Being raw in my room is easy enough – I am in charge of what’s in my fridge, my pantry, and ultimately what I eat. However, I know I am not alone when I say that being raw, even vegan, outside of the home can be challenging. One of my professors and his wife have been vegans for 25 years, but when they travel they eat vegetarian because it can be too hard, and expensive, to maintain a vegan diet on the road. Yesterday was my first real experience trying to eat raw in public. My research group went out to lunch before visiting a county health official. One of the professors recommended a Dominican place, so that was where we went. I was a little nervous about what I could eat, but when the professor I was working with asked me if I would be able to find anything (he knows I’m a vegan), I said most likely, because in most situations I have been able to tweak some option on the menu to fit my needs without causing a scene. For the most part, any of my eating out experiences have been with friends and family who know that I am a vegan, and who are kind enough to choose places that have foods we all can eat. When we walked into this small ethnic restaurant in the heart of the city, my fears quickly became reality. The man standing behind the deli counter began to stir up different pots of meat, listing us our options – oxtail, goat, pork… I had contemplated getting a RAWREV bar from the vending machine at school in case I couldn’t find anything, but I couldn’t have predicted this. So, my turn came and I almost guiltily admitted to the server ‘I am a vegetarian.’
In situations like this one, or when I am visiting a friend’s house for dinner, I often call myself a vegetarian – the one rule I will not break. If somebody’s mom orders cheese pizza for dinner, I will eat it. I am fortunate enough that occasionally adding dairy or eggs into my diet does not make me ill – for my sister, who needs to eat strictly vegan for digestive reasons, it’s not that simple. Also, I have found that in my area, there are some people who are confused about what a vegan can and cannot eat. Once, a girl tried to give me chicken noodle soup, which would make no sense even if I said I was only a vegetarian. At this restaurant, I was hoping that he might know of something I could eat that was at the least, meat-free. Luckily, he had some rice and beans behind the counter, and was kind enough to cook me a sweet plantain. I had never tried plantain before, and apart from being fried in oil, they were sweet and delicious! In the end, I was able to eat vegan, only temporarily sacrificing my raw tastes for one meal of the deal.
I think that this post helps to explain exactly what I mean by vegarawatarian. Maybe some people would disagree with me that allowing this degree of flexibility in my food choices makes me a vegan, and rather classifies me as a ‘mostly vegan’, or not even one at all. In my mind, as long as the food I am eating on a regular basis makes me feel good, does not make me feel restricted in my social life, and shows others that I am willing to be flexible (so they don’t avoid asking me to do things with them – it’s happened before!), then I feel completely satisfied with my lifestyle. Over and over again, we see things like ‘Diets are not one size fit all’ and I agree with that completely. For some people, a vegetarian lifestyle is all that is doable – and that is great! Others choose vegan for their own reasons, and some choose raw because they are willing to commit to that lifestyle. It all depends on what works for you, and I find that being a vegarawatarian is the healthiest, and easiest way for me to live. I will say that on a day to day basis, when I am not with friends or eating out, I eat almost 100% raw. Because I am new to this lifestyle, I want to commit to it as completely as I can so that I can learn the benefits and options before I decide to commit as completely as I did vegetarian. If a few months from now, I’m cooking my quinoa rather than sprouting it, or baking a batch of vegan cookies, I won’t say I’m no longer raw – I’ll just continue to consider myself vegarawatarian.