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The Omnivorous Vegan

March 15, 2016

Like most Americans, I can’t ever imagine myself becoming vegan. My reasons probably have less to do with bacon, and more with eggs and dairy. I just see animal products and their byproducts as a sensible use of resources.

Admittedly, I know almost nothing about the realities of farming. But I do have some lovely romanticized notions about it. Largely these come from the popular food culture commentators of our day.

A common refrain is that backyard chickens are a fantastic way to turn food scraps into eggs. And on certain terrain where pasture will grow but crops will not thrive, cows, sheep, and goats can graze and provide us with their milk for butter and cheese.

Of course there is the dark side of dairy, which involves the young animals that would otherwise be receiving their mother’s milk. I mentioned this to Little Miss Fussy once and she welled up with tears. And while my own mother would surely disagree with me, I think it’s important to be transparent about where food comes from.

This issue of transparency isn’t mine alone. And I have a feeling that it’s the driving force behind the trend of more omnivores eating vegan.

There seems to be a race to the bottom in the production of large scale meat and dairy. And it’s driven largely by corporate greed and a lack of government oversight. The farmers are the ones who seem to be caught in the middle. But in the end we all suffer.

So now we have a two tiered food system.

We have the stuff that’s cheap and mass produced. Where it comes from is anyone’s guess. Perhaps two cuts of meat have been glued together to form a steak. Maybe it’s been tenderized by nearly invisible needles which have pushed surface bacteria into the center of a steak. That single tube of hamburger meat could contain bits of hundreds of cows from multiple countries.

Thankfully, we also have the good stuff. I love my unhomogenized milk that’s produced from a single herd of local grassfed Jersey cows. But the price per gallon of that stuff is out of reach for most people, unless they started making significant sacrifices to their overall standard of living. And these kinds of better ingredients aren’t widely available when eating at restaurants. Or maybe a restaurant will print a farm’s name on the menu, but no longer buy from that great small producer.

Ask the small producers. That happens all the time.

So people have started to opt out. They’re sick of it. And I don’t blame them. I think there are a lot of people like me out there who don’t fundamentally have a moral problem with eating meat. However, they see the way sentient creatures can be treated on large farms. They’ve seen the lakes of manure, and the impossibly large barns which house an almost inconceivable number of animals. They see the price of a pound of chicken and wonder how it can be less than a pound of onions.

And then they see the vegan hamburger. It’s reasonably priced. It takes a familiar form to the food they know. And good ones are pretty damn tasty. And look over there, it’s a vegan chicken wing. Sure, it’s fried seitan, but it’s slathered in spicy sauce, and it scratches the itch of something hot, crisp, and fiery. They go great with beer, which is was pretty much why anyone ever decided to eat chicken wings in the first place.

Heck, a lot of things I make are accidentally vegan. And I can see transitioning into a form of cooking at home where I cook mostly vegan with an occasional bit of small-farm dairy or eggs added to supplement the meal. It’s not that ideologically dissimilar to cooking mostly vegetarian with meat being used as a flavoring agent, instead of putting it in the center of the plate.

I’m thrilled that All Over Albany has a new vegan food correspondent. Her name is Cristin Steding, and she now has her own tag over on AOA. My favorite local website will soon be celebrating its eighth birthday. These are always great parties, where you can meet all kinds of interesting people.

In the past I’ve gone with at least the name of one person I want to meet. This year, Cristin is at the top of my list. So she better be there. And I hear a rumor that Ric Orlando is going to be making his seitan wings too, which is exciting because I’ve been meaning to try those for years.

If you’re able to score a ticket to the party, make sure to swing by and say hi.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lorraine Lewandrowski permalink
    March 15, 2016 10:33 am

    To me, the word “vegan” means hate of the farmers. It stands for death threats, taunting, mocking, emails with photos of guns pointed in my face. It means warnings that I should “keep an eye on the children who show cows,” that I should wait for the day my farm “will be burned to the ground.”
    And, yes, I do take newborn calves away from their mother. I put them in clean nurseries with other babies their size. They drink milk from their mothers that we milk out by hand, warmed up and fed to them in the precise amount they need so I can make sure they get what they need. The last time I left a calf with its mother on a five acre maternity pasture, I returned to find the mother cow had stepped on the soft part of the calf’s stomach, crushed it. My vet sister was at Cornell. Another vet came to euthanize it.
    I am sure the new vegan bloggers will have a field day directing rank hatred towards the farmers of rural NY. Dairy farm auctions are accelerating here in my area. Sprawl and more split up farms taste bitter.

    • March 15, 2016 10:42 am

      I understand what you are saying. And those people are jerks. But I think there is a new wave of people eating vegan who are not part of that dichotomy. I see “ethical omnivores” having a harder time making good, clean choices out in the world. Vegan than becomes more of a convenient shorthand than an ideological battle cry.

    • March 15, 2016 12:49 pm

      I can only speak for myself – but being a vegan should not mean demonizing others. I don’t ever intend on threatening or taunting anyone based on their choices, and I hope for the same in return. Not all vegans are bad – just like all farms aren’t bad either! :)

    • March 15, 2016 1:21 pm

      Lorraine–sounds like you met the wrong vegans!

      I’m a vegan blogger who would never say a bad word about farmers. I harbor no secret hatred and I would sooner die than destroy property. My mom grew up on a farm that included dairy and beef. My uncle still farms. I ate most everything for my first 33 years. Vegan only for the last 16 years. Zero judgment.

      I am not alone. None of the vegans I know are militant or hateful, and I know a bunch of them. They are people who at this moment in their lives try to live with a little less impact on the planet and its inhabitants.

      Introduce me to the bad seeds you’ve met and I will give them a good tongue lashing.

      Take care.

      P.S. I applaud you for writing under your name. I always do as well. I wish more did.

  2. March 15, 2016 12:01 pm

    I will be at AoA’s birthday party! As you’d probably expect, I have a lot of feeeeeelings about ethical eating. And also the idea that all vegans are pushy jerks, which I think is an outdated stereotype.

    Looking forward to talking to you!

    PS. It’s very strange and cool to see my name on your blog

  3. March 15, 2016 1:49 pm

    P.S.S. Daniel: Did you post the Lorraine comment to distract me from giving you the business? If so, well played! If not, thanks anyway for sharing your thoughts. I’d write more but I should go put drops in the eyes of my “resource.” ; )

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