This past Sunday was a busy one. I went with a group from work to Outfest in Philly, an LGBT pride festival that's an official National Coming Out Day Event. For the first time, though, we didn't go simply to enjoy the festival, we were acting in official work capacity. We had a tent, stuff to give away, surveys for people to take, the whole nine yards. I've never worked an event like that, and I can't even begin to tell you how much fun it is to be able to talk to so many different types of people in an atmosphere where everyone is happy and safe and comfortable being themselves. I literally cannot wait to do it again!
The day itself, however, was really trying. I did plan for breakfast. We stopped for bagels at the same place we always stop when we go to Philly, but I read ahead, ensuring that my bagel of choice had no eggs, and I packed my own vegan spread for it. Delicious, and I was really proud of myself for avoiding cream cheese. I also brought along a water bottle to curb the typical coffee and soda cravings that come along with being out and about.
I didn't really have any way to pack a lunch, because I didn't want to drag that kind of stuff all through the city (we parked far and did a lot of walking). But I figured, "Hey. It's a gay event in the middle of Philadelphia's famed Gayborhood, how much trouble could I really have staying vegan and healthy?" Turns out I was way wrong. I ran into a lot of trouble with my diet.
First to rear its head was the temptation of street vendors. I know lots of cityfolk who will swear by the food that comes out of their hometown street vendors, and Philly is no different. From cheesesteaks to Philly pretzels to fries with salt and vinegar, I'm a big fan of all of it. But I'm not from Philly, I'm from closer to the Chesapeake Bay, and don't you know the vendor closest to our tent had Maryland Blue Crab Cakes. I had to smell them all day long, and it was nothing shy of torture.
But I resisted the vendors, and when we were done, we went in search of a place to eat. I had Erica and my good friend Dan with me, so I was trying to consider the fact that they were also hungry, but every place we saw had nothing on the menu that would work for me, except a salad. (I don't order salads as meals at restaurants, because they're not filling enough, and they charge for meat and cheese, even if you ask for it without.) So we kept walking until we made it back to the car, striking out all the way and finally decided we'd wait til we got back to Lancaster, and we'd find somewhere here.
Then we sat on the interstate for two hours, progressing less than 15 miles in that amount of time. (Yeah, I really like living outside of Philly.) By this time we were all starving, exhausted, thristy (one bottle of water and one lemonade was apparently not enough for a whole day in 80 degree heat), so we decided to stop in King of Prussia for food. At this point I would have eaten anything.
But we sat down at Rock Bottom Brewery and they seemed to have the answer to all my problems: a house made, fire-grilled veggie burger. It was all I wanted. Then they brought it out, and it had this giant slab of cheddar cheese melted onto it, which, I just double-checked, is not listed on the menu as an ingredient on the burger. Then Erica and I had an exchange that went something like this:
Erica: You have to send that back.
Me: You have to be kidding, I'm eating this thing!
And I did, making this the second time I've broken the vegan rules I set forth for myself forty days ago. I could have sent it back. I should have, especially since they had the freaking gall to charge extra for the cheese. But can I just tell you, that was absolutely the best veggie burger I've ever had, and I barely tasted the cheese. I'm going to try to re-create the burger (minus the cheese) tonight, and my mouth is already watering for it.
One thing this did teach me though: our culture is extremely vegan-unfriendly. I already knew that, it's part of the reason I only ate out once in my whole first month of this project, but you know what--our life is busy. Sometimes we have to grab something out. How do true vegans do it?