Great adaptations

Image courtesy of Jeff Skeirik

Veganism does not mean voluntary deprivation

By David A. Brensilver

As a vegan, dining out can be an exercise in adaptability. While many restaurants offer at least one meat- and dairy-free menu item, or are happy to modify a recipe upon request, some must figure that any vegan who comes through the door is eating with a party of omnivores and will probably make do with salads and sides.

The latter scenario is more of a pain in the ass for the lone vegan than for the company he or she is with or the restaurant at which they’re dining.

The few questions a vegan might ask his server about a dish’s ingredients and preparation are nothing in comparison to the interrogation to which that vegan might be subjected by those at his table.

“You’re not one of those vegans, are you?” is one of my (least) favorites.

The translation of that question is: “You’re not going to lecture me about my obviously unenlightened choices, are you?”

A typical follow-up to that question is: “Are you vegan for ethical or health reasons?”

The preferred response to this query (in my opinion) is the latter, because a “doctor’s orders” are easier for many to understand than what they perceive as some sort of ethics-based voluntary deprivation.

I usually answer by saying, “I haven’t been to a doctor in years,” which allows us to move on to the oft-asked question, “Where do you get your protein?” and the common declaration, “I could never be vegan.”

On numerous occasions I’ve brought friends and family to G-Zen, an all-vegan restaurant in Branford that for me has become something of a culinary Mecca, thanks to its owners, Mark and Ami Beach Shadle.

The first time I dined at G-Zen it seemed delightfully strange that I could order absolutely anything on the menu. Then and now, the only question I’ve found myself asking a server is: “If you were me, would you order the ‘Guilt-free Raw Pasta with a Cashew Crème Alfredo’ or the ‘Portabella Tofu Napolean’?”

Each time I introduce non-vegans to G-Zen, I describe Chef (Mark) Shadle as a “wizard.” I told Ami recently that I loathed carrot cake until I tried G-Zen’s vegan recipe.

I’ve brought at least half-a-dozen non-vegans to G-Zen, each of whom has luxuriated in the sensational food and mood-enhancing atmosphere.

This is not to say that those non-vegans haven’t asked me or their server a series of questions.

“How do they do this?” I’ve heard, along with “There really is a wizard in the kitchen, isn’t there?”

“Yes,” I say, “there really is.”

Not one of the non-vegans I’ve brought to G-Zen has expressed feelings of being food deprived. In fact, each has had the same satisfied reaction he or she might after enjoying a decadent meal from any gourmet kitchen.

I’ve never sought to embarrass anyone who’s said, prior to sitting down to eat at G-Zen, “I could never be vegan,” by publicly declaring, somewhat sarcastically, “You did it! I knew you could do it!”

Visit G-Zen online at

David A. Brensilver is the editor of The Arts Paper.


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