It’s not surprising that in a country that is known as much for its love of hamburgers as it is its love of cars, guns, and football, that those who adhere to a diet free of meat and a life devoid of any animal-sourced product might feel a bit on guard about commentary on their lifestyle.
Vegans take a lot of shit. And that sucks. If you see a vegan, please don’t be a jerk.
One of the things I hear a lot locally is that it’s the vegans who are the folks who will incessantly go on and on about veganism. But should you happen to encounter one or two of these people out on your journey, please realize how exhausting it has to be, continually explaining and defending your choices.
I have a lot of respect for vegans. I do. It’s a badass commitment to make, and I’m thrilled that we’ve got more places locally opening up shop to serve this community. Personally I’m not quite ready to go vegan, but sometimes it’s tempting when I’m launching into one of my diets.
The reason I bring this up is because last week there was a little scuffle on the subject.
Let’s roll back the clock a bit, since this all goes back to a question about Berben and Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen. As luck so has it, I’m actually going there tonight. Because, while I may not be a vegan, eating lower on the food chain has a certain appeal to me. Look, if I can eat something delicious without something having to die for my pleasure and nutrition, that’s a happy bonus.
Right or wrong, I also feel that those vegan meals I eat help to atone for those omnivorous ones. Sure, I like to try and eat more sustainably sourced protein, but sometimes I just want a giant sub from Capri Imports in Schenectady, and suck down a shocking volume of conventional deli meat.
But tonight I’m looking forward to a vegan Reuben, which will be my first one at this locally loved place. The vegan Cuban didn’t quite do it for me, but it was a tasty sandwich. One of my friends called it, “junk food for vegans”.
A long time ago, we talked about this on the blog, and that inspired a question, which I finally got around to answering last week. This is how that went.
LorreS asks a couple of questions, but the second one is easier than the first:
Why do vegan chefs need to do “fakes” ? Why would a vegan chef even try to do something like a Cubano without even going as far as using Cuban bread?
Cuban bread is made with lard. Without the lard, it isn’t Cuban bread. So, even if you made the sandwich with fake meat, you couldn’t make a vegan version of a Cubano without compromising on the roll. So that’s easy. As far as why vegans make fake foods? Well, I guess it’s because most people aren’t born vegans, and sometimes people miss some of the dishes they sacrificed to a higher ethical standard. I can’t blame them, and some of these vegan versions can be delicious.
Perhaps that language was a little loose. When I wrote “most people aren’t born vegans” the intent of that statement was to acknowledge that most vegans haven’t grown up their entire lives eating a vegan diet.
Are there vegans in America who have been vegan since day one? Probably. But most aren’t. Maybe someday that will change. Today, in the US, that’s just the reality on the ground.
The response I got to my answer above from Trusted Commenter was intense.
Hey, this is the Internet. Some people can get a little snippy. It’s happened to me in the past. I’ve burnt a bridge or two in my day over internet comments. But I get it. And I’m not going to get into an argument about whether or not people are born vegan or which of our dietary preferences are biological versus cultural.
I’ve got no problem with the small scale farmer who knows all the animals on the farm by name. Those animals are treated well, and they are an important part of the land. That’s where I’d like to get my meat, eggs, and dairy. I want the animals I eat to be valued as a life, and not simply a commodity.
It’s been a long time since my old world history class. But I seem to recall that the cradle of civilization was the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. By giving up our hunter and gatherer ways, domesticating animals, and becoming agrarian, we were finally able to spend more time figuring out social structures and developing technology.
This was before the FDA or the Beef Council had any sway on our dietary choices.
Surely, there are some places where living vegan are easier than others. The twelve month growing season of California makes the Golden State an obvious choice. But there are other mediterranean climates around the world where fruits, grains, and legumes are abundant. For while it might be possible to be a vegan in Alaska, if you believed in environmental sustainability, the Alaskan vegan might have a harder time sleeping at night.
We all have to make choices. We have to make the best choices for us. And I try to be accepting of others as possible. There are only a few bright lines that I draw. One of them happens to be Dunkin’ Donuts, because vegan or not, if you’re eating anything there, you’re making a horrible mistake.