March 6, 2008


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UPDATE May 2018:
This very old blog post continues to get a lot of traffic and the comments kept rolling in. To clarify: this post was published nearly 11 years ago during the first few months of me becoming vegan. I had been lacto-vegetarian since 1990 before deciding to go vegan in 2007, at which time, I was not aware of certain dairy derived ingredients like casein. The casein point continued to draw quite a bit of outrage in the comment section. I think everyone here can attest and admit to the fact that when we first began our vegan journeys, we were anything but perfect. It does no one any good to criticize someone's path to understand and commit to a vegan life. And given that I was lacto-vegetarian for nearly 17 years before going vegan, it seems reasonable to expect that I may not have understood what these ingredients were.

I'm tired of continually defending this post to new, and outraged, commenters. At this point, the word count of the edits & explanations exceeds the actual post! I view old posts like this as a snapshot of that moment in time in 2008, and as a reminder to us all of how difficult it is to learn what all goes in to being vegan. It helps me have compassion for other new vegans who not only feel confused as to what constitutes a "vegan" diet, but may become disillusioned by this dizzying new choice to the point that they give up on it.

It also serves as a reminder how critical fellow vegans can be of each other, which I find completely unnecessary, annoying and frustrating. No wonder people think vegans are preachy and elitist. If we can't be kind to each other, then what hope do we have of inspiring others to go vegan?

After reading this post, please take a moment to remember how your own journey began.



You read that right! International House of Pancakes... not exactly Mecca for Vegans, I agree. But doable in a pinch, especially if the party you're with has already made up their mind that this chain of fatty breakfast food is where they want to eat.

I actually walked in to IHOP this morning with my feathers up and a small container of Tofutti Cream Cheese hidden in my purse. I
was prepared to settle for white toast considering the sickeningly decadent menu that IHOP is famous for.

Credit has to be given immediately to our server: I ordered decaf coffee and then asked if they offered non-dairy creamer. She pointed out that all the creamer on the table was non-dairy but actually said, "you should still read the label, though, because I don't think it's 100% dairy free." I nearly fainted! Can I tell you how many Baristos/as at Starbucks actually tsk when I ask for soy? 10 points to our server right off the bat! Sure enough, the creamer offered was Coffeemate, not 100% dairy free (there is sodium caseinate in it) but in my Vegan World, I will use it when there is no Silk Creamer available.

Between the pancakes, french toast, waffles, crepes, hash and egg variations there was absolutely nothing for vegans (lacto/ovo-vegetarians obviously would be free to eat just about anything they wanted) in plain sight on the menu. There was a small fruit cup listed on the last page. For $2.99 I could eat myself silly through grapes & cantelope. I did ask the server if there were any bagels or English muffins available. She said they had English muffins. I ordered one & again, she was right on top of it: "do you want me to tell them not to put any butter on it?" Of course! I could have hugged her - though she didn't look like she would have appreciated it.

Everyone else at the table (3 of my girlfriends) all ordered hash & eggs, pancakes & eggs, stuffed French toast & eggs...then conversation again turned to my eating "habits." One woman was convinced that I have a food allergy & kept telling me I should just take Lactaid before going out to eat. I explained, as politely as I could without showing my exasperation that being Vegan is an Ethical Choice, not a food allergy. Even if Lactaid theoretically worked, believe me, IHOP is not the place I want to test that theory (and that's even if I felt like putting cow secretions or chicken crap in my body).

My muffin & fruit arrived and out came my soy cream cheese. Everyone was totally fascinated by it and of course needed a taste. Someone remarked that it tasted better than fat-free Philly (to which I agreed) and that it was sweeter than "regular" cream cheese. I think it tastes better, but what do I know? I'm an alien from another planet.

I will never again accept an invitation to IHOP for breakfast in the future. I will continue to feel a bit trapped, though, when it comes to not having any options for breakfast. Then again, it's so rare that I go out to breakfast that I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.


EDIT: 1/11/12

Somewhere in the comment section, people criticized me for using the Coffeemate pointing out the fact that it contains the milk based ingredient casein. I need to point out that in 2008, when this entry was written, I was only vegan for a few months & not aware of what casein was. I no longer eat anything containing any dairy now that I know what the "hidden ingredients" are. I am completely animal product free. It's been an incredible journey, and YES, I do have all the followers and readers of the blog to thank for their encouragement, support and information!