Being the Vegan at the (Business) Dinner Table
By Linden-Mackey, Guest Contributor
[fusion_dropcap color=”” boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”1px” class=”” id=””]W[/fusion_dropcap]hen I decided to move to a vegan diet a little over a year ago, it was absolutely the right choice for me – but in the first few weeks I also felt slightly sheepish about suddenly declaring my status as ‘vegan’ to those around me. It is a bold declaration, and in the early days I felt almost fraudulent claiming to ‘be’ something that I had only recently ventured into, no matter the gusto. But converts to all faiths have to start from ground zero, even with the clamoring din of dissenters ringing in their ears – and the business dinner scene immediately confronted my newfound passion.
How to Be Vegan at a Business Dinner
I work in a fairly conservative sector, and part of my job is to occasionally attend business dinners. I’ve observed that, for these finance-oriented businesses, the relationships hopefully forged over an evening meal tend to occur at seriously heavily meat- and fish-oriented venues: steak houses, high-end seafood restaurants, fine Italian restaurants – or in my short-hand, chop houses. I have yet to partake in one of these events at a really fantastic Indian, Moroccan, or Ethiopian restaurant.
It initially was challenging to not compromise my principles, but be assertive about my beliefs without offending my boss or others at the table to the point of jeopardizing my day job, which is a necessity at this point.
There were well-meaning individuals who tried to help, but whose efforts made clear how really different ‘vegan’ is from ‘vegetarian’, and how often these terms are interchangeable in the omnivore’s world. (“Oh, don’t worry – I checked before making reservations. There are vegetarian options at One Market… really!” Yes, there really are. If you are a vegetarian. Which I’m not. Which I think I’ve explained before – but apparently not in enough detail to thoroughly make the point – and it’s quite possible no one was listening closely. Even the Pink Lentil Soup contains yogurt – along with its fenugreek and cilantro.)
And there were un-well-meaning individuals who would begin to grill me (no pun intended) about why I had made this choice and I was highly aware that were I to speak frankly about the tortured horror the cow had suffered in order to arrive at this place as the steak on their plate, I would find myself in a serious predicament with my employer.
This Day is Different Than Yesterday
Now, if the opportunity exists, I call the venue ahead of time, explain my needs, and give the chef an opportunity to create something entirely unique from the menu offerings, not just the basic house salad or plain vegetable side dishes. This doesn’t always work out, but when it does, I am amazed and gratified at the results and often surprised at the disarming effect on my fellow diners when they occasionally envy what I am eating – and the opening it gives me to explain why.
Being open about the reality of meat, quietly but decisively, at least gives the more aware meat-eaters pause – seeing belief put into action is usually tough to completely ignore.
Photo credit: Michael Gray