When you become a vegan, some of your greatest losses become evident to you immediately: scrambled eggs, Lucky Charms, any form of chocolate not made of rice milk. Others take some time to surface: the ability to blend in at BBQs, the freedom to not be ‘that annoying vegan woman’ (“But, do you have anything vegan?”), and, for me, donuts.
You see, I never truly appreciated donuts while I could still eat them. At some point I decided that they were too greasy for me (which is big talk coming from someone who used to eat onion rings on the daily), and so I stopped eating them. I never thought about them. I could care less about them.
A couple of years ago, my sister and I went to Voodoo Donuts on a weekend trip to Portland (a mandatory stop for any vegan on a food adventure in Oregon. When we told the guy at the counter that 1) we were tourists and 2) we didn’t know what to get, he got us the second biggest box around (their biggest box is shaped like a mini coffin, which probably would’ve been more appropriate, considering the fact that my donut willpower died that day), and he filled it with every vegan donut option that they had.
My sister and I brought it back to the hotel. We opened the box. The smell was enough to make us delirious. We rolled around on the bed. We moaned. We giggled. I can only imagine what the couple in the next room was thinking. (“Sounds like someone’s having a good vacation,” They laugh, bumping elbows and raising their eyebrows suggestively. Unseen, next door, my sister and I bounce and moan around a pink box holding 20+ donuts).
I ate one. I ate three. I ate five. I had a borderline religious experience with a Chocolate Glaze.
I was converted. A True Donut Believer.
So, when I found out that there was a donut shop that 1) sold vegan donuts and 2) was two blocks away from my work in Vancouver, I was in trouble. Big, fat, butt-lumping trouble.
I went to Cartems Donuterie probably 20 out of the 30 days that month. I brought different co-workers along, convincing myself that I was just converting the masses to the sweet, holy goodness of vegan donuts. I bought full boxes, brought them home, and shared them with my dad and my sister. I texted one of my friends telling her that I was going to Cartems and she said, “Of course you are.” It became expected. Big red boxes were a fixture in my cubicle, my house, my heart.
It was a beautiful time.
One day, I walked up to the counter, prepared to engage in another generic cashier/cashee interaction. (“Hi, how are you?” “I’m good. I’ll take all of the donuts ever made”).
Instead, before I even opened my mouth, the cashier gave me a small, sad smile and said, “Sorry, we don’t have any vegan donuts today.”
I stopped five steps away from the counter, torn between the tragedy that they were out of vegan donuts and the (possibly greater) tragedy that I was known at a donut store.
I mean, looking back at it, it was really just good customer service. Like, I’d be concerned if they didn’t recognize the woman who was borderline stalking them. But, there are just certain places where you want to blend in, right? The Immodium aisle, looking for Depends (for your great grandmother, okay?), the Dinosaur Erotica section of the bookstore (because apparently that exists), and the donut store.
I saw myself through the cashier’s eyes. I was That Vegan Donut Lady. The one who needs a warning when we’ve sold out of vegan donuts, because who knows what a person that souped up on sugar is capable of?
After stumbling out of the store, I entered a self-imposed two week Cartems exile. There’s just something about being recognized in a place that sells luxury donuts that makes you reevaluate your life choices.
It was a dark time.
Two weeks later, I walked back into Cartems, eyes turned to the ground, wearing what I believed to be an effective disguise (basically, I was wearing a different coat).
She was behind the glass counter. The one who knew me.
“What can I get for you today?” She asked.
No, “It’s the Vegan Donut Lady!” or “Our sales have really suffered since you mysteriously disappearance.” Not even a knowing “hello.”
I exhaled. My disguise (different coat) and my two week exile seemed to be working. I was blending in.
I ordered half a dozen donuts (for me and my family, okay?). All I had to do was pay and walk out the door. Just another anonymous donut shopper with a big red box clutched to her chest.
Everything was right again.
“I haven’t seen you in a while.”