Is it possible to survive a work party and stay vegan?
Going to work socials was a no-brainer
There aren't many work socials that I've missed. We have two every year. One is organised before the end of the Autumn Term and the other is in July.
They are fun and it gives us a chance to meet everyone outside of work, when we're a little more relaxed.
It was a no-brainer because vegetarians were always catered for. The main person who organises the events, is vegetarian, so she makes sure they are catered for. However, when I went vegan, I had to ask the lady who organises the events, to contact the venue and find out if they cater for vegans. I didn't think it would be a big deal, because we always book a hotel or restaurant, where you'd think, the chefs would be used to catering for all sorts of dietary needs.
Venues struggled to cater for vegans as Christmas approached
For the Christmas dos; chefs and event managers seemed too stretched to want to think beyond the regular vegetarian and non-veg food!
I was often asked what I wanted them to make, or they would ask me what I made at home. I didn't want to pay a premium price (because of the time of year) and have to plan the meal myself, or, eat what I ate at home!
I persevered, explained that I didn't want to plan the meal, and attended the events, which were usually alright on the night.
Attending the summer social was much easier
I've worked in this school for over 14 years, so I've been to many socials, but two of them stand out in my mind.
One was at Chiquitos in Park Royal, where the food was delicious. The manager went the extra mile to ensure that I knew which dishes were vegan and which ones could be modified. She also prepared me by telling me what to say when I ordered, if she wasn't there. She was great!
Another, was the Elysian in Stanmore. It is a family run business and they know how to make sure customers feel safe and looked after. I didn't have to explain anything after telling them I was vegan! They told me to leave it to them and I had no regrets! They delivered as promised.
The best vegan meal I've had at a Christmas social
The last social we had was at The Best Western Cumberland Hotel in Harrow. It took one phone-call to discuss what I will and won't eat and they delivered over and above what we discussed. It was delicious, managed well, smooth and such a treat! You can see some photos of what I had below. The item I haven't got a photo of is the starter, which was a delicious soup.
The Christmas social I attended before this one, was the worst experience I've ever had. The event manager said that the hotel catered for all needs, but there was some sort of mishap on the night and everything seemed to go wrong after that!
Many of the staff were disappointed because the size of the portions wasn't consistent. Also, some meals were overcooked and others were undercooked. Others complained about the foods that the chef had paired together, because they felt that they didn't compliment each other at all. So unfortunately, for many, it wasn't a treat, but rather, a less than average meal. These feelings of disappointment were not exclusive to vegans and vegetarians.
That is why, the meal at The Best Western Hotel, was so positive for me. It was a sign that things were changing and I no longer needed to feel anxious about whether I'll be catered for at future Christmas dos or not.
I will be able to socialise, just as I did before, and I will be able to look forward to, and enjoy, a delicious meal with my friends at work.
Do I think twice about attending work socials any more?
I think it was hard early on because I expected everyone in the food industry to know what vegan food was, how to cater for those of us who eat vegan, and do so without me having to make any extra effort.
Times have changed and so have I!
The number of businesses providing food that don't know what vegan means has reduced dramatically.
Those who are unable to be creative with menus or make something off the cuff, are few and far between, so going to work dos is no longer a challenge.
I'm also more willing to make the effort, be patient and explain what I will and won't eat, which makes a huge difference. I've lost the 'you should know' and 'why do I need to speak with you' attitude!
So being part of a large group who's eating out is no big deal any more. Actually, it's the opposite, it's a big deal, because it's so effortless now.
"Being a vegan just helps me build up my self-esteem. I feel good about it every time I eat a meal."