Well, I just did something I probably should've tried before I set up this little blog... I typed "vegan blog" into Google. Wow! There are an amazing number of vegan blogs! Now why hadn't I noticed them before? (By the way, if you're a vegan, I highly recommend giving the Google thing a try - I found some great resources!)
So now I'm left wondering what I have to offer that hasn't already been done before. (If you have any ideas, please leave me a comment - I'd love to hear your thoughts! And if you have any questions, fire away. I'm certainly not an expert on the field, but I'll be happy to share my thoughts, feelings and experiences.)
One thing I haven't found (yet) is advice for the "bashful" vegan. It's certainly an extra challenge to follow this lifestyle when you're the type of person that tries to blend in and never make a scene. It's virtually impossible to go to a restaurant and "order off the menu". Or worse: to go to a friend or family member's home for a meal, and not be a difficult guest.
I suppose it's a good thing, then, that I tend to be a bit of a hermit. I virtually never eat out, except on vacations. It just so happens that my favorite place to spend vacations is also one of the best places for a vegan to fit in - Walt Disney World. That has turned out to be such a lucky coincidence!
If you're a vegan, and you're thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World, there are two things I suggest doing (besides asking me for advice, of course): check out http://allears.net/ This website has the answer to any question you ever had about Walt Disney World - including what's vegan at the parks. The second thing to do is pick up a copy of PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, by Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma (http://openmouse.com/). (Okay, so I've contributed to both, but honestly, these are wonderful resources!)
As for meals with family and friends, that's an ongoing challenge. I highly recommend that you be honest and upfront as soon as you receive an invitation. I really, REALLY, hate being rude, and that's how I feel when someone goes out of their way to prepare a nice meal for me, and I can't eat it because it's not vegan.
I have a confession to make: shortly after I went vegetarian (before vegan), I found myself inviting a cute guy to dinner. When I asked him what kind of food he liked, he described himself as a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy. Gosh, what to do? Well, beef was just out of the question - too icky for me. But I felt that I could probably make myself cook chicken just one more time (how could I disappoint him?)... so I did. And it was awful. He bravely ate it without complaining, and I bashfully confessed that I had pretty much gone vegetarian, and had apparently lost my meat-cooking skills. It was the last time I ever made that compromise for someone else. Fortunately, he came back a week later - this time with a vegetarian pizza in hand. He never let me cook for him again, but he must have found some other redeeming qualities in me - we've been married now for more than 10 years. :-)
By now, all my family and friends know that I'm a vegan. For family gatherings, I tirelessly tell them over and over not to "worry about me", and to prepare whatever it is they were going to prepare anyway. Sometimes they listen, and I just eat before the gathering (or sneak off to have a vegan energy bar in the car - never leave home without emergency vegan snacks!). Sometimes, they bravely try to prepare something I can actually eat. If they ever ask, "simple is better". If you don't know how to cook vegan, then it's best not to experiment. Vegetable soup, made with veggie stock (instead of the more common chicken stock), or spaghetti with a basic tomato sauce, are good, safe bets. But honestly, I'm perfectly happy with a simple salad (hold the croutons), or a frozen Boca burger.
In addition to the lack of "bashful" vegans, I've noticed something else, too: most vegans know how to cook. I guess this makes sense. Cooking skills would definitely come in handy when prepared vegan meals are so hard to come by. However, I have come to terms with the fact that this is never going to be my strong point. Yes, I'm a bashful vegan who can't cook. Believe me, I've tried. And I'm sure I'll continue to try in the future. But at the moment, my entire repertoire consists of fried rice made with frozen veggies, and prepackaged spaghetti with sauce from a jar. But I can nuke a mean Boca burger. Hahahaha.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the bashful Disney-obsessed vegan who can't cook...