Before 3 hours of sleep and a flight home, I shared one last fantastic evening in Denver with my parents. My dad suggested we grab ramen for dinner. Side note: this was a miracle in itself because I'm obsessed with ramen and we already had it on the day I arrived. Multiple people had recommend this award-winning restaurant that we hadn't tried yet. We were in Japan exactly one year ago, eating ramen every day, and ever since then we've been on the lookout for the best ramen around!
I did what I always do and I checked the menu online in advance - sweet!! There's veggie ramen with shiitake and seaweed-based broth! Once we arrived, the first thing the hostess said was "any allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan?" Which was really cool because this gave me the opportunity to say vegan - I was sure that she would tell me which menu items to look for or hand me the separate menu. But instead she said "Are you strict? Nothing we have is fully vegan. Is that ok?"
Shit. Am I strict? Yeah. I don't know. Usually. I guess not. (More on my plant-based/vegan food distinction and philosophy here). I told the hostess it was fine and went to look at the menu because I remembered what I saw before. It's not that I thought I knew better than her - but I thought maybe, probably, most likely there would be an option for me. Wrong. I verified with the waiter that even the vegetable broth has a bit of animal product in it (why??) so what did I do? I ordered the veggie ramen anyway. *gasp*
Would I have preferred that it was fully vegetable broth? Of course! It's important to me not to be involved in any form of animal abuse, including in my diet. And plant food is so easy and delicious - it blows my mind when it's hard to accommodate. Several years ago it was different, but it is 2018 now, after all. We're talking about the #1 restaurant and consumer trend of the year, people. More and more conscious eaters are trying to leave animals off their plates and out of their bowls.
But I made a decision and that was to eat something that doesn't totally align with my values. I didn't want to be a pain or inconvenience. It was insanely windy in Denver, the traffic was bad, we were hungry, the place looked awesome, I didn't want to draw attention to myself... so we stayed.
I also had to let go of being perfect, and choose what I felt was the right decision for the situation. The decision to stay was made partly from convenience (decisions I try to avoid), partly from not wanting to be "fussy" or hard to please (which is untrue), and partly from actually just wanting to enjoy a big bowl of comforting ramen with my parents before I headed back to the east coast. Certainly no one was forcing food into my mouth. And my parents, although annoyed, probably would have been willing to get dinner elsewhere. But after weighing my options, I decided to do my best (or maybe second best) and eat the non-vegan veggie ramen.
I've never been a perfectionist, and I don't see things as black & white. I'm simply one person who has come to the concolusion that a plant-based vegan lifestyle is the right fit for me - for my own personal health, for the environment/planet, for the animals, and for the human collective.
I also believe in being zero-waste, and I accidentally got my coffee in a to-go cup last week, and sometimes I still forget my produce bags and bring home plastic from the grocery store. I want to be kind to everyone, including myself, at all times - but sometimes I might say hurtful things to myself or others. I feel strongly about a healthy diet, but I thoroughly enjoyed a weekend of indulgence and vegan dessert tasting when in Denver as well! (Make Believe Bakery is the bomb.com) In these 6+ years, I've never been 100% perfect but I'd say 98% is pretty darn good. And more importantly, it's what feels good to me. If 70% feels right to you, more power to ya! I'm never going to be the person who beats myself up over the 2% where I could have done better. I strive to do the best I can, and sometimes the best falls a little short. And it's okay.
Slowly but surely (and it's actually happening super fast) it will become easier and easier to eat food without animals being involved. Every effort to be better counts. What's important is to do the best we can and find peace with that. It's what we do MOST of the time that matters most.
Final note: I barely ate any of my ramen at the restaurant, so I ended up pouring out most of the broth and packing the noodles with some additional veggies in a glass container for the trip home (see below).