I don't know what your Facebook feed looked like on Tuesday, but mine definitely had a trend - the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The fervor was so strong that I think there may have been an unofficial parade for it.
Even before I went fully vegan, it had been awhile since I had a milk based drink at Starbucks. I am a big fan of their Zen teas and their snacks, especially when I'm traveling for work, but Frappucinos and lattes never really sat well in my stomach. And, for the longest time, I didn't think I could have soy milk. But, today, when I went in with my co-workers today to grab a bag of roasted almonds, I saw that that their soy milk is organic (and thus GMO-free). So, I thought I'd try the Pumpkin Spice Latte with soy milk and no whipped cream.
I tried it and I liked it. I was all set to blog about it. But, then a voice in the back of my head said "Before you blog about this yummy vegan drink you had, maybe you should confirm that it's actually vegan."
My first stop was the Starbucks website. They have a handy dandy nutrition calculator, but I couldn't easily find ingredients on their site. So, I googled.
My answer? Vegan? Not so much. Nope.
Rather than hem and haw about this, I'd like to pass on a few thoughts that you can apply in general to your own vegan journey.
1. If it matters, do the research. Just because something looks like it's animal product free, doesn't mean it is. And if you feel strongly enough about eating any animal products, or if you have food sensitivities, it's worth the time to ask. Read Don't Kill the Birthday Girl to learn more about where milk and caesin can lurk, especially if you have food sensitivities (plus - it's a great book!). Thanks to social media and websites, it's usually easy to get that information. And if an eating establishment won't respond to your customer concerns, do you really want to eat there? Although I wish Starbucks had a truly vegan coffee option, I do credit them for being forthright and responsive about customer ingredients.
2. It's not the end of the world as we know it. So, I had some condensed milk. While I'm not happy about it, I'll move on. Just like if you decide to go vegan and have a little bit of cheese or bacon or what have you, either inadvertently or by choice, don't beat yourself up about it. I fully commend folks that have the commitment to be fully vegan, lifestyle and all. But, like any eating plan, going "off plan" once doesn't mean you're "off plan" forever. From just going Meatless Monday to cutting back on animal product consumption, you are making a big difference. I'll quote Gene Bauer again - "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good." Chalk it up to a learning experience. If you ate it with intention, allow yourself to meditate on why you made the decision, how you felt afterwards and be at peace with it. If you ate it inadvertently, see #1 and be at peace with it.
3. Conversations Matter. One of the comments on the Your Daily Vegan Post above essentially said "you had a little milk - get over it." If you follow a vegan diet, you're going to run into this type of conversation at some point. Use this as an opportunity to patiently explain why you've made the choices you've made, and how many great animal product free options there are out there. Just like you don't want people to judge you for making vegan choices, don't judge those who aren't up for a vegan lifestyle, or aren't "vegan enough" for you. Everyone's on a different journey. Let's all make a vegan lifestyle as accessible as possible.
When it comes down to it, I won't be consuming another pumpkin spice latte in it's current form because a)It's too much sugar for me and b)I feel better when I'm 100% dairy free. To get my pumpkin goodness, I may try this pumpkin spice breakfast shake.