G-Sync: Obscene Green?

A few days ago, I remembered reading a posting that asked, essentially, if a restaurant has fill-in-the-blank meat item in the name, can you really expect them to offer you a vegan or vegetarian food item?

It's a good point that was further brought home over the weekend as I unwrapped birthday gifts from friends and received a few vegan-themed cookbooks (that I really love for a host of reasons). This sparked conversations about accommodation and discovery -- two very important parts of a growing society, or one wanting to be seen as welcoming.

While the opportunities for vegan options are the best they have ever been in our city, there are still a lot of chain establishments that arrive here. Due to the structure of a massive corporation often arriving late to the party, you sometimes get really insufficient options.

These poor menu options never make it to sites that recommend the best of our region, like our locally created and powered VeganGR.com’s restaurant guide. I wrote about the site last week in G-sync events, describing it as a wildly popular, no-holds-barred restaurant review site for vegans. It can also be a reference guide for those who want to adopt more vegan entrees in to their diets.

VeganGR, like other publications around our city, exhibits a strong voice and reach. By producing a record of various establishments garnered from personal research, VeganGR has showcased restaurants willing to turn the ship around on the American diet. Most people know that the typical American diet is killing folks as obesity rates leading to diabetes and heart disease engulf our country, state, and city.

However, not all vegans or people seeking diet alternatives are doing it for health reasons. VeganGR co-creator Kolene Allen made this point via a phone call.

“Some folks are happy with a plain salad and some oil and vinegar,” says Allen. “But we think people want more variety.”

This makes sense to me. We have settled for far too long on just one menu. It is also worth noting that area restaurants have figured it out as well. They have realized that just as they offer multiple menu items using meat, they can do the same with vegetarian and vegan items as well. It is all about finding new ways to approach food. We can let go of the meat-entitlement-placement program most people still feel is necessary to get a real meal.

“Whether you are vegan, gluten-free, allergic to nuts, eat meat, or whatever, you should be able to go out to dinner and get a good meal and not just settle for something that fits your diet,” writes Allen in a recent VeganGR.com blog post.

Allen can also add the title of pin-up girl to her long list of accomplishments. She joins a group of women invited by Moxie owner Stephanie Strowbridge to pose for a series of images on the newly formed site, Veggie Girls Gone Pin Up, celebrating vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

“I really wanted to recreate the wonder of this style of photography that celebrates women. But I also have a two-fold mission,” says Strowbridge. “I think with all the talk about diet and farm-to-table, I wanted to remind people that we need to also be thinking about our food system and the living conditions of the animals who often become the meals on the plates of so many who do not question the farming practices.”

Strowbridge cites many factors that are problematic. She mentions one of the chief offenders: The factory farm. We know it is a huge problem, and she believes a series of images like this is a fun way to showcase the results of this alternative eating lifestyle.

“Most importantly, I want to showcase how healthy these women of all shapes and sizes are who adopt a kind diet,” says Strowbridge. The phrase “kind diet" is one often employed by those who want to adopt eating habits where no animal is harmed.

The call to women went out and almost immediately, women from all over were volunteering. Now women are invited on her site to post images of themselves, thus providing Strowbridge and her team of creatives with an opportunity to select the next pin-up girls.  

And don't worry, Stowbridge, along with VeganGR, have something in the works for the men as well. You can be sure local vegan on the go, Dallas McCoullogh, will be bearing some skin, too, in support of this project.

“I want this series of images, presently making their way through the printing process as a calendar, to be a reminder to people that positive actions can bring positive results to our world,” says Strowbridge. “I believe it is not an overnight change for people, but one that takes time with baby steps for many.”

This is where I agree with Strowbridge wholeheartedly. I’m nearing the end of my 28-day raw diet detox and I, too, have learned a lot along the way. I now commonly refer to myself as a flexitarian, meaning my diet is leaning more and more toward the vegan/vegetarian every day.  

Strowbridge hopes these calendars will reach a new audience and also create conversation all year long. They are slated to be available soon at local venues like Treehuggers and Moxie with advance orders being taken at Strowbridge’s Etsy shop.

Now, let’s get back to the question poised in my first paragraph: Why should a restaurant known for their meat even offer a solid vegan choice?

I will remind those companies that they are in the service industry. You have a duty to your mission and we all agree you do it well, but you are also bound to a welcoming clause and it is up to you to decide.

I am flexible, but many of my dear friends are not. And if the choice is spending my time with friends at a restaurant that suits their gentle lifestyle or eating alone at one that doesn't, then I am choosing my friends.

Certainly, as many have already proved locally, you want to make your restaurant more welcoming for guests who like your food, but why not also for vegans or vegetarians who simply want to enjoy a meal together with their meat-eating friends at your establishment? To make someone in this world feel unwelcome and risk losing their patronage in your establishment is the real green obscenity.

The Future Needs All Of Us.

Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

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