I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years, yet a vegan for less than five. What kept me from fully transitioning earlier was how difficult I knew it would be to cut out dairy and all animal products completely and still be able to eat out, something which I love to do. At home, my family (my husband and my mother) and I had been vegan for much longer, but when we ate out we assumed it was near impossible to avoid the ubiquitous cheese and butter.
We were sort of right.
However, there came a point, and those of you who have been vegetarian/vegan for a while will recognize it, when dairy just became ick. I remember exactly where this happened to me: I was having dinner at Los Magueyes. Mexican food is very, very cheesy, and I had opted for the cheese enchiladas, which were not only filled with cheese, but covered in it. I had been avoiding cheese and other animal products at home for a while, and after my third or fourth forkful of the cheese bomb, I turned to my husband and said, no mas.
And so began the difficulty of eating out as a vegan in Miami, a very meat-centered city. Miami is all about the Latin influence, which means pork, steak, and more pork. Though there are easily millions of restaurants in the area, it's only a handful that will provide you with a decent vegan meal. And that is the raison d' etre of this blog: I propose to tell you, every time I go out, what my food was like, in the hopes that if you should find yourself vegan in Miami, you may benefit from my experience.
I want to emphasize that by Miami I mean Miami, the beach as long as it's not too crowded, Hialeah/Miami Lakes, and the Gables. If you know Miami, you know that traffic is . . . challenging. We could have dinner at the super nice all-vegan Sublime all the time, but that's not Miami, that's Fort Lauderdale, and I'm not into spending an hour stuck in traffic and then another hour coming back for dinner. So no Boca, no Keys, nothing that is more road trip than night out.
You might be wondering why anyone would go through all this trouble. Most people who want to eat out just do it, but we have to freaking research before going out to eat. Quite frankly, if you don't have your menu posted online, I'm not likely to visit your restaurant. So, why?
I've come to see it as hypocritical to be vegetarian rather than vegan. If you're vegetarian, you may not be directly killing animals for your sustenance, but you are sustaining an industry that exploits and tortures these very animals whose lives you claim to care for. The horrors of the milk and egg producing industries are a subject beyond the scope of this blog, but feel free to do a quick Google should you wonder what I mean.
Being vegan--even in Miami--is getting easier every day. There are many restaurants that offer at least one vegetarian option (sometimes more), and you can usually tweak a dish into being vegan if it isn't already. Twenty years ago, I would have never dreamed of going into a meat mecca like Burger King and ordering a veggie burger, but today you can (sadly, it's not vegan, not yet). Today I can really foresee a day when chefs of all kinds will de facto not only include one or more vegan options in each menu, but also tasty, creative ones. Here's to that day!