I'm on a 3 day work retreat at the YMCA Trout Lodge in the Ozarks. This is my first time in the Ozarks and the scenery is picturesque.
I knew going in that it would likely be difficult to find vegan (and possibly even vegetarian options). I also knew that those options would likely not reflect my food consumption preferences; i.e. organic and sustainably raised. I made the decision to go vegan for the retreat to avoid the most egregious harms done to animals in factory farms. I sometimes consume dairy under the auspices of pasture-raised cows or goats which often times is probably more wishful thinking/denial than reality. Something I'm slowly facing. So slowly, that I allowed myself an exception at the retreat: cookies. (My father has been called "cookie monster"...it's a family weakness.)
Imagine my surprise and delight when the YMCA Trout Lodge labeled our food the first night "vegan" and offered vegan lunch boxes that included hummus sandwiches on gluten-free, vegan bread. The vegan dinner options that first night didn't include protein and were mostly soy sauce noodles with carrots, bagged salad and cooked carrots, but they were labeled and light years beyond my first work retreat experience more than a decade ago when as a vegetarian I was served a half a head of cauliflower steamed with no seasoning or sides.
After that first night, the lodge continued to offer something for vegans to eat. Though one gets a little tired of hummus and plain tofu isn't really that tasty on a salad bar in my opinion, I appreciated having the protein options for my largely vegetable based meals. However, if you've been to an all day work meeting that really does go more than 8 hours you know they usually ply you with lots of sugar and snacks to stay focused and satisfied. Without those options (except for a cookie here and there) and with the largely veggie based meals, by the middle of day 2 I was noticing myself getting a irritable.
Just as I was about to call in all my chips to get a large bag of nuts a colleague had squirreled away for the trip, I had a heartening conversation with one of the YMCA staff (who were all very friendly and seemed to really be trying to be accommodating) in which she hinted she was working on a lentil stew for dinner that would be vegan.
As you may know, lentils are one of my least favorite beans, but that lady knows how to make a delicious lentil stew. She served it with a vegan rice pilaf that included some wild rice, mixed vegetables and I felt like I was queen (rather than a prima donna)
The people at this work retreat share my concerns about climate change, so I will continue to encourage them to at least make it easy to eat a diet that minimizes its impacts on the climate and planet.