My daughter, Gracie, and I love treating ourselves to Indian take-out, especially since the vegan options are plentiful. On New Year’s Eve, we ordered all our favorites. We were spending the evening together, just the two of us. My husband works every year and, normally, we’d be with him in New York City but, the pandemic had other plans for us. The Indian food was a special thing we could do to make the night fun and assuage some of the disappointment of missing out on more festive activities.
Our spicy feast included aloo gobi, chana masala, samosas, basmati rice, and, of course, naan bread. I have always loved naan bread and, until New Year’s Eve, it never occurred to me to research whether or not it was vegan. As it turns out, it is NOT! I learned this shortly after we arrived at a local restaurant to pick up the order I had called in earlier in the day. It was in the bag when I off-handedly asked if the garlic naan was vegan, for future reference. The charmingly friendly hostess informed me that none of the naan is vegan because it’s made using a bit of milk and eggs. She educated us on the alternative and we added it to our order, although she ended up giving it to us free of charge. Did I mention her charm? We were very grateful for the education and the vegan naan alternative but, of course, we still had the naan that was part of our original order sitting in our bag. What do we do with it?
Gracie and I talked about it on our way home. As you may have guessed, these kinds of conversations are like oxygen for me and Gracie is often a more-than-willing participant with a unique perspective I admire. We determined that there were two main issues. First, is there an ethical dilemma in consuming the bread? We learned an important lesson and will never order it again but, the fact remains that the mistakenly ordered bread was in our possession. Someone was harmed in the making of it but, who is harmed in consuming it now that it’s here and who would be helped if we give or throw it away? We figured that, from an ethical standpoint, it only matters at the earlier stages of the consumption process. Once it reaches a certain point, the damage is done, and moving forward makes no difference.
Second, let’s say we accept that at this stage, there is no ethical dilemma with consuming the bread, do we face a psychological struggle to actually eat it? Now that I know the truth, my beloved naan does not seem quite so appetizing. For me, this was easy – I don’t want to eat it. Gracie felt similarly but was a little more on the fence. Gracie took a nibble but left most of it. I didn’t press her on the reason. She had already eaten plenty and was perhaps full. As I put away our leftovers, I considered tossing the remaining bread but then thought, what about food waste? Isn’t throwing it away the pinnacle of privilege? I can afford my ideals. This also left me feeling icky.
This experience reminded me that being vegan is not perfect. Even after years of being vegan, I still make mistakes. I try to learn and modify my behavior. I try to be patient with myself while putting what I believe is an appropriate amount of pressure to change for the better.
What do you think? What would you have done? Have you ever had a similar experience? Use my Contact page to reach out to me.
Photo by Syed F Hashemi on Unsplash