Guest Post: Being Vegan in Austin
Intro from in.gredients
While it’s easy to be vegan in some areas, in others, it’s not. Vegan-friendliness depends on many factors: grocery store selection, restaurant choices, and most importantly, societal awareness. We’ve enjoyed meeting many of you in the last month and learning about your varying diets and nutritional goals – which ranged from “none” to gluten-free, paleo to vegan, and in a few cases, “just eat the colors of the rainbow.” Those we spoke with included Cassandra Johnson, who was excited to write this guest post for us!
In the post, Cassandra talks about her experience being vegan in Austin. While some claim Austin lacks in vegan alternatives – the subject of an Austin Monthly editorial this month – Cassandra’s perspective offers a sunnier outlook.
Cassandra has lived in Austin for over two-thirds of her life, and has been vegan for less than one-third of that time. She bakes, crafts, and occasionally karaokes (much to her dog’s chagrin) in South Austin.
Cassandra on being vegan in ATX
I’ve tried to escape Austin a few times. Once after high school and once after college, but this city keeps pulling me back. I’ve lived in Austin for a good chunk of time and though I’ve lived in and visited other cities around the world, I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. Well, maybe Amsterdam, but that might take some work.
I became vegan after college. Many of the friends in my feminist group in college, Alliance for a Feminist Option, were vegan, and many people assumed that I was vegan before I even went vegetarian. I tried going vegetarian or vegan a few times while in college, but that never really stuck. Once graduated and moved out of my parent’s house for good, I was able to fully commit to being vegetarian. While researching information about nutrition and reasons to stay vegetarian, I stumbled upon Vegan Freak radio. They gave some compelling arguments and great tips on how to maintain a vegan lifestyle. I decided, conveniently before Thanksgiving, to make the leap to veganism. I was only able to do so with the patience and support of my aforementioned vegan friends on speed dial.
Now that I’m vegan (six years, woot!), I have a renewed fondness for the city. In addition to having plenty of great things to do or see, there are so many vegan friendly businesses here. Eating out is a breeze. More than that, a good number of these places offer healthful options and are knowledgeable about where their food is grown. Often, if they don’t know, the waiters are willing to find out.
This made my transition from a mainly meat diet to a vegan diet much smoother. With the help of my friends on speed dial and helpful wait staff, I was able to ease into vegetarianism and, later, into veganism without some of the trials that vegans in other cities experienced. Austinites at these businesses were friendly to down right supportive.
It can sometimes be a challenge to find good options outside of the city. In far West Texas, I find myself wondering if the waiter is really telling the truth when they say that the beans have neither cheese nor lard nor hunk of bacon. In East Texas, I wonder if the rib joint I end up at has anything besides white bread for me to eat. Usually, I just take my own energy bars or smoothie mix.
While many major metropolitan areas now have a few restaurants that have veggie options, it can take some creativity. I find myself having to say no. A lot. I ask for a salad with no chicken, no cheese, no croutons, and no dressing. The resulting dish is not exactly a balanced or satisfying meal.
However, when I’m in Austin, I can go out with friends and say “yes!” Yes, I would like vegan chorizo (Kerbey Lane). Yes, I would like vegan queso (Guero’s). And, yes, I would like a Celeste’s Best vegan cupcake…thanks for asking!
I have a few favorite places (as you can see above) and some that I have yet to visit…including in.gredients, which I’m looking forward to. I’m always looking for a new gem, so tell me: what’s your favorite vegan place to eat?