Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Sometimes work lunch events work out…

A couple months ago I got an email at work about a work-sponsored “picnic” / BBQ. I’ve tried to make team lunches work out for me, but as much as I enjoyed the giant salads I’d end up with from a pretty decent salad bar at a grocery store, I quickly got tired of salad being the expected option for me.

Rather than deal with the resentment for my coworkers these lunches brought up, I stopped participating.

I had mixed feelings about this – on one hand, doesn’t it prove that vegans are “difficult”? At the same time, constantly having salad for lunch at these things encourages that other stereotype.

I’ve taken to telling people that I eat bark and twigs when they ask what I eat.

I’m really not a very good advocate, given that my annoyance threshold is so low. But sometimes I’m motivated to keep trying. And I know it is valuable to keep trying.

But when I got the email about the work picnic, my reaction was my default reaction to work-food events: I deleted it.

One of the organizers sits in my pod. She didn’t let me bow out; she insisted that they’d make it work for me. She never seemed to quite get what I can or can’t eat (she thinks that vegans can’t eat bread) and I doubt that my wariness about having her pick up whatever veggie burger they had on sale at costco was well hidden. She proposed that I be in charge of the vegetarian option. I agreed. There was at least one other vegetarian in the office, but of course I needed vegan options, and I wasn’t confident that I’d have much in the way of options if I didn’t take care of it myself.

We had 6 people signed up for the vegetarian option. I got what I thought was a generous amount of food, but my podmate encouraged me to get some additional stuff as well, to give people more options, even though it would mean we had a lot of extra food. She might not understand what we can eat, but she was clearly trying to make it a good event for us.

I queried my people on twitter, and based on their suggestions I picked up Tofurkey kielbasa and Field Roast Apple Sage.

I talked to the grillers to make sure they understood that we’d be doing the veg stuff first, so there would be no contamination issues. The grill and utensils were brand new (cheaper than renting grills, apparently) so that part was easy. I ended up watching and “helping” during the cooking. Just couldn’t quite trust it otherwise.

The Gardenburger Black Bean burgers and the Field Roast Apple Sage sausages were the biggest hits, and I had several people come up to me to tell me how much they liked them.

Without a doubt, this was the most successful work lunch I’ve participated in at my current place of employment. What surprised me, continuously, is that the two people organizing it kept coming to me over the weeks of preparation to say “we got x, it is vegetarian.” And then they’d have me read the labels. The salad dressing they’d gotten had cheese, so they immediately said to get another and bring it in, that they had wanted to have 2 anyway. They handed the responsibility of the vegetarian food to me, only because they wanted me to be absolutely certain that I’d be able to eat it. They ended up with loads of fruit to supplement the other desserts, and though I’d have jumped into a pile of vegan cookies without a second thought, it was better to jump into a pile of watermelon instead.

It was at work, so it isn’t like I did a lot of active outreach, yet I do feel that it was helpful for my coworkers to see that it wasn’t just me. 6 of us signed up, others were interested. Some of the meat eaters were fascinated by the sausages, especially, as they cooked on the grill. One meat eater ate the vegetarian stuff because he’s trying to correct his high cholesterol through diet, and yet there is that chance that he’ll start to see the vegetarian option as a normal everyday option. He hadn’t originally signed up for the picnic at all until he happened to mention to me that he was now eating meat-free during the day. I asked him if he wanted the vegetarian option for the picnic, and he was excited about it when he agreed.

Perhaps it helped a little. If nothing else, I certainly ate my fill, which itself seems a victory, considering it was a work lunch.


8 responses to “Sometimes work lunch events work out…

  1. Nancy August 6, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I always make it a point to speak out againt any injustice veganism is no different. Certainly if someone makes a sexist, or racist remark, I will voice my opinion. Veganism is not any different, any chance we have to speak out for the non humans is a small victory just as much as when we speak out against sexism, racism,etc. To not speak out it seems to me is complicity. History has proven this repeatedly, such as in Nazi Germany.
    I make a case for veganism(not vegetarianism and its’ inherent cruelty) any where I am. I wear tshirts, have brochures, answer endless and inane questions, etc. I do the same for all the human rights causes I espouse and would never think not to respond to someone’s cruel remarks.

  2. Kristen August 6, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Great post Deb – I think you made a bigger impact than you believe you did or do for that matter. One of the biggest questions is what do we eat? and by showing them that there are options especially yummy ones you can grill, and not just salad with every meal it helps more than other forms of advocacy.

    I have never tried the sausages, but than again even when I did eat meat I didn’t like sausage anyways…you can tell it’s made of by-product junk, seriously gross! But I just might have to try the tofurkey ones…I really like all of tofurkey’s faux-meats – especially their deli slices.

  3. jill August 6, 2009 at 10:43 am

    i’m glad it worked out so well!! and i agree w/ Kristen … and LOL, was probably a huge influence for people to see someone *actually* read a label! =)

    when veganism becomes real to people who wouldn’t otherwise even think about it, i think that’s a victory, too … food and meat are so ingrained in people’s minds that most don’t even think about not eating meat/making changes. when we cause them to consider it, when we are “the vegan”, i think that’s a small beginning. every change has to start with thinking about an alternative. not that everyone who thinks about a vegan diet will adopt one, but no one will adopt one who hasn’t thought about it first!

  4. Deb August 6, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    @Nancy – I find that work place advocacy is delicate. Could be where I work is worse than most places, as it is extremely conservative. We aren’t allowed to wear t-shirts (and I mean t-shirts of any kind), and we get emails monthly that warn us against having discussions that could upset other people. It is what it is, and I do what I can to the extent I can in that particular situation. Food activism is actually the most obvious one, but I’m not much of a foodie, so it isn’t a route I am often motivated to make the effort for.

    @Kristen – I hope you’re right! As for the vegan sausages, I don’t think they have any similarity, other than shape, to the non-vegan ones. Not that I’m an expert – like you, I was never much of a sausage eater. Regardless, the Field Roast sausages are great. I’d recommend any of their flavors over the Tofurkey ones, honestly!

    @jill – that’s a really good point about the thinking coming before the actual change. Hopefully someone had a thought put into their head yesterday! I suppose time will tell…if nothing else, a lot more people now know that I’m The Vegan and might come to ask questions…

  5. Elaine Vigneault August 6, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I completely understand your hesitation about a BBQ and your opting out at previous food events. I’m glad you finally made it work and it sounds like future events just might get a little easier for you and the other veggies in your office.

  6. Deb August 7, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Elaine, I think you’re right about future events being easier. Especially now that we veggies (and veg-curious) know who each other is, and how many of us. Not sure that most of them understand that I’m vegan and what that means, but there’s always time for that in the future…

  7. johanna August 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

    she thinks that vegans can’t eat bread

    Hahaha, a few months ago when I was in Madison I had a server tell me I couldn’t have something on the menu b/c it was made w/white flour & vegans have an issue w/white flour b/c it’s processed w/bone, & blah blah… & when I said, no, it’s actually sugar that’s the issue, she got kind of defensive & all “I’m not vegan myself, this is just what I’ve been told!” Which, uh, I kind of doubt (the latter part). Yay for servers being cognizant of stuff, but… it would help if they were correctly cognizant.

  8. Deb August 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    johanna, that gave me such a great laugh! i love that she was trying, but it still is worth a chuckle. vegan bloopers, or something like that. Reminds me of someone I knew in colorado getting a response along the lines of “so you’re pagan?” when explaining that she was vegan.

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