Here's What Happens When a Vegan Goes to Texas

Out of all the places on earth for me to wind up going vegan, Los Angeles was a very lucky spot. I quit animal products about three months ago, and though at first it seemed like I’d resigned to a life of carrots and hummus, I soon learned that L.A. has much more to offer. Fifteen minutes from my apartment sits a gourmet vegan cheese shop, specializing in exclusively dairy-free bries and gorgonzolas. A famed bakery offering the most mouthwatering vegan cupcakes conceivable is just a five-minute Lyft ride away. Servers at every restaurant in the area are quick to field questions like, "Is there any whey in the bread bowl?" and "Instead of the shrimp, can we do extra avocado?"

Anywhere else, I’m almost embarrassed to say I’m vegan. My friends from New York think it’s a bummer; my family members from the deep south think it’s a disorder. But here in L.A., veganism is not only convenient, it’s fun. It’s hip. It’s what all the models and celebrities are doing. I tell people I’m vegan, and they jovially invite me out to get juice sometime. A vegan in Southern California is like a salmon in the Columbia River: at home.

I admit, I take it for granted. My friend Shaina, who recently moved to Australia, says veganism is even a million times harder in Sydney than it is in L.A.

“Wow, imagine how hard it must be somewhere like Texas,” I joked via text.

Except then, no one was laughing. Because a few weeks later, I was assigned to spend a long weekend in Austin for work—a town world-famous for its barbecue, Tex-Mex, and historical lack of vegans.

“Vegan in Austin… expect to eat all the guacamole,” warned fellow vegan and Byrdie editor Victoria. I nervously laughed and packed a Luna bar in my carry-on. This was going to be interesting.

I had to wonder, is a plant-based lifestyle realistic outside of Los Angeles? To follow one newbie vegan’s journey to the land of ribs and chili con carne, keep reading!

Want more vegan adventures? Read about how social media changed my diet forever.