Getting the look of pity; or, as a vegan, abstaining from the new Starbucks food really isn’t that bad.

by nomeatbarefeet

I have worked at Starbucks for over 10 years. Of that, I have been vegan for about 2. More often than not, then, I have been able to eat the various food while at work. Once I decided to give up all animal products I had to give up my regular “sampling” of pastries which, let’s be honest here, is not something that I really miss. Our food isn’t terrible, I just have never understood why people go ga-ga for it. They drive out of their way for a lemon or pumpkin loaf; they crap themselves for a cranberry bliss bar; they shed a tear when we don’t have anymore cake pops. Sure, I can understand wanting a little snack or a treat for ones self, but I have worked the counter long enough to see when some is genuinely upset and distraught…and it happens more than you would think.

That being said, Starbucks is completely redoing their pastries—making their largest every investment in food—since having acquired the bakery La Boulange last year. I think it is fair to say that, for the most part, food has always been an after thought. And whatever you think of the lack of available vegan fare—basically zilch—it is promising that “25 percent of all offerings will be customized to individual markets. That means adjustments like using apples from upstate New York in caramelized apple cakes for New York City and offering sausage roll sandwiches in Chicago.” (Huffington Post) I have always been critical of Starbucks’ lack of local sourcing, so this is certainly a step in the right direction.

The look of pity comes, or better yet it came when our store partners met to sample and discuss the coming changes. Everyone at my store knows I’m vegan; they all have my back, and friendly joking aside some have gone out of their way to combat comments from customers that were…um, slightly uncouth (albeit said absent of the knowledge of my veganism). Because I couldn’t partake, I became the warmer/server (which was fine). When someone asked if I could have any of the new pastries and I replied that I couldn’t, I then got the usual “Oh no” along with the I’m-sad-for-you look.

Now, let me first say that I don’t think anyone actually meant to pity me. They know where I stand, and I have made it known that I don’t miss meat, let alone eggs, milk, and butter.

The feeling, however, is one that I often sense: that I am “missing out” on the experience (which I’m not); or that somehow I will feel “left out” (which I don’t).

To be sure, the irony of working with gallons of milk, of serving a substance that I believe to not only be unnecessary but possibly harmful…well, it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed to me. I have to stand behind beverages that I cannot ingest, and foods that I cannot offer any advice or personal preference on. This, more than anything else, is beginning to wear on me. Do I continue to work at a job that purveys animal products? Do I continue to take pride in making drinks, selling pastries, crafting repartee with people, even though I am opposed to the very ingredients that I am handing out? Isn’t it hypocritical? Doesn’t it smack of falling into an established bracketing of my beliefs?

These are tough questions that I don’t have answers to. What I can say is this: I am not upset that I can’t have the new La Boulange pastries, and I am unequivocally not feeling left out by not being able to participate. Just as I don’t miss animal products, I don’t miss Starbucks pastries…even less so! If Starbucks finally decides to sell a vegan food option I will be the first to try and get behind it. I hope that they decide to move in that direction, even if it is slowly.

Until then I will continue to ask myself the hard questions that force me to reassess my beliefs. I just hope that others would have the courage to do the same thing.

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