The Impossible Burger

We tried The Impossible Burger!

We were able to order one at Daily Eats and, wow, it tastes just like a real, bona-fide, meat-based burger. It was such a weird taste and feeling considering I haven’t had a meat burger in more than 2 decades! Here’s the bottom-line review:
The taste is close enough to be confidently called, “perfect”. This IS a burger. I ordered mine medium-well and you can see the pink in the middle–looks like blood, but isn’t… It was hard to wrap my mind around it.
The texture is so close, only a discerning burger lover could tell the difference. To me, it tasted just slightly mushy (just a little), like the center was maybe closer to a pate than a normal fatty burger. It had a slightly more salty taste than I remember burgers having, too, but it’s so close you could only tell if you were looking for it.
The only bummer is that it can only be found in Tampa at the Ciccio’s chain of restaurants (Ciccio’s, Ciccio Water, Ciccio Cali, Green Lemon, The Lodge, Daily Eats… all of them except Fresh Kitchen). Unfortunately and bizarrely, the Ciccio chain is super NOT vegan-friendly (although the owner made an open request on the news for vegans and vegetarians to come and try it–so…maybe let them know you heard him).
I had to order the burger without the mustard aioli and, of course, no cheese… and take your chances if the bun is vegan, but almost certainly not (just FYI). Too bad all their chains suck for vegans, but at least we gave it a shot. And, hey, thanks just the same, Daily Eats. How about a slice of Daiya or Chao cheese to top that burger for your patrons who are sometimes stuck hanging out with their vegan hipster friends?
To think what real vegan-friendly restaurants could do with this amazing plant-based meat is mind-blowing. A Love Food Central Impossible Burger? Oh yes. Or Cider Press, or even Square 1 or Evos, anyone but Ciccio’s basically… could make a vegan killing (no pun intended there, really).
Nonetheless, The Impossible Burger is a game changer! Grade: solid A if you miss the taste and texture of a real burger, or if you are a meat-eater who wants the same food but at a lower cost to lives and the environment. Try the Impossible!
Want to know more about The Impossible Burger? Here is a video and article featuring Jeff Gigante, co-founder of Ciccio’s restaurant group explaining what it is, what makes it tastes like an actual burger, and why it is better, even for meat-eaters!

3 Principles for Living Better (Part 3- “Do” or “Have”?)

As I shared in part one and part two of this post, being vegan is about more than food. It’s about living better. For me, that means embracing minimalism, living peacefully, and “doing” more instead of “having” more. Of course, none of that is easy but it is about the journey, not the destination.

I am sharing these three principles in hopes you might find value in them along your own journey.

 

“Do” More versus “Have” More

We work so hard so we can buy things so those things can provide a better life for us, but what if we have it backwards? What if we are actually being trained to buy more things so we have to work harder to have a better life? Clearly, that is a terrible recipe. Working harder and harder for incremental improvements in your life… sucks.

Try this instead…

Focus on “doing” more instead of “having” more. My favorite example of this is the smart phone. I am a tech junkie and there is no device I love more than my smart phone. I always opt for the top of the line device regardless of price or features. At roughly $800 a pop every 18 months or so, it adds up quick, especially when you tack on all the accessories to make my device flashy and practical–the case, the screen protector, the extended battery, extra cords, new, faster car charger, better headphones, etc.

A problem with this is I can probably get by with a much lower-tech device. I don’t play video games or do graphic design on-the-fly so I don’t need the most powerful processor out there. I store my pictures and videos in the cloud so I don’t need the most memory. I am not even sure why I keep buying screen protectors. The only time my phone is not in my pocket, it is in my hand. I have never scratched a screen.

Those are minor issues, though. The big problem is this… I can’t tell you what phone I had four years ago. Whatever it was, it is obsolete now. It doesn’t matter. I will never reminisce about the features or apps I used to have three or four phones ago. What a waste of money. You know what I will remember, though? Almost for sure, I will never forget the vacation I took with my family to Punta Cana. For the cost of 2 forgettable toys, I have memories that will never fade.

I will never forget the first trip to Savannah Nicole and I made. I won’t remember or care about what television shows I watched the week before that, but I will always remember the fried creamed corn nuggets we had and our many walks through Forsyth Park.

Everything we do with our hard-earned money is a compromise. Every time you choose to “have” or “own” something, you are choosing not to “do” or “be” something. In other words, if you choose to buy a big screen TV, then you are choosing to forego putting that money toward learning a new sport, taking a vacation, or paying for yoga classes. If you learn yoga, you will always have it and it will always pay dividends. That TV, though, you won’t even remember what brand it was 20 years from now.

When you have the choice to “Do” something or to “Have” something, consider which one will bring more value to your life. Despite what commercials and media would have you believe, sometimes being a “have-not” pays better.

 

I hope the 3 Principles for Living Better gave you something to think about or encouraged you to stay on track. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog, share a post with your friends, or talk about this stuff with your loved ones (please and thanks!).

3 Principles for Better Living (Part 2- Peace Out)

As I shared in part one of this post, being vegan, for Nicole and I, is about more than food. It’s about living better. That means embracing minimalism, living peacefully, and “doing” more instead of “having” more. We struggle with all that, at times, but we grow closer to living our way with each day. As we know already, it is about the journey and not so much the destination.

I am sharing the value of these three principles in hopes it might help you along your own journey.

 

Living Peacefully

This sounds like a lofty “Gandhi” wanna’ be goal, but it is actually a simple, practical tool for us. Nicole knows guns and is quite a marksman. I have a black belt and I’m pretty comfortable with stick-fighting. So Nicole and I are not afraid of conflict and we don’t shy away from trouble. We can handle ourselves in most situations, BUT… we like not fighting with each other (or with other people). It’s just easier to live that way.

It is logical to live peacefully, too. That is why we choose veganism. I love a good Philly steak sub and Shish Kabob hot off the grill but I choose not to eat them. There are plenty of other delicious things I can eat instead and if I can have all my vitamins, minerals, and nutrients without killing or harming another animal… then I’m okay with that. Just because I know martial arts does not mean I have to beat up anybody who irritates me (plus I would die of old age still fighting people). By the same token, just because I like the taste of burgers does not mean I have to eat any that someone sets in front of me.

Living peacefully goes beyond being vegan, though. It also means learning to control the rage inside of us–the stuff we keep bottled up from past wrongs or current troubles. As a culture, we are particularly terrible at dealing with emotional pain. Just think of the advice you get when you break up with someone. “There are plenty of other fish in the sea,” people tell you, “You were too good for him,” or “I never thought she was good for you, anyway”. We are taught over and over to do anything except acknowledge the pain as necessary and heal through it.

Emotional pain works the same as physical pain. It is physical pain. It happens in your body. When you are physically hurt, you know there is no shortcut. You can’t just trade in the cut on your arm for a younger, hotter arm. You have no choice but to let the cut heal, over time, and sometimes there are scars. You live with them and learn powerful lessons. They hurt a lot at first, but over time, you make peace with your bumps and bruises–accept them as part of life–and eventually they get better.

Living peacefully, then, means respecting life. Respecting that other people have their own kinds of pain to deal with, that other animals live in fear of slaughter, that we do not always put our best foot forward… but we can always try. We can try to do what is right. When we fail, we can try to make it right. Most of all, we can acknowledge that if we stop trying, we can never expect to get it right. That means, if we keep trying, then we will eventually get it right.

Whether it is a burger, a conversation, or a car crash, living peacefully means respecting yourself and accepting that you have the power to affect the world around you–and so, respecting the world around you as well.

 

In my next post, I will share the last of my three principle for living better: “Do More instead of Have More”. Don’t forget to subscribe to A Couple Vegans if you enjoy our blog. Until next time… forget about your inner peace. Find the Outer Peace–the peace you can bring to the world around you–and run with that. 

 

3 Principles for Living Better (Pt 1- Bath Time)

Being vegan, for Nicole and I, is about much more than food. It’s about living better. For us, that means embracing minimalism, living peacefully, and “doing” more things instead of “having” more things. The truth is, we struggle with all of those things, at times, but we grow closer to living the way we want to every day. To borrow the old cliché, it is, of course, about the journey and not the destination.

I want to share with you the value of those three principles, as I see it. You might find it helps you along your own journey.

Embracing Minimalism

Being a minimalist is trendy now, but we have been moving that direction for a long time. We started by donating or discarding three things for every new thing we acquired. Eventually, we brought that down to two things for every new thing, and now it is a happy (but tough) one-to-one ratio. We have always lived in a 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment together but our lease is almost up. I like having lots of space with minimal stuff to fill it but we really do not need the space. Giving up the second bathroom, though, has always stopped me from downsizing our dwelling. I like having my own private area without girlie stuff cluttering it up, and without being rushed because someone needs in.

For the last few weeks, though, we have been experimenting with sharing only one bathroom, and it is actually working fine. By downsizing our next apartment to a one-bed, one-bath we can save hundreds of dollars per month. That means an extra vacation or bigger retirement savings, or both. That’s the beauty of Minimalism. When you cut the excess from your life, you learn two things. The first is you have a LOT of excess that you do not actually need. The second is you can live MUCH better with less. For everything you give up, you gain freedom from that thing. By giving up a second bathroom, for example, we gain freedom over money, time, and togetherness.

It turns out not having a second bathroom means I try to be more efficient with my bathroom time, to be respectful of others. That means I inadvertently have more time (that I am not wasting, alone, in the bathroom). Living in a smaller, one-bathroom apartment means more money in our pockets or bank, of course. Having more money to spend on things we love to do together (like taking a paddle board vacation in the Keys–coming up!) means having more time… well… together.

The second principle is “living peacefully” and I’ll explore what that means to me, in my next post.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe if you enjoy our blog, and you will have each post delivered straight to your inbox when it goes live. Until next time… challenge your space. Maybe you only need one bathroom, too. 

REVIEW: THAI ISLAND RESTAURANT

RATING: B+

WHAT: Thai Island Restaurant

WHERE: 210 E Davis Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

PRICE: $56.00 for two, including tip. We had the Corn Fritter, Thai Spring Roll, Tom Yum Soup with vegetables, Red Curry with vegetables and tofu, and Pad Pak with tofu.

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ATMOSPHERE:
We sat on the patio and did not go inside so it is hard to give a good review on the atmosphere. The patio had ample seating.  It faced the street which had some pedestrian traffic and minimal auto traffic.

HOW VEGAN IS IT?
This is a Thai restaurant with some vegan options. Vegan items are not identified on the menu but they do mention having vegan items on their website. Our server was knowledgeable about what “vegan” is and assisted us with our menu choices.

THE GOOD:

The food is very tasty at Thai Island! Portion sizes are good and the prices are reasonable for the portions. They actually had options for vegan desserts! Michael thought the Mango Sticky Rice was out of this world!

With international cuisine, I worry about the language barrier but our server’s accent was minimal. He was also a very good server. I ordered water without ice because I don’t typically like cold beverages and it is a pet peeve of mine to have my water refilled with the iced water pitcher. This wonderful server brought the water carafe and then realized it was cold, so he went and got us one at room temperature without my even having to ask for it.

The menus themselves were unique.  They had wood covers with little delicate hinges on them. The whole experience definitely left a good impression.

THE BAD:

No indication on the menu of which items are vegan, or can be made vegan. It was nice that the Thai Island website mentions some vegan items but actually having them noted on the menu would be great.

THE SUMMARY:

We found this gem of a restaurant with a Google search for “vegan Thai in Tampa”. Davis Island has a quaint downtown with several local shops we will go back and visit including other restaurants with vegan options! There was live music being played at a restaurant across the street which was nice for us–not too loud from our vantage point, and good talent. We will definitely return to Thai Island!

 

How our reviews work:
We accept no sponsors or advertisements so we can give honest reviews of everything we try. We are regular customers (but we don’t try to hide what we are doing–they can see us taking notes and pictures). If approached, we will explain ourselves and ask probing questions. We share our thoughts about the experience with each other and then each of us gives a letter grade (A to F). We take the average of both grades to create our rating and share our notes with you!

Why I Left Social Media Behind

This is not a vegan-related post, but we thought it was relevant to share on this blog, since some of you follow us on social media, and Michael runs half of it, which will definitely affect our presence there. Also, it might give you some pause to consider your own social media consumption, which does tie in to health and wellness–things we vegans tend to care about!

This is from Michael’s blog, The Thought Full Leader:

_______________________________________________________________________________

I am dropping off Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, and most other social media platforms.

I know many people will not only relate to my reasons, but they might even applaud my decision (if only silently). I hope this experiment gives you some thought to the impact of social media and what value it brings to your life.

I am calling out Facebook here because it is easier than listing every platform, and it is the one I use most, as well as the biggest, easiest target. Think of “Facebook” as any social media service, though. I am talking about all of them.

Around 2005, I left cable television (hold on–this relates to the social media thing, I promise).

Watching TV stole months from my life. Time slipped away while I sat and watched it go each day. TV became my way of turning my brain off instead of engaging with the world. I found myself sitting to watch a show, and then channel surfing between shows, and then, before I knew it, half a day was gone. I didn’t even watch anything all the way through. That time was wasted. I learned nothing. I thought nothing. I did nothing. I might as well have been nothing, invisible to the world for the time spent staring mindlessly at a screen.

Dropping cable in favor of curated content from the internet or no content at all was a great decision. When I watch TV now, it is only when I actively choose to do so and I am engaged in the content. TV is no longer background noise to all my conversations. Instead, I listen to the person speaking rather than divide my attention between the person and commercials designed to steal my attention.

Facebook has slowly filled the gap cable television left. It has become the thing I do to avoid thinking when I am bored, scrolling mindlessly through my feed.

There are 5 real reasons I use Facebook and other social media and, except for one, they are all reasons I should reconsider…

1. Distribute my blog. This is the main reason I am on social media. Most of my readers find this blog and A Couple Vegans (which I write with Nicole) through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moving away from social media means damaging my audience size and reach. That is scary. I have built this blog over roughly 10 years to amass around 4,000 subscribers. Admittedly, not much compared to bigger brands or names, but I never chased an audience or marketed this blog. Still, only about 200 readers consistently visit MichaelSalamey.com (maybe the rest are subscribed via email but–how many email subscriptions do you actually read each week?). A Couple Vegans is only a few months old and only has a handful of subscribers itself (about a hundred so far–also with no marketing other than word of mouth).

So… for you 300 or so people consistently visiting my blog(s), you might be the only people I am writing to in the future. Thanks for subscribing, by the way, and for sharing the posts you like. You are my only advertising.

2. I use social media to have meaningless relationships with people I do not want to have actual contact with in real life. That sounds bad but it is not a bad thing. Facebook allows me to exist on the periphery of the lives of people I almost care about… but not enough to actually engage with face-to-face. For someone like me, this is of great benefit.

As a slightly sociopathic but high-functioning ambivert, I am friendly to everybody… but, to be honest, I do not relate to most people. I am not even sure I like most people. In fact, only one or two people have open access to my time. Other than Nicole, nobody hangs out with me regularly.

Socially speaking, maybe that is pathetic. It is not you, though. It’s me.

At the risk of sounding (more) egotistical, perhaps I am that rare thing everyone believes themselves to be, but almost no one is… a man who thinks for himself.

My values, philosophy, beliefs, moral code, and system of ethics rarely integrate with those of others. Actually… never, so far. But I suspect that is why people read my blog–you can expect a unique view of things. In my personal life, I have been told no one can live up to my standards. So maybe it is not that I do not like most people. Maybe it is that I have yet to meet people who are more like me.

Living a life where the common ground I have with most people amounts to polite tolerance of each other, honestly, is lonely for me. I wish I could be dumber or smarter, instead of in this middle ground between average and almost-greatness… floating in some purgatory, unable to feel part of either mass popularity or eccentric genius.

Woe is me. First World problems. The point is, Facebook is a great way for some people to feel involved in the world without actually having to BE involved in the world. That is a mostly good thing but it is something I can use less of.

3. I stalk people and popular news stories. The same curiosity that drives people to the zoo drives me to keep up on news and social circles. We visit the zoo expecting to see elephants in their natural habitat, but instead see morbidly depressed animals slowly pacing or pooping. Part of us yearns to hear the elephant’s trumpet or watch a lion charge across the plains. Similarly, Facebook delivers less on its promise and more on the mundanity of our lives.

Social media updates are about what someone ate, aspirational quotes the posters have never incorporated into their lives, open displays of the obscure relationship some people have with their faith and binge-drinking. People check-in from whenever they are standing in line, or spout the bizarrely irrational political or dogmatic views they have. Some people insist on sharing their ignorance with the world. It’s confounding, but I am also probably one of them.

Still, I am too often disappointed when I see someone’s Facebook feed. I liked them before knowing their goofball endorsements of products or illogical values. It was better when I could assume they were, on most levels, rational.

4. To learn about local events. Social media is helpful for this. Nicole and I do a lot of cool things because of events posted on Facebook. Another plus of leaving it behind, though, is I might save money by not knowing about most events.

5. I use social media to pass time and avoid human interaction. It is easier–preferable, even–to avoid engaging strangers while standing in line or waiting for food. Instead, I can pretend that scanning short, mostly irrelevant articles or updates is extraordinarily important right at that moment. While waiting to have my groceries scanned, I stare at my phone like I am reading my secret agent mission dossier or studying up on quantum physics. I’m actually just looking at Caturday memes.

We like to think that “catching up on Facebook” is the same as “catching up with friends” but it is not the same. I must have an investment in someone’s life to “catch up” on their life. People share superficial thoughts, vague requests for prayers about problems I don’t understand for people I do not know (I love the term for this: “Vaguebooking”). We share memes and sensationalized news stories. That is not catching up with friends. That is walking through conversations at a dinner party… except without dinner or a party, or anywhere to go.

What will I do when I am bored now?

Those 5 things are not contributing enough to me, so I am leaving social media behind. My phrasing is important, by the way. I did not say “I am leaving social media”. I am saying, “I am leaving social media behind.” I am moving on, not away. I am going to find something better. However, I do not know what that is yet, exactly.

I guess I will write, think, speak to people, and read more books. Maybe I will just be present, observing and appreciating the world around me. Maybe I will engage my creative side and take time to daydream. Whatever I do to fill the time Facebook sucked away, I doubt I will look back and think, “I wish I spent less time enjoying the breeze on my face and more time staring at my phone, scrolling through dumb articles and avoiding my life.”

That being said, this is still an experiment. I am not deleting my accounts. I might change my mind on all of this, or I might want to try again with a different approach. What I plan to do is log out of my accounts and uninstall the apps from my phone.

That means my blog will still post on my social media streams for now, but nothing else will, and I won’t be sharing my posts on my personal Facebook feed, where most people see them.

Some people actually might miss me on social media. Well, at least I like to think that, but I suspect most people will never know I left. It’s like quietly slipping away from a party. Maybe one or two people will notice they have not seen me in a while, but they will move on in a few minutes.

The fact is, I am not as important as I like to think I am.

If you want to know what I am up to or how I am doing, though, then you will have to do something scary. You will have to choose if you want me in your life, how much time you would like me to spend there, and then connect with me directly. I might reject you. You might reject me. Or we might build a real, legitimate friendship in the real world. I know. Scary, right?

There are some apps I am keeping, at least for now. I will stay on WhatsApp because I can create specific social circles with people I care about (like my brothers and parents) where we can have conversations in small groups that matter, where every word counts. I am keeping Hangouts for texting–again, direct one-to-one conversations, and I plan to stay on other direct message platforms like GroupMe and Slack.

Of course, you will be able to text me, instant message me on Hangouts, email me (MichaelSalamey@gmail.com) or reach me through one of my blogs.

Honestly, you probably won’t know I’m gone, but if you miss me, don’t be a stranger… or at least no stranger than me. Hopefully, not seeing me on Facebook will help you wonder what I am up to, and what you could be up to if you were not on Facebook.

Good luck either way. Maybe I’ll see you later… in the real world!

REVIEW: LOTUS VEGAN RESTAURANT

RATING: B+

WHAT: Lotus Vegan Restaurant is a 100% Vegan Restaurant, mostly Vietnamese dishes with some American ones

WHERE: 6575 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park, FL 33781

PRICE: $40.00 for two, including tip. We had the Crispy Cha-Cha appetizer, Curry Rice with BBQ, Lemongrass Tofu, and a Cheesecake. Cheesecake is Michael’s favorite and he started eating it before I could get a picture.

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ATMOSPHERE:
The atmosphere was simple. There was one lotus picture hanging on the wall, a few signs like “Open”, “Please Come Again”, and a sign about the buffet that we were too early for. White table cloths. Nothing fancy. It felt a little outdated but clean.

HOW VEGAN IS IT?
100%!

THE GOOD:
Did I mention it is 100% vegan?  It is such a treat to go and order anything off the menu without worrying about the ingredients or customizing to avoid cheese or fish sauce or cream, etc.  It is definitely a treat we don’t get often enough.  The food was very tasty and homemade.  Some restaurants seem to just buy vegan food and warm it up, but that was not the case with anything we had, including the cheesecake. The restaurant wasn’t very busy (we went around 2:00pm on a Saturday) and there was not a long wait for our food.

The owner took a genuine interest in us and how long we have been vegan.  She chatted with every table about this. Portion sizes seemed good for the price.  There was some food left over, but not enough to take home for another meal.

THE BAD:
They were out of Carrot Cake.  This is my favorite dessert and I was looking forward to it, especially with their food being so good.

Besides that, there were too many options that sounded so tasty and we couldn’t try everything. We were a few hours before the buffet and we actually had the conversation about just getting an appetizer and going to a park for a few hours just so we could try more of their options.

There is also no outdoor seating.

THE SUMMARY:
We were happy to find this restaurant, but we are usually happy to find anything that is 100% vegan.  It was well worth the drive and definitely we’ll be returning to try more of their menu items.

 

How our reviews work:
We accept no sponsors or advertisements so we can give honest reviews of everything we try. We are regular customers (but we don’t try to hide what we are doing–they can see us taking notes and pictures). If approached, we will explain ourselves and ask probing questions. We share our thoughts about the experience with each other and then each of us gives a letter grade (A to F). We take the average of both grades to create our rating and share our notes with you!

REVIEW: SQUARE 1 BURGERS (RESTAURANT)

RATING: B-

WHAT: Square 1 Burger Bar

WHERE: Square 1 Burgers & Bar approximately ten locations throughout Florida.  This review was based on our experience at 3701 Henderson Boulevard, Tampa, Florida 33609.

PRICE: $44 for 2 burgers with fries, 1 Pepsi, 1 craft beer, and a cup of coffee

ATMOSPHERE:
Casual, animal-centric (cow print couches, antler horn chandeliers, etc., but the patio is free of that nonsense), outdoor seating that is dog-friendly

HOW VEGAN IS IT?
Meh. They have one vegan option but it is a great option if you have to go somewhere with non-veg friends.

THE GOOD:
The “Very Vegan Veggie Burger” is the only vegan entrée on the menu, but it is house made and delicious. As far as vegan options go, this is one of the best burgers a vegan can find in Tampa. Since Square 1 definitely does NOT cater to vegans, it is nice that they have an option at all, and especially nice that it is a good option. They have several locations and all of them serve the Very Vegan Veggie Burger.

The patio is even a nice choice on a drizzly day.  It provides enough protection from the rain as long as it isn’t blowing too hard.

THE BAD:
As with any restaurant that serves non-vegan food but also claims to have something vegan, you take your chances. Just because the burger is called “vegan” does not mean the bun is vegan (it probably isn’t). The fries, if you order them, are likely cooked in the same grease as the chicken tenders, cheese poppers, fish sticks, or anything else fried. The oil may not even be vegan (but it probably is–we didn’t ask, but most restaurants of this scale use vegetable oil).

The restaurant decor and marketing is VERY cow-centric. It is surprising some place so clearly anti-vegan has such a good vegan option.

THE SUMMARY:
Square 1 isn’t on our short list of vegan faves, but if we wanted to grab a beer with coworkers or entertain (non-veg) friends or family, it’s not a bad pick. And we appreciate that they even thought of us.

 

 

How our reviews work:
We accept no sponsors or advertisements so we can give honest reviews of everything we try. We are regular customers (but we don’t try to hide what we are doing–they can see us taking notes and pictures). If approached, we will explain ourselves and ask probing questions. We share our thoughts about the experience with each other and then each of us gives a letter grade (A to F). We take the average of both grades to create our rating and share our notes with you!

Oh, You’re Vegan?

For several years after I chose a vegan lifestyle, I went out of my way to hide my aversion for eating or wearing animal products from strangers.

When I would meet work friends at lunch, for example, I would order food nonchalantly, explaining as little as possible. “I’ll have a veggie sub, toasted, no cheese. Thanks.” Unless people hung out with me enough to see a pattern to my meal habits, almost nobody picked up on my being vegan. I didn’t wear hemp clothing or comment on anybody’s diet or animal welfare. In fact, except with people who I kept a close relationship with, I would avoid the question if it came up. If somebody asked point-blank,”You always order the Veggie sub. Are you a vegetarian?”, I would laugh and dodge the topic, “I guess I am today. Did you hear about that thing in the news?”

I liked it that way but I decided to be more open with people in 2011, so I began sharing I am vegan if it came up naturally in conversation. Once I shared it the first time, though, it came up often.

There are plenty of internet memes and jokes poking fun at vegans with snide phrases like, “How do you know if someone is vegan? Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.” The thing is, for most vegans, it feels like the opposite is true. “How does everybody know you’re vegan? Don’t worry. The first time you order quinoa, someone will ask.”

Sure, there are the PETA people–the vegans and vegetarians exclaiming their borderline psychologically troubling love for other species every chance they get, to anyone who will listen. Associating the nutters with all vegans, though, is like assuming all white people are just like Fred Phelps.

Most vegans do not launch blogs and picket outside McDonald’s. Personally, I am glad that some do (I’m not a PETA fan but I am glad there are people trying to do well and taking up a fight for such an important philosophical distinction). Most vegans, though, do not care if anyone knows they are vegan. They do not care if you are worried about their protein (don’t worry–they are probably getting more protein than you are). They do not care what you think about being vegan anymore than you care what vegans think about the Chicago Bears being called “bears”.

Most vegans are not trying to scare you, harm you, blame you, or shame you. Most non-vegans seem to do that to themselves. Vegans do not care if you know they are vegan, I promise. The vegans I know just want to enjoy great food that didn’t cause any pain in the world. Not even to your ego.

And maybe that’s worth bragging about , but we try not to.

 

REVIEW: QUEEN OF SHEBA (RESTAURANT)

RATING: A-

WHAT: Ethiopian Restaurant

WHERE: 3636 Henderson Blvd, Tampa, FL 33609

PRICE: $48.66 for two, including tip. We had the Vegetarian Combo #2 (6 sample items, $13 per person), a tomato salad appetizer (highly recommend), and 2 hot teas.

ATMOSPHERE:
Traditional Ethiopian themed. The interior is dark brown, dimly lit (romantically lit, maybe?), and the decor is simple, with a mix of traditional seating and “traditional Ethiopian” seating for your preference.

HOW VEGAN IS IT?
Very! All “vegetarian” dishes are also vegan. No substitutions necessary. Appetizers are appropriately labeled, as well. There are no vegan desserts, unless you count the Honey Chips, which… have honey… obviously.

THE GOOD:
The food is great! Like, really great. It’s authentic (as compared to our experience at other Ethiopian restaurants across the U.S.). The staff is very friendly and genuinely seemed to care that we liked our food, but not in that overly creepy way, like when the owner of the restaurant hovers by your table and wants to talk more than you want to eat. You know what we mean.

THE BAD:
Well… the restaurant could be a little cleaner overall but it’s about what you might expect from a small family owned place. There is a good bit of dust around the place. The tables are covered in disposable paper and the lighting is quite dim. The outdoor seating is minimal, uncomfortable (metal lawn furniture) and on a loud, busy road.

The prices, in our opinion, are a bit high for the amount of food received, especially considering most of these dishes are extraordinarily cheap to make at home, if you know how. Still, they are not as outrageous as, say, Byblos, but certainly on the high side.

You might have to deal with a bit of a language barrier, too, if you have a complicated order or just like to talk to the wait staff. As far as the staff goes, the service is not what you would expect to find at most restaurants. During one visit, for example, our waitress (who was the only employee working), literally left the restaurant for 20 minutes, just trusting that we would be there when she returned.

THE SUMMARY:
This is a nice restaurant for a change of pace.  It is not every day that it is acceptable to eat with your fingers and share food with everyone at the table like it is when you eat Ethiopian.  There are so many menu options! Everything we tried has been good. Of course, we like some things better than others, but all great fresh food.

 

 

How our reviews work:
We accept no sponsors or advertisements so we can give honest reviews of everything we try. We are regular customers (but we don’t try to hide what we are doing–they can see us taking notes and pictures). If approached, we will explain ourselves and ask probing questions. We share our thoughts about the experience with each other and then each of us gives a letter grade (A to F). We take the average of both grades to create our rating and share our notes with you!