How Do I Go Vegan?

“I think the only thing that’s keeping me from being vegan is not knowing how!” Somebody said this to me (Michael) recently and I am sure I said something like that when I first committed myself to an animal-free lifestyle and diet.

After being vegan for nearly two decades now, I can offer five simple tips to help you get started (or help you help someone else get started), and make it stick. Here are five things that worked for me…

 

     1.  You do not have to go vegan all at once. It’s not an all or nothing game when you start. Just replace one thing at a time. For example, olive oil can replace butter, no matter how you use it—even on toast (it’s actually better-tasting!). So one night, put olive oil on your corn cob instead of butter. You’ll find you can totally survive it. When it’s time to replace one pair of your shoes, choose a new pair with no leather uppers. Baby steps.

 

     2. EVERY meal is already vegan—if you just take out one or two things. The irony of being vegan is that people think vegans eat nothing but salad. “I could never go vegan!” they exclaim, but they are already vegan. Everybody already eats what vegans eat (we would of malnutrition if we didn’t eat vegan foods). Vegans eat salad, sure, but it is more appropriate to say vegans eat an extra helping of salad–not “just” salad. If your dinner is steak with a side of green beans and a side salad, all you have to do is have an extra helping of salad or green beans instead of the steak. Congratulations, you’re vegan.

 

     3. Find the stuff you don’t have to give up that is already “accidentally” vegan. Oreo cookies, Fritos chips, Cracker Jack, Pepsi, Spaghetti Marinara, Black Bean Soup, most bagels, and a bunch of other stuff is vegan by default so you don’t have to give it up! Being vegan does not mean “never eating anything you love”. It means finding new things you love to eat on top of the vegan things you already eat!

 

     4. Don’t beat yourself up. I tried to go vegan three times before it finally stuck. The best advice I heard when that helped me finally break through my meat and cheese coma was this: “It’s okay to miss the food you love.” I felt so much guilt when I would drive by an Outback Steak House and secretly enjoy the smell. I would hate myself for wanting a hot dog at a family cookout, trying to admonish thoughts of enjoying the smell or taste of charred animal flesh. When I realized, “It’s okay to miss the food you love,” I also realized my helpful vegan friend used the present tense: “love”, not “loved”. It hit me, then, that it’s okay to pine after the smell of barbecue or pizza. But sometimes you have to give up food you love even if you are not vegan. Diabetics, for example, have to give up certain things, but we don’t even have to go to medical choices. Sometimes you don’t have room for dessert or you don’t want your breath to stink before a date so you pass on your mom’s lasagna. Being vegan is similar. You don’t have to feel guilty about everything you are missing—and it’s okay to miss it. After all, being vegan is simply a choice you make at each meal.

 

     5. It’s your choice. The real trick to how I have stayed vegan for 20 years is simple. I don’t look at it like something I have doomed myself to for the rest of my life. It is just a decision I make when I eat. “I think I’m going to skip the cheesecake this time,” is probably something I say to myself at least once a week! Being vegan is not a prison sentence. It is just a decision you get to make at every meal. Maybe one day in the future I will decide not to be vegan, but so far, it is a decision that feels pretty good, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Plus, if it did, we would have to change the name of our blog!

 

 

If you are struggling with being (or becoming) vegan, hope those five tips help. If you are a long-time pro vegan and you have a tip or two to add to first-timers, let us know in the comments. If you find value in our little blog, be sure to share it. Thanks!

 

ALL INCLUSIVE VACATION MADE VEGAN

Earlier this month, Michael and I had the opportunity to go on vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun with non-vegans.  This was my first all-inclusive vacation and I did not know what to expect.

Of course, I was worried about the food options. I wanted to share my experience and some of the lessons I learned on how to get good vegan food at an all-inclusive. I am not promoting the resort we visited or saying the options were great… just how we navigated them. With this being my first experience, I don’t know if this is normal or if it will work at most all-inclusive resorts.

I understand different resorts offer different things, but this resort had a breakfast buffet, one restaurant open for lunch, and four restaurants to choose from for dinner. The breakfast buffet was surprisingly easy and had great options.  In the buffet, there was an omelet station. We asked the chef to saute just the veggies for us.  There was some cross-contamination but we did not expect perfection. This was tasty even without seasoning. There was also fresh fruits and veggies.  They usually had a potato option like roasted potatoes with olive oil or hash browns that were good. They had cereal and soy milk by the smoothie/juice bar. On some mornings, they had other vegan options, like roasted tomato, zucchini, and eggplant stack, or strawberry tamales.

Lunch was the hardest meal with the fewest options. They only had one restaurant regularly open for lunch and it only had one small salad and one sandwich option. This got boring. There was one day that another restaurant was opened.  It was Italian themed.  We had a horrible time getting this one right, but the server was very kind. First, we ordered the Arrabbiata and were going to share it.  Well, it was presented with grated parmesan cheese, so it got sent back. Then it was too spicy for me.  Michael got to enjoy it all to himself and I ordered a marinara dish. Glad that we weren’t paying for each plate.

Dinners  were easier than I expected.  They asked if anyone in our dining party had food allergies. I took this as an opportunity to tell them we were vegan. Sometimes we had to explain what that meant and sometimes the language barrier was a little challenging, but in the end, the food was great and, we have to assume, vegan.

All of the staff were more than willing to assist and go out of their way to help us (and we tipped them graciously to show our appreciation).

If you go on vacation in Mexico, be patient if their English is not the best. Remember, this is their second language and it isn’t like we learned the local language before visiting, so we could converse with them.

Do you have any all-inclusive tips that you found worked? If so, we would love to hear them in the comments!

Stop People Abuse!

Vegans hate animal cruelty. Like, really hate it. It is probably the number one reason most vegans become vegan–because they watched an internet video, or saw a documentary, or read a book detailing the many follies of factory farming.

In protest of animal cruelty and protection of animal rights, some of us begin the very difficult journey of abstaining from eating or wearing anything that is, or comes from, any animal. Some vegans even begin treating animals better than humans. They become militant. These vegans take up the war cry for animal rights and putting an end to cruelty. They begin shaming their friends and posting general rants on social media extolling the virtues of their life decision while pointing out the worst in human behavior.

For me, that is a problem (this is Michael, by the way). I think it is not only ineffective for helping animals but it is also not a good way to invite other people to become curious about veganism.

Militant vegans, though filled with good intentions, hurt the movement. 

It is certainly frustrating to see story after story about animal suffering and I sometimes feel a swell of anger at the world for not understanding basic cause and effect relationships. Nonetheless, I remind myself to share the anger with my closest friends if I need to, but keep the conversation going with those who are not aligned with the values of their better angels yet.

I can’t say I have found the secret formula or perfect argument to make every person I meet become vegan, but I know what worked for me… and what didn’t. I also know by following three simple principles, I have been able to grow curiosity about veganism in more non-vegans than I ever would have thought possible. People tentatively approach the subject when they meet me but then use me as a resource as they take one step at a time closer to an animal-friendly world.

Maybe it’s slow (probably no slower than any other approach), but it works… and no one gets hurt. I hope some of my militant vegan friends will adopt the same easy principles in their conversations and postings, and maybe… just maybe… we can add a few more vegans to the roster instead of pushing some people away altogether.

Here are my three guidelines:

1.  Do not judge non-vegans. Everyone has a choice to make and I was well into my twenties when I decided to live a more peaceful life with respect to my fellow creatures. There are probably many other bad decisions I need to correct, as well–most of which I am probably unaware of. That is why I do not judge others for their bad choices… or at least I keep my judgments to myself, unless invited to share my opinion.

I didn’t know I should be vegan until I did the homework myself. More importantly, people like me (and probably you) are the exception. Most people do not do much research into factory farming, animal cruelty, or ethical health choices. It’s not on their radar. It isn’t taught in school. There are no commercials for going vegan. They do not know what you might know. You were them just a little while ago and if somebody gave you the “Don’t you know how veal is made and where milk comes from?!?” rant, you would likely not be swayed. In fact, the first time you heard that rant, you probably did not believe it or were not that concerned about it. Eventually, you looked into it.

2.  Avoid blaming and shaming. This is probably the worst thing I see well-meaning, passionate vegans do. If your post or rant starts with “You”, “You people”, or “Why don’t people just…”, start over. It’s not Us versus Them. The people you are trying to reach are just as human as you are. If they are having a bad day already, the last thing they need to see in their social media feed is their judgy-vegan friend going off on them about their life choices. Instead of venting your anger vaguely at the people you supposedly love, try sharing about YOUR journey. Rather than, “When will people start understanding the suffering of animals? I can’t believe it’s 2016 and we still eat meat!”, try “I remember the moment when I understood why I could not eat meat anymore. It was when…”. Tell YOUR story rather than try to change everyone else’s.

3.  If no one asked your opinion, don’t assume they want it. I do not tell people I am vegan unless it comes up naturally in conversation. For me, it is not a bragging right. It is a life-choice. I don’t tell people I am a non-smoker, either. It’s just part of who I am. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your commitment to non-cruelty but most of the rest of the world just don’t care about your choices or opinions. If you want an audience, start a blog. If you want people to listen to you, create a podcast and find people who care enough to tune in. But your non-vegan mother, cousin, or work mate really doesn’t care to hear about baby seals being bludgeoned or seeing videos of how hamburgers are made. Only PETA does, and they probably don’t care what your opinion is on it, either, because–like your mother–they already made their choice. Pointing out how wrong or right it is doesn’t matter to them.

 

As a long time vegan advocate, I can tell you the biggest trap I see passionate vegans fall into is this: they believe in stopping cruelty and animal suffering… but they forget humans are animals, too.

 

If you like what I said here, I would like to recommend this article from Kolene Allen as well, one of our friends at VeganGR. It’s excellent.

But What KIND of Vegan?

“You eat honey! You’re not vegan.”

We’ve heard that before. Vegans debate if honey qualifies as being “vegan”. After all, honey comes from bees, and bees are animals, and vegans do not consume or wear anything that is, or comes from, animals. There is debate whether bees have rights and if eating honey is contributing to speciesism and enslavement, etc. It sounds crazy to non-vegans, but preferring honey to agave nectar can cause a vegan meltdown.

There are other kinds of vegans, too.

Some vegans eat bi-valve crustaceans such as oysters, mollusks, or clams. Are shellfish vegan? Are “Bi-Valve Vegans” vegan? This one is even more complicated than bees.

Vegans usually choose what is edible with a simple rule: “if it can suffer or feel pain, don’t eat it”. Bi-valve creatures do not have a high-functioning brain or central nervous system which makes it unlikely they can feel pain (at least in any human sense). It is also questionable if they experience suffering. We think of suffering as an emotional response to pain. To have emotions, you must have a (fairly complex) brain.

Still, crustaceans are clearly alive and avoid death. Clams, for example, flap their shells to escape predators. Mollusks detach themselves from their homes and reattach somewhere else to avoid danger. Should clams, oysters, and mollusks get a pass as being off-limits for vegans or be tossed in with other living, but edible, things that do not feel pain, such as yeast?

Here is another vegan moral conundrum… our vegan friends swat flies, squash spiders, and otherwise kill insects mercilessly. Nicole and I try to escort bugs off the premises but if pressed for time or facing a prolifically reproductive insect like a cockroach, or if caught by surprise, etc. I will make exceptions to the house “no kill” rule.

Yet, it is not an ethical quandary whether vegans should eat insects. Even despite the “yuck” factor, the answer is an unequivocal “No”. Insects are living, thinking creatures that feel pain, have brains, and avoid death.

We are not aware of any vegans who eat insects. BUT… what about lobsters?

Lobsters, it turns out, are essentially enormous ancient insects. In fact, a lobster has a little more brain power than an octopus and a little less brain power than a fruit fly, yet vegans cringe at the thought of boiling lobsters but do not hesitate to rid their households of pesky fruit flies.

Nature does not draw convenient and obvious boundaries between Class, Genus, or Species. Even the casual vegan murders millions of living creatures every day–dust mites, for example. Nicole and I have not met a vegan who would hesitate to rid their home of bed bugs or termites but we also do not know a vegan who would voluntarily eat dark-chocolate covered crickets.

And let’s not even get started on lab-grown meat…

Clearly, there are no easy answers when it comes to defining what it means to be vegan. The lines are blurred between animal and vegetable just as they are between land and ocean (at what which grain of sand does the beach stop and the water begin?).

As a 20-year veteran vegan, I do not fret about these things. After giving up meat and dairy, arguing over the last inch of being vegan could easily consume my life and I would die still having  no conclusions. I find that newer vegans and the “PETA people” (meaning people who are vegan emotionally, irrationally, militantly, and judgmentally) try to make black-and-white arguments but the fact is no vegan is 100% vegan and no omnivore is 100% carnivore (or they would just be a carnivore).

The point, for me, is to move the needle toward ethical and conscious choices that align with our moral values.

Humans have done something unprecedented by removing ourselves from the food chain. We have no natural predator and we absolutely rule the entire planet. Nothing on this earth–including Earth itself–lives without our consent and approval. The only question, then, is what kind of rulers do we want to be? Kind and benevolent or cruel and merciless? (If you are inclined to choose the latter, let me just point out how well that has worked in the past with dictators, wars, slavery, feudal kingdoms, Rome, etc… it never ends well for the kings.)

I would not hate you for eating a lobster and I would not praise you for saving a mosquito, but I would definitely ask you to consider the morality and repercussions of both.

And if you want to know… Nicole and I do not eat oysters or lobsters, and try not to kill mosquitoes but I have no qualms about defending myself from them and I live in an apartment that sprays for bugs regularly. I guess no one is perfect.

 

 

Support Local, but also Support National

Don’t buy your vegan products from Target because you can find better quality products for just a couple dollars more at your local market or store.

Don’t support big chains like Starbucks or Chipotle because there are local farmers and restaurants offering great vegan food right here in town!

Except when there isn’t. Except when you are traveling to another town. Except when you want convenience or just to save a couple dollars once in a while.

There is such a huge push to support local businesses now that we often forget why we like big chains in the first place. Before you barrage us with emails, comments, or FaceBook posts, we know big corporations are evil, tax breaks, Starbucks is the devil, etc.  Really, we do. We read Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston and we saw The Corporation.

All things being equal, we always favor local and ethically run businesses. We also go on vacation and travel once in a while. Knowing we can find a Starbucks and grab a soy latte without doing a half-hour of research, visiting websites, calling for hours, looking up menus, and reading reviews helps our vacation remain a vacation instead of a research project. It is great finding local niche restaurants (it is actually one of our favorite things to do) but just grabbing some tasty Sofritas at Chipotle and moving on is pretty good, too.

In a foreign land, having the dependability of quality and a menu you know can be a comfort in itself for some people.

Supporting local does not have to mean condemning national. Big box retailers certainly should change for the better but they still have a place in the world. Maybe just not as big a one.

Why not favor local, but support both?

My Name Is Prince

 

Prince, Rave

Prince was more than a musician, a rare gem in the world of celebrity who truly earned the right to become a “legend”.

Aside from being arguably one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time, he leveraged his talents to do more than sing. As he matured, he used his voice to advocate for veganism, animal rights, monogamy, feminism, independent artistry, and more.

He was not the reason I became vegan but I first learned the word through his speaking out on the subject, which, in turn, nudged me to dig further and eventually become vegan myself.

In short, Prince took advantage of his skills to do more than make money and have fun. He used his platform to make a difference in as many ways as he could. There are few celebrities who die with such an outpouring of respect from their counterparts, and story after story of what an authentic human being they are.

Prince could easily have gone the route of so many famous people who died and were mourned for nothing more than being famous. After all, he came to his fame in the hey day of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, yet he changed the lives of nearly every musician, and every person, he touched. He made, for the better, the lives of many humans and non-humans who never got to shake his hand or thank him.

The point is this… you have a voice. You have your social media accounts, or your blog, or your relationships with the people around you. Whether you know it, who you are–and who you present to the world–affects more people than you will ever meet, know, or even hear about.

A word of caution: be sure you know what you are talking about when you do speak. Your voice is also your reputation. It is the last thing anyone will hear from you.

Use your voice, like Prince did, to do more than sing.

rave lamb prince

 

REVIEW: THAI TERRACE (RESTAURANT)

RATING: B-

WHATThai Terrace

WHERE: 2055 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

PRICE: Around $50 which includes a Singha Beer, 2 “egg” rolls (not made with eggs–vegan), veggie coconut milk soup, tofu Tom Yum soup, veggie Pineapple Lake Curry (originally Pad Thai but the sauce had a fish base), and Veggie Red Curry.

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HOW VEGAN IS IT?

We told the waitress know we were vegan and she knew what that meant (definitely a good sign). She let the kitchen know but there was nothing marked “vegan” on the menu. I (Nicole) ordered the Pad Thai and waitress let me know it was not vegan because the pre-made sauce was fish-based.

 

ATMOSPHERE:

We found Thai Terrace through the Happy Cow app, which noted the restaurant was attached to a hotel lobby. We found it connected to a Howard Johnson’s in a run down strip mall next to a strip club on Dale Mabry (the neighborhood doesn’t bother us, but we thought you might like to know). We also found other inconsistencies from Happy Cow, detailed in the review below.

 

THE GOOD:

We haven’t had Thai since before we moved to Tampa over a year ago, and it was really good to have Thai food again.

The service was quick and the portion sizes were decent.  After the appetizer and soup, I took home most of my entrée.  The egg roll was one of the best vegan rolls we have had anywhere.

 

THE BAD:

No acceptable outdoor seating.  There was one old, rickety table facing Dale Mabry (the restaurant is near Target, Home Depot, and 275, where Dale Mabry is non-stop). The interior decor was mainly wood, like you might find in a 1970’s motel.  There was wood-paneled walls, wooden chairs, counter, room divider, window frames and even the ceiling had wood strips. It was a little too much, in my opinion.

Here is the big bad though.  Happy Cow gave this four stars.  They said Thai Terrace offers vegan choices including ones not listed on the website menu. According to the Happy Cow reviews, the menu explicitly states no chicken broth or fish sauce is used in any of the dishes and oyster sauce is not used in the vegetarian dishes. The reviews said food is made to order so there is a slightly above average wait time, and everything is fresh, including the sauce. Needless to say, we had high expectations and when this wasn’t our experience, we were disappointed. None of those facts are currently true (as of April, 2016).

Happy Cow reviews are, of course, no fault of Thai Terrace, but we did send feedback to Happy Cow, notifying them of the corrections they might want to make.  The last time we checked, it looks like Thai Terrace has been removed from Happy Cow (that wasn’t our intention–we just wanted them to update the information appropriately).

 

THE SUMMARY:

Overall, Thai Terrace gets a B- from us.  It was disappointing because the information on Happy Cow set our expectations high.  This wasn’t Thai Terrace’s fault and we don’t blame them, and our rating was not impacted by that. As far as we could tell, Thai Terrace is vegan-friendly but it is not an intentionally vegan restaurant with legitimate, easily identifiable vegan options on their menu.

 

 

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!

Is Your Dog Vegan?

Our puppy, Oliver, is 8 months old and our cat, Rainee, is about 15 years old (this post was written in April of 2016). Nicole and I are both long-time vegans so it stands to reason our pets would be vegan, too. Many vegans, because of their personal philosophical choice, anthropomorphize their values on their pets. We are not those types of vegans.

I like to think of myself (perhaps a bit narcissistically) as an “intellectual” vegan. I made my choice based on my personal moral values and a lot of learning about food, nutrition, and the science of being healthy. After I went vegan, I started to wonder if pet food was roughly equivalent in nutrition and chemical adulteration as highly processed human food. Turns out it is. I make conscious choices about what my pets eat now, too. The difference is, that I do not make philosophical choices for my pets. I do not think it is right to assume the values of my pets inherently reflect my own. Oliver and Rainee are (and I’m not trying to be insulting here) simply too dumb to understand the complicated choices we make on their behalf. Oliver, for example, happily eats carpet and has no problem licking the butt of any dog he just met. I am just saying maybe he is not the brightest star in the sky when it comes to complex decision-making.

Obviously, some important decisions about Oliver’s well-being and safety in a world dominated by the human species is best left to humans (because we know how to read labels and use can openers, for example). Outside of practical decisions, though, I would no more try to impose my philosophy of living on Oliver than I would try to teach a two-year old human baby the virtues of Capitalism. It is outside their scope of knowledge.

 

Some words in this post you might not be familiar with, loosely defined:

Carnivore: must eat meat to have proper nutrition (a tiger, for example).

Herbivore: must eat fruits and vegetables for proper nutrition (an elephant, for example).

Omnivore: can eat either meat or vegetables, or both, and be nutritionally sound (a human, for example).

Vegan: someone who chooses NOT to consume or wear anything that is, or comes from, an animal.

Narcissist: someone who is in love with himself or herself, to a fault.

Anthropomorphize: projecting human thoughts and feelings onto another animal (like Bugs Bunny or your dog).

Adulteration: adding bad stuff (like chemicals) to good stuff (like fruit) to make something unfit for consumption (like Froot Loops, which are delicious, nonetheless).

 

A dog can certainly survive on a vegan diet, but should your dog be vegan because you are?

This is a debatable topic in the vegan community but I am not sure why. On the surface, it is debatable if dogs are omnivores at all, though many veg-friendly sites claim dogs are omnivores “by nature”. There is conflicting evidence about that, but there is no debate that most species within the dog family (Canis Familiaris and their wolf ancestors, Canis Lupus) subsist mostly through hunting and eating other animals. Personally, I think there is a clear, obvious, and striking difference between most omnivores or herbivores and dogs–look at their teeth and eating patterns. Dogs eat competitively and in packs, suggesting the hunting and bringing home of prey rather than individually scavenging for fruits and vegetables.

There is no legitimate scientific debate around cats, as far as I can tell. They are considered strictly carnivores and scientists generally agree cats are unable to thrive without meat in their diet, despite weak anecdotal support from some pet owners.

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So, I will dismiss Rainee from the debate altogether. Regardless if Oliver can survive on a vegan diet (again, debatable), let alone thrive on one (also debatable but certainly possible with strict attention to dietary supplements and fortified foods), I need do no more than look at his teeth to see it is a bad choice to make him vegan.

Canine teeth are clearly designed for ripping, tearing, shredding, and gnashing (like a tiger, wolf, or vampire from Fright Night). Human teeth, by contrast, are flatter and better suited for grinding and chewing (like a cow or horse). Even if dogs are technically omnivores, they have clearly evolved mostly as carnivores, unlike humans, and if left to their own choices, dogs will not deviate from a carnivorous diet (Oliver, for example, will not pass an opportunity to slurp up a lizard if he catches one, much to Nicole’s dismay). In other words, there might be a debate among humans whether dogs are, or should be, considered strictly carnivores, but there is certainly no ambiguity among dogs–if given the opportunity, they will not hesitate to eat meat.

To me, it is a minor act of cruelty to make your pets vegan. As far as we humans can tell, it is not what dogs want or need, and it very likely robs them of key nutrients unless you are a vegan supernerd food scientist who knows vegan dog nutrition inside and out. I don’t even know human food and nutrition inside and out, let alone the nutritional requirements of another species. Forcing my dog to be vegan would likely, and unnecessarily, shorten his lifespan in the name of my moral ignorance.

All that being said, Nicole is grossed out by pet food and treats and will avoid touching it if possible. That leaves the dirty business of feeding them to me. I won’t lie. As a vegan, it is tough some days to smell and handle canned meat, or dog bones, or treats, or to clean up Rainee’s salmon-laced hairballs. It is a moral conundrum, as well, because of course, I don’t like buying meat or having non-vegan items in the house. I understand why vegans make ill choices for their pets, but my primary responsibility to the pet, as I see it, is to the pet’s health and well-being before my own personal politics come into play.

When it comes to choosing vegan for your dog, consider two things…

  1. Maybe you shouldn’t have a dog. Borrow your friend’s dog, or volunteer at a shelter to fill that need, or get a rabbit.
  2. Does the dog want to be vegan? Is it the best choice for the dog or just the best choice to satisfy your conscience?

Nothing about pet ownership is easy and our responsibility does not stop at rescuing or purchasing an animal companion. I am glad the debate over ethical choices for pets is happening (including the debate over pet ownership itself), but when it comes to diet, I think the right thing to do for my dog is not necessarily always the thing that leaves the best taste in my mouth.

 

Feel differently? Agree wholeheartedly? Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!

REVIEW: FALAFEL INN MEDITERRANEAN GRILL (RESTAURANT)

RATING: B+

WHAT: Falafel Inn Mediterranean Grill

WHERE: 777 N. Ashley Dr., Suite B, Downtown Tampa

PRICE: Under $30 for a large taboule, two falafel sandwiches, a Pepsi and a bottle of water. Just enough for a lite-ish meal before a little Yoga in the Park.

Falafel Inn Wrap

HOW VEGAN IS IT?

As with most Mediterranean restaurants, there are several vegan options. Falafel Inn may have slightly fewer options than others, but it is still more than most chain restaurants.

ATMOSPHERE:

The atmosphere is upscale yet casual. We call this combination “Downtown Chic”.  The furniture and decor are modern and upscale.  The chairs were white with nice clean lines.  The decoration was simple but elegant.  When you walk in there is a counter which I mistook for a hostess stand but is actually where you order and when the food was delivered, the plates and table ware was disposable. You clean the table.

THE GOOD:

There are several good things about this place. It was clean with a good amount of outdoor seating. Portion sizes are decent, and the Falafel Sandwich was packed pretty good with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and tahini– not just patty and sauce like some places.

THE BAD:

Overall this was a nice place and we had a nice experience, but to have a thorough review, we have to add a few things. There was a TV playing sports on the wall.  We prefer the quieter setting with no distractions of TVs. The grape leaves are not vegan.  Grape leaves are one of my favorites (this is Nicole) so it is a bad thing when they are not an option. The Taboule tasted good but it was not the freshest. They probably made it the day before or early that morning so not “old” but not being chopped while we waited, either. On the front door was a “Restrooms are for customers only” sign which is a pet peeve of Michael’s. Bad marketing. Why alienate a potential customer?

THE SUMMARY:

Falafel Inn Mediterranean Grill was good and we would go back. We probably wouldn’t go Downtown just for them, though, dealing with traffic and parking, but if we find ourselves Downtown and hungry, we would visit again.

 

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!

Our Ancestors Ate Animals? Gross!

Being vegan is increasingly mainstream. It is easier than ever (in major cities), to find vegan options at most restaurants. Vegan clothes are easy to find and order. Vegan niche stores and cafes are popping up. Even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has vegan options now!

It is a good time to be vegan or veg-curious. When I decided to go vegan almost two decades ago (this is Michael, by the way), the options were nothing like they are now.

It got me thinking (and others are thinking, too)… as a modern society, we look at some choices from–say, just 50 years ago–as relatively unconscionable, if not barbaric. Segregation, for example, or gender stereotyping, or spousal abuse.

What are the things we will look at 50 years from now and find nearly unbelievable that we accepted, as a society?

Will your grandchildren grow up saying, “Can you believe people used to actually carry around a hand-held computer all day and type out messages to each other? It must have taken them forever to get anything done that way!”

“Our ancestors used to kill animals to eat them for food? That’s horrible! Why couldn’t they just use molecular generators to grow meat instead of live like cavemen?”

Maybe it is a pipe dream but I think we are heading that way, and faster than ever. We are growing more environmentally conscious, ecologically conscious, and ethically conscious.

Factory farming, industrialized heavily processed food, and captive animal cruelty are all things receiving greater attention (and outrage) today than they were just a few years ago, let alone half a century ago. Factory farming, I think, will be as senseless and brutal sounding in the near future as ancient gladiator matches seem now.

I don’t know about you… but I hope two or three generations from now, I am seen as a pioneer instead of an embarrassing relic of some family’s history.

What do you want the future say about you?