The other night we went out to Johnny's Pizza as a family. At our kids' age, sometimes it is easier to engage their company, or rather to maintain that engagement for any duration, if we hold them hostage out in public. Otherwise, the lure of chatting with friends, be it via skype, facebook or interactive videogames, makes family bonding over dinner feel like an obligation to them, and they ask to be excused immediately after wolfing down their food. Mindful of how normal it is for teenagers to begin to branch out socially, we do what we can to maintain a connection and an influence while allowing some approved social freedoms. Current tools to this end include renting movies together, chatting in the car during commutes, hosting sleepovers with approved friends and weekly family dinners out.
At Johnny's, I hoped not to have to order a salad. Most salads at restaurants, reliant upon cheese, meat or creamy dressings for flavor, are a disappointment to me once these non-vegan items are omitted. I can make a much better salad for myself at home. So, knowing that my kids would be ordering their favorite -- a large cheese pizza, I went out on a limb and asked if this little pizza parlour would consider making a pizza for me without cheese. The helpful server said that they could, and she even went one step further and suggested I opt for no butter brushed around the crust. I wasn't even aware that was part of the pizza making practice. My pizza is on the bottom, and you can see the difference in the crust from the kid's cheese pizza above. My pizza was very good -- onion and green pepper.
As I ate my pizza, I began thinking about ingredients, and I realize that it is just as likely as not that the crust contained dairy or eggs. I am not far enough along in my vegan evolution to opt for a lackluster salad over an unknown pizza crust. At some point I may become more discerning. Right now my food choices involve balancing between two worlds, and maintaining a crucial cultural connection to my wonderful family. I am pleased with myself when I can manipulate a menu item into being as vegan as possible, knowing that the rest of the week I will be treating myself to whole grains, beans and dark leafy greens, and lots of other good, real food.
The next day for lunch I enjoyed two leftover slices warmed with a little Daiya non-dairy cheese. I heeded warnings I have seen in the online vegan community about not overdoing the amount. This little sprinkle of cheese was perfect. I remember, before detoxing from dairy, tasting non-dairy cheeses and being disgusted. It is very interesting how our tastebuds change according to what we eat or don't eat. Now the idea of dairy cheese does not appeal to me in the least. I'm a big fan of a little bit of daiya!
The kids are back to school on Monday. With a bit more time to myself, I am open to the next stage of my vegan evolution. Maybe I will learn how to make vegan breads and pizza dough!