Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Vegan Bake Sale Bliss
There’s always something about the afterglow of a vegan bake sale that sustains me: I sometimes wonder how long I could live off the happy vibes of a vigorous bake sale. A couple of days, maybe even a week? The idea of people coming together, throwing their limited time and sincere efforts behind a grassroots, self-funded project to help others just feels so right and outright corrective when we’ve been so beaten down and destroyed about the state of the world. Of course vegan bake sales alone will not cure the world’s injustices or make suffering disappear. No one would claim that. It is something, though, and it’s more significant than it may seem on the surface. The all-or-nothing, binary brain tells us that what we do is a drop in the bucket and I wonder sometimes if we naturally default to this mentality because we’re already so disempowered by the state of things. The fact is that while we may not be superheroes or possess magic wands, we can still pick up our bowls, preheat our ovens, pour and whisk and roll for an hour or two and contribute toward a common goal: raising more money in the collective than we would be able to give as individuals. We can do this.
On a deeper level, efforts like a vegan bake sale are emboldening because they put us in the driver’s seat for creating something powerfully positive and humanitarian out of virtually nothing. It’s that great combination of self-reliance and a community coming together, of creativity, kinship, generosity and altruism all whirled up together that make the vegan bake sale spirit so infectious and addictive.
Mostly what I bask in, though, is just the uncomplicated affection I have for my community. This is the stuff that sustains me. On our way to the bake sale, the trunk packed (cookies, muffins, cupcakes, a cash box, bags, tongs, spatulas, and my big purse stuffed with lipstick, to-do lists, ingredient lists and my water bottle), I was so hyper to just be there already I had to concentrate on my deep breathing. Almost every weekday, I spend most of my time alone, really settling into a cushion of silence so I can concentrate on my writing projects. When the phone rings, it always gives me an unpleasant little jolt. When I have to actually answer it, I always roll my eyes in defiance first. During the monthly natural disaster test alarm with the eerie sirens, I tap my foot the whole minute, waiting for the disruption to end. I gulp down silence like water most days.
What this means is that over time, I can work myself up to a state of conversation near-deprivation. Yes, of course I have my family, but how many times can they listen to me rave about my latest obsessions and rant about my litany of complaints before I feel the need to work out my material before a fresh audience? Being a writer is a solitary, sometimes hermit-like life that I adore, but it does mean that the once or twice a month when I’m around my friends, they are in danger of having an avalanche of words and ideas bury them as well as witness a stream-of-consciousness-that-is-more-like-an-ocean pouring out of me. Being temperamentally right in the middle between introvert and extrovert, this occasional deluge is how I find a balance between my halves. This need to share is even more pronounced when I’m with my vegan friends.
For the most part, we get one another. There’s often a natural relaxing of our defenses when vegans are together: you hear this expressed whenever groups of us come together, with a sigh of relief, “I can just be myself.” We can talk about the new shoes we found, the shelter we volunteer at, vent about the upcoming meal out with the extended family (to be served “family style,” words that strike lightning bolts of fear and dread in the heart of any herbivore), the co-workers who make fun of us with the same predictable, stupid jokes every time. At the bake sale, for five hours we re-stocked the overflow of treats and talked about whatever flew into our heads: peanut and wheat allergies (they suck!), bullies (they also suck), whether tofu is kosher for a vegan Passover Seder (not if you’re Ashkenazi but it is if you’re Sephardic, so get with it), if gluten-free, vegan matzo balls were possible (perhaps, but we wouldn’t want to try them), raising vegan children (fabulous!). Being a minority of a minority in this culture of convenience and preference trumping ethics, those of us who have tuned into this lifestyle are treated like prissy pariahs who have crashed the bacchanal. It is so nice to be in an environment where we don’t need to explain ourselves, where our beliefs are not only appreciated and understood but shared. Everyone needs a place they are accepted. Among vegans, for the most part, I feel that I can let down my guard: I am among my people.
The thing that really gives me chills, though, is to remind myself that there are these dynamic, electric vegan communities virtually everywhere, in small towns and cities and everywhere you can imagine. I imagine them like satellites across the globe. We had just one little bake sale among many. Across the world, at vegan bake sales, trips to animal sanctuaries and fundraisers for advocacy non-profits, you will find cookbook authors, teachers, activists, artists, master gardeners, scientists, animal rehabilitators, lawyers, year-round bicyclists and social workers: people who are changing the world in large and small ways every day. We’re plugged into this amazing power source of renewable energy: the desire to bring more good into the world. I may be prejudiced, but I think that the sharing of this common denominator is what brings out the best of the best.
So, yes, on the surface it was just a bake sale. Like almost everything worthwhile, though, if you scratch the surface, you’ll find a whole lot more there.