The little things

It’s the little things, really, that I find hardest about being vegan.

I’m spending the night in a motel in San Bruno, close to the San Francisco airport. It’s been a few months since I last traveled.

I’ve found one vegan-friendly restaurant in the area, but as I drove here I noticed a tofu place, Todam Tofu House, just a couple blocks from the motel. It’s a Korean restaurant, it serves meat, the staff don’t even know what ‘vegan’ means. But I’m off my schedule, really tired, and I really wasn’t feeling like driving to a known place.

I ordered a tofu stew—more of a soup, really—with mushrooms. They brought it out with a decent sized pot of rice and a selection of other things presumably considered edible. But, not being familiar with Korean food, I didn’t know what some of them were and avoided them because my communication with the staff just wasn’t up to an interrogation about ingredients (and I really hate having to ask, anyway).

So I ate well, trying to ignore the meat offerings on the menus that double as place mats, limiting my consumption to those things I like and which I was fairly confident were vegan. There were two kinds of bean sprouts, one of which I found edible and the other of which I found bitter. Something that looked like it might be a kind of baked apple turned out to be potato (and I get to wonder about the sauce).

It was cheap. The bill was just under $10.00.

But a lot of Asian food leaves me craving sweets. There was only a Walgreens—not in any way, shape, or form, my idea of a grocery store. I was hoping I could find bagels, but all they had was some really awful-looking bread. I settled for their house brand saltine crackers instead.

I got back to my room, caught up on some—only some—of my email. Then I discovered I had no toothpaste left in the kit I keep in my pickup truck.

Back to Walgreen’s. Yes, they had Tom’s toothpaste. On the bottom shelf, in two lonely, mostly empty rows. I checked the label, hoped I could trust the claim that it used no animal ingredients and was “cruelty-free, and headed to the cashier.

No doubt you get the idea. These are minor annoyances. Certainly, they are trivial compared to the suffering of uncountable millions of animals slaughtered to stock store shelves with endemic animal products.

But these are also entirely unnecessary annoyances. The Korean restaurant could stock fake meat—it’s gotten really good in the last few years—and educate its staff about veganism. Walgreen’s could stock a larger selection of natural toothpastes—plenty of grocery stores do. It just isn’t that difficult.

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