan option at Mimi’s Café, which is located on the West Coast and in the Midwest.

All of Moe’s tacos, fajitas, salads, and burritos can be made vegan by substituting tofu for meat and skipping the cheese. Just be sure to ask for a vegan tortilla.

O’Naturals, a restaurant chain in New England, offers healthy, all-natural fast food for diners who want great food to go. Its menu features a large vegetarian selection, and vegan items are marked for easy identification.

A great place for bagels, breads, soups, salads, and sandwiches is Panera Bread. A bagel with roasted garlic hummus is one vegan possibility. Each location varies its menu options, so just ask about the vegan options before ordering.

P.F. Chang’s is one of the most vegan-friendly restaurant chains around. Its vegetarian menu is terrific, and everything can be made vegan, from appetizers such as Tofu Lettuce Wraps to entrées like Orange Peel Tofu.

Located throughout Florida, Pollo Tropical offers Caribbean-inspired fast food, including several vegan options such as the Vegetarian TropiChop entrée. Other vegan items include Balsamic Tomatoes and Bananas Tropical. The chain’s black beans, French fries, white rice, yellow rice, boiled yucca, and corn are vegan too.

Pyramid Brewery offers a Boca burger that can be substituted for any nonvegan burger on its menu. The Margarita Pizza is also vegan.

A great alternative to Subway is Quiznos Subs. It offers a veggie sub that’s filled with guacamole, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mushrooms—just be sure to order it without the cheese and ask for the balsamic vinaigrette instead of the red wine vinaigrette. Grab a side garden salad and some potato chips, and your stomach will be appeased in no time.

The Natural Burger without the Safari Sauce and the Morningstar Garden Grill are the vegan options at Rainforest Café.

If you stop at Roy Rogers, you’ll find baked potatoes, sides of veggies, and a salad bar. And its mashed potatoes are vegan if you forgo the gravy.

Ruby Tuesday offers a fabulous veggie burger that’s vegan if you leave off the mayo and cheese. It also offers a yummy veggie burger wrap and has a terrific salad bar.

Shari’s offers a flame-grilled Gardenburger as its vegan option.

Subway’s Veggie Delite—on Italian bread and without cheese and mayo—isdelish! Want to spice things up a bit? After visiting Subway, visit the nearest grocery store, purchase some fake lunch meats, and load up your sub!

Sweet Tomatoes, located throughout the South and the West, has a variety of salads, sandwiches, and soups.

Ohio’s Swenson’s Drive-In offers the Veggie Special.

Several of Taco Bell’s dishes can be veganized simply by omitting a few ingredients. The 7-Layer Burrito can be vegan with five layers—just forgo the cheese and sour cream. The tacos, nachos, and Mexican pizzas are vegan when you ask the cashier to hold the meat, cheese, and sour cream. Or stick with the bean burrito without the cheese.

Tubby’s, with locations in Michigan, has the vegan Hot Veggie Stir-Fry Sandwich.

Village Inn has a Boca burger that is vegan if ordered without mayonnaise and cheese.

Head to Wendy’s for a plain baked potato, the Deluxe Garden Salad with red Italian dressing and no cheese, or French fries. You can also ask for a veggie sandwich, which includes everything that would normally be on the burger except the meat—there’s even a button for it on the cash register.

World Wraps, with locations in Washington and California, offers its vegan customers the Tofu and Mushroom Teriyaki and the Bombay Curry Veggie.

**This is info to the best of my knowledge, not set fact. Don't look me up to kick my ass if you eat some mammary gland-chicken period-lardy food. :-)


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sorry, sweetie, but that donut Grandma gave you had eggs in it...

What do you do when you or your children either a) discover that you ate something that wasn't vegan, or b) are served something from a loved one that isn't vegan?

We have encountered this a handful of times over the years as we've dined with well-intentioned family members and friends. Though I don't think there are any hard and fast rules as to what to do in these situations, I will share what we've done in our family.

I'm not sure why, but vegan cheese seems to throw some of my family members through a loop. I don't know how many times various people have bought shredded soy cheese containing casein for a dish they were making! I think they must believe that soy=vegan or perhaps that there are only two choices for cheese: dairy and vegan, and that if the product is soy-based, it must be vegan (or else why would it exist if vegans couldn't eat it?). Who knows? Maybe it's simply due to the fact that pre-shredded soy cheese appeals to them more than having to go through the work of shredding it themselves. But anyhow, I can think of at least three or four times we've been served soy cheese with casein.

Once, my dad kindly made stuffed mushrooms for us as an appetizer at a party. (He always makes us vegan versions of the appetizers he's serving at a gathering). I can't recall exactly how I knew that the cheese in the mushrooms was soy but not vegan (maybe I saw the bag on the counter) but I knew that there was some not-so-nice stuff in the mushrooms he was serving myself and my family. What did I do? Well, I had a few options to choose from, right?

I could either say, "Dad, I'm sorry, but I think that cheese you used has milk in it," and not eat the food he had take the time to prepare. I could also pretend to eat the mushrooms, but if none went missing, the jig would be up. I could also just eat a mushroom or two and show my dad that I appreciated the effort he went to to make us something.

It's a difficult situation to be in: Your host clearly knows you are vegan and knows what vegan means. They simply failed to read the ingredients carefully enough, though I wonder how people miss the allergy warnings, "contains milk," but I digress...Your host intended to make something tasty and suitable for your diet and is happy to be able to offer you something other than carrot sticks or an iceberg lettuce salad.

Should you be a pain-in-the-ass vegan who is so rigid that she makes being vegan look difficult, perhaps impossible, and doesn't appreciate the effort and thought? Should you choke down something you know is tainted by animal products--though a small amount--and hope you don't gag, get discovered by the "friendly" vegan police, or restart your vegan calendar and count yourself a new vegan and not a 5-year veteran veggie because you not-even-accidentally ingested an animal by-product? Whew! Not a nice choice to make, and not so black-and-white as it might look, at least not to me.

You see, I did eat a couple of mushrooms, though they didn't very good to me knowing they had a little casein sprinkled in, and I did feel a little like gagging. And now that I've admitted it in my blog, I fear the vegan police will soon be calling. The door to veggie heaven might now be closed to me and I'll be forced to take the elevator down to the hell where I'll be welcomed by Colonel Sanders (think of the bloody, knife-weilding caracature depicted in the PETA ads) and forced to eat buckets and buckets of fried chicken pieces all day long...

Wait, no I won't! I think the only thing that did happen to me is that I felt a little grossed out for a short while after eating the mushrooms and my dad continued to make me vegan (or nearly vegan) dishes when I'm guest at his house. His feeling weren't hurt and I still count myself as a seven-year vegan. I'll say that my decision was also based on my intention to "accidentally" come across the bag of shredded cheese in my dad's kitchen later on in the party, and to point out kindly that it contained casein and that the best option for vegan cheese was a block of Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet only available to us at our local Whole Foods Market. (That was before shredded Daiya cheese was invented and the fact that it is now widely available at many grocery chains. Woo hooo---but that's another story...)

Now, I am SURE some vegans will disagree with my decision to eat the mushrooms (or whatever has been served to me over the years). We all need to do what is comfortable for us, and eating something with dairy--or worse for me, meat, in it could make us want to cry or vomit, or both. (By the way, I have never accidentally been served meat, and I know I would never be able to eat it if I was. I think meat is more obvious to people, and it would be odd for someone to mistakenly serve it to a vegan.) I also think a person's decision is dependent on the situation. If there had been a dip on the table for everyone to eat, and my dad had said, "Oh, I made the spinach dip vegan for you," but I knew it wasn't totally vegan and plenty of other guests were eating it and my dad would never know if I ate it or not, I wouldn't eat it. But, when he brought the tray of specially made mushroom caps to me, I decided to take one. My dad was happy, I didn't discourage him from cooking for us in the future nor did he feel bad that he had "failed," but I also used the opportunity to educate him so that the mistake would, hopefully, not happen again in the future. I felt I made the best choice for myself in that situation.

Encouraging you child to eat something non-vegan is a little different, perhaps. I can't exactly remember if my kids ate the mushrooms. I think they might have, but seeing as the appetizer was mushrooms and not mini-veggie dogs wrapped in vegan pastry (as my dad also likes to make for us) I don't think they ate too many! There have been other times that my kids and I accidentally ingested eggs and dairy, though.

My grandma is just about the sweetest lady around, and she is always looking for vegan foods for us when we get together. She has made us chocolate cake and a mexican layered dip (using recipes I provided), and has made trips to several health food stores to accomodate us. When I've taken my kids to her house for play times or parties, she always buys large containers of plain soymilk, chocolate soymilk, vegan ice cream, vegan candy from PETA's candy list, and other goodies. (I don't think she's picked up on my low-sugar vibe, but I don't say anything because she's so darn thoughtful and we don't get together that often!)

When we met my grandma at the park one time last summer, she wanted to bring the snacks. She brought vegan chick nuggets with Wildwood's Garlic Aioli (yum) and gluten-free donuts from the freezer section at Whole Foods. She was so excited because the donuts said gluten-free (one of my kids had been avoiding gluten due to a breathing issue) and dairy-free, and she assumed they were vegan (probably because of the dairy-free claim on the front of the box). We all ate the food at the little picnic tables, and I wondered if the donuts we really vegan or not since I thought I remembered examining the package on a previous shopping trip. When my grandma went to play with the kids on the playground, I sneaked a look at the box. Yikes! There was milk and eggs in them.

I knew I could have read the box before letting the kids eat them, but I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place sometimes. My grandma really is sweet and goes to so much trouble to please us and is generally on the mark. She truly is excited to find things for us, and she spends money from her retirement fund to buy the often pricey vegan items for my kids. So...I didn't check the box and we all ate the animal-tainted donuts. Sadly, there are even vegan donuts at Whole Foods now so it could have all been avoided! Aw, nuts!

But it wasn't, and we ate them, and now I had to decide whether or not to let my kids know about it after the fact and after leaving Grandma's company, of course. I DID tell them, though, because I didn't want them to think that the particular brand of donuts was indeed vegan when they were either out shopping with another grandparent (I know, they have awesome grandparents who do tons of stuff for them!) at Whole Foods, or if on the off-chance they were served the same donuts in a different situation. I make sure to avoid being negative about someone's mistake and to focus on the fact that the person was doing their best to do something kind for us. I also try to take out the "yuck" factor and not say something like, "Ugh! The donuts from Grandma had eggs and cow's milk in them! How gross it that?" That would only make my kids feel bad and encourage them to have ill feelings toward Grandma.

My kids are already hypersensitive to whether a food is vegan or not, and come up to me at parties to check things before they eat them. They are also comfortable asking the host what available foods are vegan. My poor daughter was at a different great-grandma's house for a holiday celebration with her cousins when she was served a grilled-cheese sandwich made with sliced soy cheese. My grandma had made dairy sandwiches for the other kids, and "vegan" ones for my kids. Kaylee was insistent that the cheese wasn't vegan, and really didn't want to eat it. My mom was there and said that the soy cheese (from Trader Joe's) was vegan and that it was okay to eat. Reluctantly, Kaylee ate the sandwich, and my mom told me the story when I went to pick my kids up. My grandma gave us the rest of the cheese slices to take home and, guess what, Kaylee was right! They weren't vegan! They had that sneaky, gnarly casein in them!

My poor little daughter, so devout in her veganism and courageous enough to speak up, only to be coerced into eating the sandwich that she correctly guessed wasn't entirely vegan. I think she was a little disgusted, but it didn't have any long-lasting effect on her. I think it's good that she is comfortable asking questions and saying "no, thank you" if necessary, but that she doesn't freak out if a mistake is made.

We will probably eat small amounts of animal products here and there through out our lifetime, knowingly or unkowingly, and it is up to us to decide how we handle it. We can turn our nose up at a mostly vegan food served us with love, or we can eat a little bit of something and create more harmony between vegans and nonvegans. We can talk meanly behing people's backs with our children, secretly scolding grandma for her mistake. Or we can accept the imperfections in ourselves and in others, and make our choice to be vegan more accessible, and sometimes, more peaceful and enjoyable. It's up to us to to draw the lines and navigate our tricky road. We are our children's best examples, and whatever we choose to do, we should do it with love and compassion--for the animals and for our fellow humans. Isn't that what being vegan is all about, after all?