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Vegan Began

December 20, 2016

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.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2016 12:17 pm

    I love that you just dissed DD, because most of the time I feel like I’m the only person who just doesn’t feel it. Also, speaking of Berben & Wolff, have you tried their chicken wings? They are–without a doubt–absolutely spectacular, but I guess only if you’re into the boneless type (which I happen to be a reluctant fan of). I wanted to buy some in bulk, but still haven’t heard back from them. Maybe you could do a bit of exploring when you’re there? Enjoy! The Reuben is my (non-pushy) vegan friend’s favorite.

  2. Jack C. permalink
    December 20, 2016 12:35 pm

    If given the choice between Starbucks and DD, I’ll go DD every. damn. time. I’ve tried everything at Starbucks. The only thing that comes close to palatable is the flat white, but it’s so damn expensive for plain mediocrity. So give me that cheap cup of DD with a bit of sugar and a flavor shot to add some flavor (the coffee is mostly flavorless otherwise). Their food is atrocious, sure, but the coffee isn’t so awful for what it is and how much it costs.

    • December 20, 2016 12:36 pm

      I need to get you one of those McDonald’s gift cards. The McD’s coffee is better then DD by a mile.

      • David Nardolillo permalink
        December 30, 2016 9:26 pm

        My beef with DD locally is that it is not significantly cheaper than Starbucks. I remember a recent trip to Chicago where a large DD coffee was $1.95. Good luck trying to find the local franchisees offering it for less than $2.55.

        Not a fan of McDonald’s coffee. Spend your gift card on the french fries.

  3. Lacey Putnam permalink
    December 20, 2016 3:02 pm

    I appreciate your positivity about vegans and the vegan diet. I grew up a Long Island Jew from Brooklyn parents. I ate deli food, chopped liver and creamy noodle pudding that my grandmother made with cottage and ricotta cheese. My husband grew up in the Midwest. Steaks every day. Chicken fried steak and Sunday roasts at his grandmothers home.
    We chose to become vegan because we just didn’t feel good about how animals are treated in the dairy and meat industry. It’s been 16 years now and I don’t ever regret this decision. I also am not one to preach or make others feel badly about not being vegan. It’s the easiest way to turn someone away from any change. I grew up on guilt, it doesn’t create lasting change.
    Eating the “fake” foods and trying to move past desiring these foods is a process for many vegans. It takes time to learn how to cook wonderful vegan meals that are wholesome and delicious and free of any “fake” meats or cheeses. Also, many of us did grow up on the real thing and miss those familiar tastes. Food smells and flavors are so strongly connected to our memories, at least for me, and I find comfort in familiar scents and tastes.
    So, not sure how this helps or if it makes any difference in how you or others feel about veganism. I know that I just try to be a good, kind and tolerant person. I am happy you are enjoying some vegan food and thinking about what it all means. If you ever have any questions, never hesitate to ask.

    • Peggy permalink
      December 21, 2016 10:27 am

      As a fellow local vegan, I just love this comment. Reflects so much of my own journey.

  4. December 22, 2016 2:34 pm

    Eeek. Sorry. I don’t think I helped with my comment. I had more thoughts on the subject, but didn’t want to get into a fight with someone I don’t know. (Or maybe I do? That’s the problem with Internet handles.) Mostly because I agree with everything you wrote here. I am not interested in going vegan for a number of reasons, but I respect the choice and don’t need people to defend it to me. As I said in my comment, there are a lot of really solid reasons for going vegan. But I feel like veganism is like religion in the sense of, “Hey man, that’s cool. You do you.” No one likes being evangelized or judged.

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