A picture is worth a thousand words and since I have no pictures to post, here are a thousand words! Ok, maybe not that many but quite a few more than I have been writing lately 😉
Last Saturday, we attended a family wedding. The whole gang headed up to Cambridge to celebrate my cousin’s wedding … actually, the whole gang minus Little Lulu. She decided she wasn’t interested in wearing a dress and to be honest, I can’t blame her!
This was the first wedding I’ve attended since going vegan. Being Portuguese and vegan does come with some challenges. Luckily, my family is very supportive. Sure, my brothers constantly tease me about it and exaggerate about how much they love turkey but that’s the purpose of annoying little brothers right? Like I said, my family has embraced my mid-30’s diet change and have been really accommodating. Old-school Portuguese wedding caterers on the other hand – not so much. Let me start by saying that the food was great and I didn’t expect the caterer to make any exceptions based on my choices. I’m just sharing my experience because it was my first and whether good or bad, sharing is what this blog is all about.
I believe there is a HUGE difference between being vegan and vegetarian, and to my traditional Portuguese caterer, being vegan just meant “remove the meat from her plate.” In fact, I was actually told by one of the servers that vegan and vegetarian are the same thing. It was the first time since going vegan that I understood why vegans get a bad reputation of being crazy. I wanted to shout, “there is a difference!” I don’t eat dairy or eggs and you know that piece of calamari you just tried to serve me … well, I don’t eat fish either. In fact, neither do vegetarians. Last time I checked, fish is an animal. But instead of going into a rant about the differences, I just smiled back.
This is how the meal portion of my evening went. The first course was soup. It was a fall wedding so they served butternut squash soup. Seems safe right? Well not when it’s made with chicken broth. I didn’t even inquire because as far as my server was concerned, there was no meat floating in my soup so it was fine. Salad came next. I inhaled this knowing it might be my last course! I don’t ONLY eat salad every day but given that it was the only course I could eat without an issue, another light bulb went off on why people may assume that all those crazy vegans eat is salad. The salad was followed with fish. The interesting thing about being vegan is how many people assume you can eat fish. Fish is a staple of the Portuguese culture. We serve it all the time. Our traditional Christmas meal is cod fish (not turkey like my brothers will argue, not that it makes a difference to a vegan), so I was starting to realize that not eating fish was a really hard concept for Portuguese people to understand. The convo went like this…
“Hi, I don’t eat fish, is there a vegetarian option?”
“Yes, fish, you don’t eat fish?”
“No, I don’t eat fish.”
“It’s white fish.”
“Uh huh, it is but I still don’t eat fish. I’ll just take some rice.”
“Oh okay, I’ll get you some rice; no fish though?”
“No, no fish.”
The server walked away giving me a look like I’m a weirdo for not eating fish. I feel bad for fish, no one takes them seriously as animals. The mindset is that if it comes from the ocean, it must not count as meat.
The fish was followed by beef and cheesecake so I just gave up mentioning that I am vegan and filled up on potatoes.
The best part of a Portuguese wedding is the midnight buffet. It’s a tradition that at midnight, we indulge in sweets and seafood. There is a huge table set up with a variety of desserts and a whole bunch of seafood – crab, mussels and shrimp. This is the part of weddings I loved the most but now as I walked by the buffet, I just kept thinking, “probably egg in that” … “cheese in that” … “milk in those custard tarts” … “oh grapes, I can have those!” When I caught the eye of the server, she gave me a big smile and said, “Looks good eh?” Yep, she still thinks that I can have fish. As I walked back to my table with pineapple, strawberries and grapes on my plate, I realized that I didn’t need willpower to walk away from the buffet; I just had no interest in it. As someone who struggled with her weight for years and always gave into temptation, becoming vegan actually changed my cravings. I never feel like I’m depriving myself because I feel energized knowing that I figured out which foods fueled my body the best. It may not work for everyone but for now it works for me.
Even if it means that I constantly have to explain that, no, I do not eat fish.