Open Letter To A Chef

This past weekend my sister was married. And as far as traditional family “ergonomics” dictate, it was a very special occasion. I couldn’t help but feel emotionally invested in the “proceedings,” if you will. After all it is my sister! I have an interest in what went on.

Now I may not always act like it, but she means a great deal to me. She is such an important figure in my life. Not forgetting to mention my recovery. I couldn’t ever hope to thank her enough for the support and love she provided my parents and I through the most difficult years of my life. She is such an inspiration and an incredible source of pride for me. I love her so very much. And was honored to be a part of such a momentous day in her life.

My point? The day was hers. And most deservedly. The last thing I wanted was anyones attention, especially hers, directed away from her special occasion. For any reason. Least of all for me.

Now to be fair I didn’t expect much, as far as diner was concerned. Being a vegan pretty much ensures this comes with the territory, but what I did expect was loosely based on what I was prepared to receive to eat.

What I wound up getting was no appetizer, except the words, mumbled, not to me, rather to a friend sitting beside me, “He’s a vegan? He’ll have to wait for the main course.” Which I wouldn’t have minded so much, but when the “main course” arrived it was a plate of steamed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, asparagus and red pepper) seasoned with a sprinkle of pepper? Which wasn’t what I was told to expect.

Now I’m well aware, as a vegan I’ve no right to complain about being served vegetables at any given meal, right? Fair enough. But this wasn’t any given meal. It was a wedding, costing my sister and her husband $200 a plate! Any argument against what I was served is flimsy, at best. Especially one about me being a vegan. If I had a food allergy would it have been a different story? My sister and her husband had every right to expect $200 worth of effort. Not $5. From what I hear the vegetarian meal consisted of an additional scoop of mashed potatoes underneath what I was served.

Which leads me to wonder what the chef was thinking. Was their approach to cooking similar to say Tom Regan’s views on Animal Rights. I only mention this topic because it is something I’ve spent considerable time reading about recently and it jives well with what I’m talking about. Rather neatly, in fact.

I’m referring to perceived differences between nonhuman animals and human animals and the resulting treatment is based on those perceptions. Does a person who happens to be a vegan not deserve the same respect as a individual who doesn’t share the same outlook? Where’s the compassion? Too bloody ironic.

What I’m getting at is I, as a vegan, don’t taste any less. Why does my food seemingly deserve less effort in preparation? See what I’m saying? If the cook wasn’t tantalized at the dish they prepared, why should I be? Do my attitudes warrant a person to think my preferences, let alone tastes differ from theirs as much as my ethics might? Whoever was responsible for what happened should be ashamed. Utterly embarrassed.

With that said I’m really no worse for wear. Like I said I expected as much. I’m much more concerned and bothered about how I came across–as a vegan, advocating the lifestyle through living my life–in the eyes of other people. There I sat feeling concern from everyone at my table–not to mention the other tables my parents and sister were sitting at–not eating. Or when I was finally served, picking through my meal for sustenance. All while feeling aware–whether rightly or wrongly–of people judging veganism as an “action” of deprivation.

And there’s the problem. There is a much more important issue at work here. A right for a person not to be exposed to food they choose not to consume or, for that matter are unable to eat for, say a health or faith based reason. To feel comfort in having a chef make necessary concessions on their behalf. And not to be unfairly scrutinized for actions out of their control.

I felt no assurance from the wait staff that my situation was understood, let alone from the chef. That was proven by the fare I was presented. It would seem they threw something together, as an afterthought, in an attempt to keep obligations met. No more, no less.

One fact remains, it is increasingly hard to fathom–in this day and age–people are, still largely ignorant to a vegans need not to have animal products in their food, but ever more importantly, to be provided a suitable alternative.

Is it because my presence forces one to think about the food they prepare and the reasons why I refuse to participate in it’s perverse consumption? And you don’t like to think about it? That’s quite an assumption, I know. But if it’s not, then tell me what exactly am I supposed to think?

In closing I want to assure anyone who might stumble across these words that this isn’t, by any means a criticism of overall events in which I felt compelled to write about here. Nor am I accusing anyone of anything. It was merely a way for me to work through thoughts I’m dealing with as a result of said event. Or, in other words merely my $5 worth of insight…