Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Have you been feeling a little attention starved lately? Do you have a sinking feeling that the social media gravy train is leaving the station and worry because you’re not a celebrity yet? (How did this not happen???) Is your YouTube channel mostly just filled with comments from your mother and the occasional foot fetishist? Has your blog centered around pugs making pithy comments on Mid-Century Modern furniture not resulted in the lucrative book deal you were hoping for yet?
Friend, it may be time for you to learn how you can “go vegan” and then quit it for fame and fortune. I see your confusion: Wait -- what? Really, it’s true. The beauty of this plan is its sheer simplicity and elegant economy: all you need to do is embrace veganism and then dump it like a demanding, high-strung boyfriend who bosses you around all day. The key to monetizing your putative vegan lifestyle is to have a very public breakup with it that the public will be eager to applaud. I will provide the template of what you need to do but turning it into a profit-making venture is up to you.
1. Go Vegan and Get Fans
Okay, don’t freak out: you don’t really need to go vegan but you should at least leave a photo trail of green smoothies and massaged kale salads on Instagram or wherever. Think aspirational. Think branding opportunities. Think of a glass of cantaloupe juice in a Ball jar on your balcony ledge with the sun rising behind it. Project your life to the public as if you were the living embodiment of a vision board cut exclusively from Anthropologie and Free People catalogs. Ask yourself, what would Lana Del Rey do if she were a future ex-vegan with a sunnier disposition? Experiment with the most retro-quaint filter you can get on your Instagram (maybe Toaster or 1977) and take pictures of every single thing you eat and drink as long as it’s imbued with virtue. If what you photograph is not aspirational, choose a better filter and embellish with a pretty vintage spoon or embroidered cloth napkin. Get some clouds in the background, maybe some sand, put your feet in the shot once in a while (make sure you’ve had a decent pedicure) and Photoshop some simple words on the pictures. Think metro-meets-retro. Just when you think you’ve added too many hashtags, slap on a few more. If you really want this to pay off for you, ex-vegan, you’ve go to big or go home. Writing in complete sentences is an impediment to getting a lot of fans, which should be your entire objective at this point. Some examples: #raw, #greensmoothie, #kaleaholic, #fallinlovewithyourself, #detox, #juicing, #veganforlife, #ihavenoideawhatimsaying, #blessed, #livingthelife. At this point, you feel sooooooo great and you should have fans who think you are just phenomenal.
Start out slow but eventually you will need to go really overboard with dietary restrictions that have nothing to do with veganism. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Anything that you can cut out, cut it out. (Or just pretend that you did.) Develop a sudden but intense aversion to nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, oil, sugar, salt, gluten, nightshades, garlic, combining fruits and vegetables, water that isn’t reverse-osmosis filtered, and on and on. Connect it to your veganism even though there are no connections. As far as the viewing public is concerned, your life is still #blessed and you are still #healthyandhappy. (And the foreshadowing strings would commence...NOW.)
3. Suffer in Silence
At Stage Three, you will still need to commit to at least a couple of months more of your public life as a vegan and it is during this time when you will want to start to falter. Break a nail. Stub your toe. Twist your ankle. Get a stuffy nose. Grow an eyebrow hair that is just too long. In retrospect, you will say that this was all unprecedented and almost certainly linked to your diet because it had never happened before. Meanwhile, keep posting images of your green smoothies with the retro-quaint filter and the aspirational hashtags. #Partoftheprocess. Know that when you start the Fourth Stage, you will need to claim that during the Third Stage, behind the scenes and cloaked in secrecy, you were actually terrified and perhaps even dying of malnutrition and maybe even a chlorophyll-induced psychosis. Your family was scared. Your high-speed blender seemed to have evil intentions. Looking back at Stage Three, be sure to claim that late at night, when you weren’t staring at the ceiling in the clutches of a panic attack brought on by nutritional deficiencies, you had visions of a steak, rare and bloody, dancing through your head. You were so ashamed.
This is where you will begin living as a non-vegan again, though not online yet. Start out by eating cage-free eggs. You will say that they tasted “so good” but also that you “hated yourself.” You will have to claim to notice that this gave you energy again and your period magically reappeared and your ankle stopped being sprained and you just had a sudden glow that people stopped to tell you about. In your break-up letter to veganism in Step Five, you will claim that you couldn’t just stop at eggs and so at this stage, you will put on your sunglasses, wrap a scarf all dramatically but stylishly around your hair (think Sophia Loren in a spy movie circa 1958) and buy some meat at the most adorable farmers market in town, the one where all the farmers are so friendly and kind. You will hide it in your bag - or claim to (again, facts are not all that relevant here) - and eat the chicken or the steak or whatever in secrecy in your apartment. Again, repeat that it tasted “so good” and you “hated yourself” but also that you couldn’t stop yourself. Your story here is that at this point, you started to tell a few trusted friends. They will support your decision, saying that they were so worried about how skinny-obsessive-weird you were getting. With each bite of meat, you will claim to feel less guilty and more relieved.
A. You will claim to talk to others like you, people who lived as vegans but in fact were living a double-life. They were too scared to talk in public about it, though.
B. You will claim that by owning your truth, you will help help liberate others who have been oppressively shackled by the vegan powers that be. Attach this to a hazily articulated feminist-but-not-all-feminist-like-you-don’t-shave belief. Think Beyonce.
5. Renounce Your Veganism
Publicly break up with veganism. This is where it starts getting fun. Write a long, melodramatic, nonsensical screed - again, the words don’t really matter - where you say that you are so very scared of the backlash (rest assured that you will, in fact, mostly be told again and again how brave you are) but you need to “listen to your body.” Say that you can now see that you were starving, losing your mind, your family, your friends and your chance to have babies in the future because of this crazy diet. Now instead of being vegan, you are seeking sanity and farm-fresh eggs, hormone-free meat and dairy. Some key buzzwords/hashtags to hammer again and again: #balance, #listeningtomybody, #balanceisthenewblack, #vegansarebullies, #itsonlyfood, #joy, #wholehealth, #sorrynotsorry. You refuse to be silenced anymore by the vegan mafia. (Act like there really is a vegan mafia after you.)
Okay, how you will now exploit it next is up to you. Shop your story around. Post it to your thousands of fans (you’ve acquired them by now, right?). Say “balance” and “my body told me” again and again for good measure. You can’t say it enough. Remember that 97 - 98% of the population is very comforted by your message. And if Good Morning America and People Magazine don’t come calling? If you don’t get a book deal from a big publishing house for a tell-all about your four harrowing months and near-death experience as a deprived vegan? I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you can try medical billing from home. Apparently there’s still some money in that.
Thanks for visiting my humble blog. Please visit my website for vegan recipes, tips, interviews, reviews, message gear and much more.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
One of my very favorite aspects of being involved in our community is getting to know some truly impressive people. From way back when we started Vegan Street in its first incarnation to the revitalized one we created last year, I've had the great fortune of meeting these people in person whom I had previously only admired from afar. Very rarely has the person disappointed in the flesh. Today's interview subject, the first of this series that I plan to do twice a month, is no exception.
I met Allison Rivers Samson of Allison's Gourmet earlier this month at Vegetarian Summerfest. As someone who has been active in the movement since before I first got involved in the mid-1990s, it was a pleasure to meet Allison in person. With big dimples (I think she should insure these through Lloyd's of London or something) and an elfin grin, beautiful sugar-and-cocoa hair (her version of salt-and-pepper, but also with purple frosting), bright eyes and a cheerful demeanor, Allison is a warm and vivacious ambassador for the vegan movement, which is so often unfairly characterized as being about pleasure denial. With her focus on creating voluptuous treats that are both ethically sourced and unapologetically pleasurable, Allison has proven that we can enjoy the best of both worlds without any sacrifice to our ethics or our enjoyment. It had been a real honor to get to know Allison. I am thrilled for you to get to know her, too. (Please check out her videos to see those dimples for yourself!)
Today we will be starting a contest that will run through July 30 at midnight Pacific time: please let us know your favorite comfort food you'd love to see veganized in the comments below and you could win a free download of Allison's popular e-cookbook, Comfortably Yum. If you don't win, don't despair because there is something for everyone: anyone who orders between now and July 30 at midnight Pacific time will get $3.00 off Comfortably Yum with the code VEGANSTREET. Get in on it!
1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?
ARS: Growing up, I learned less of a passion for food than a disordered way of eating and relating to food, from the various diets my mom and her parents regularly took up and discussed. While I didn’t know anyone who enjoyed food and cooking, my maternal grandparents did spend time in the kitchen, there just didn’t seem to be much joy around it. As an only child of a single mother, I was a latch-key kid and ate a lot of TV dinners. When I became old enough to cook, I made mac ’n cheese from a box, Steak-Umms, and junk I wouldn’t remotely refer to as food nowadays.
At the age of 15, I moved from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle and had a lifestyle shift as drastic as the shift in climate and I began to gain weight. Throughout my childhood, I had listened to my family of origin struggling so much with weight that I wondered if that was a predestined path that I had no power over. A short while later, a friend of mine told me about Fit for Life, which was focused on food combining. I quickly realized that it would be easier to do as a vegetarian and easily made the switch. I was 17 or 18 when I first started hearing about veganism. Then I read Diet for a New America, which really helped to put everything into place for me.
During this period, in the late 1980s, another friend I worked with liked to cook and she encouraged me to play in the kitchen. I had so little familiarity with cooking and ingredients that if I didn’t have everything a recipe called for (even rosemary!), I thought I couldn’t make it.
Sweets were always my muse, so I thought that if I could buy some vegan baked goods that tasted good, I’d be able to go vegan easily. Well, in those days, the selection was dismal so I decided to follow my muse into the kitchen and play. Over the months, I would bring in baked goods to share with my co-workers who urged me to sell them and I kind of shrugged it off. A while later, I left that job - I was selling Birkenstocks - and started working for the largest natural foods distributor on the West Coast. My position was fairly stressful and I found that my morning inspiration drew me into the kitchen and my need to decompress and nurture myself. I started to realize that there was a 9:00 - 5:00 interruption in my passion and decided to remedy that.
In 1997, I went to a natural cooking school to refine my vegan baking skills. It wasn’t a vegan-only curriculum but they were fairly focused on offering a vegan food education at the time. My first offerings were to sell desserts to restaurants and cafés in Seattle while I was living on Vashon Island (accessible only by ferry) near the city. I soon discovered that traveling by ferry and then driving around distributing treats was eating up all my time and profits so I turned to the post office to become my delivery system and focused primarily on being a mail order business. I needed to figure out a good product line that was shippable and that was how Allison’s Cookies was born in 1997.
Meanwhile, I had people begging me – individuals I sold to and café owners – literally begging me to make brownies. Back then, the only recipes for vegan brownies relied on tofu. I don’t like adding tofu to chocolate because I feel like they contrast. Tofu has an astringent quality and draws away from the palate, whereas chocolate likes to dance with saturated fat, which is the role of cocoa butter. I remembered in cooking school that my baking teacher told me it was impossible to make a vegan brownie without tofu because you need to replace four eggs and two sticks of butter and that’s simply too much to replace. One café owner was so persistent and his standards were different than mine; he really wanted the brownies and I had no solutions yet. All I had was tofu and a personal reluctance. Surprisingly, they were better than any vegan brownie I had tasted and yet there was this little thought from which I couldn’t escape - get the tofu out of the brownies! I wanted the brownies to be made from real ingredients people could actually find in their own cupboards and for over four years I played and played and played until I finally cracked the code. It wasn’t easy but I did it. Naturally, I felt very accomplished that day and even more gratified when my brownies became award-winning.
2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?
ARS: Although I grew up on processed, convenience, and frozen foods, I still had my traditions. My mom and I used to go out for breakfast a lot and my favorites were pancakes, waffles, and french toast (not all at once of course!). Today, we have a Sunday brunch tradition in our house and we often make waffles or pancakes or French toast, usually with a tofu scramble, kale, some black beans. My husband has loved playing in the kitchen with me over the years and has become an accomplished cook himself. His claim to fame is the most amazing gluten-free Belgian waffles. Yum!
Another tradition we had in my younger years was Thanksgiving at my grandparents house with all the traditional dishes. When it comes to things, I am not a very sentimental person although when my grandmother died, she left her china and silver to me. At the time, I was too young to appreciate this gift, so my mom held onto it and when she passed away, my grandmother’s china came to me. We like to host Thanksgiving at our house and we serve it on her beautiful china, which she used daily, not just for special occasions. Even though the food is very different, I like having that crossover connection to my grandmother through her china.
Comfort food holds a special place in my heart and was the source of inspiration behind my award-winning magazine column, Veganize It!, and now, my e-book, Comfortably Yum. I see myself as a “bridger” between the omnivore world and the vegan world and my mission is to show that there is much deliciousness to be found in plants that it is so much better for all involved without any sacrifices. Comfort food is my entry point; a way to get people to try something made with very different ingredients yet very familiar without any of the downsides. Same thing with Allison’s Gourmet. In the old days, I used preface my sharing with “Here, try my vegan cookie, made without this and without that.” I’ve learned instead to offer my food and ask, “How do you like it?” Thankfully the answer is always positive, if not effusive, and then I say, “That’s so great. It’s vegan!” I feel like people have been tricked into eating garbage for so long and my intention is to “trick” them into eating something that’s healthier: good for them, the animals, and the environment.
3. What is the best vegan meal you've ever had? Give us all the details!
ARS: Oh, wow, this is a very hard question. I have had SO many amazing meals that there is no way I could single out one of them. Food is such a huge part of my life that it is a main deciding factor in my travel plans. Whenever I go to a new town, my first “task” is to explore the vegan scene, tourist attractions and museums are nice but much less appealing. Suffice it to say I have had numerous memorable meals over the years.
Easier, I could tell you about some of my favorite restaurants. Of course Millennium in San Francisco tops the list. Once we drove three hours into the city and back home in the same day just to have dinner there. (I apologize for the carbon emissions but the food is that good, even after all these years.) Recently, I went to Karyn’s on Green in Chicago and it was fantastic. I even went off my normal gluten-free diet to try the bread pudding and even without a speck of chocolate (my favorite!), it was so phenomenal. Sublime in Miami, Candle Café in New York, Plum Bistro in Seattle all come to mind as favorites. Crossroads and M Café, both in L.A. Gracias Madre in San Francisco… I could go on! Vedge in Philadelphia is on my must-try list as is Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s upcoming Modern Love Omaha.
4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?
ARS: I would love to have the experience of cooking in the kitchen with my Italian paternal grandmother, learning all about her recipes and veganizing them with her by my side. I was eight or nine when she died and I hear that she was a wonderful cook. It would be a thrill to interpret her recipes through a vegan framework.
5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?
ARS: Can we have a vacation from the overuse of garlic? Not that it isn’t wonderful and should never be used, more that the over-reliance displaces an opportunity to explore other flavors. Depending only on limited flavors in general is a problem.
It’s important to take into consideration both texture and flavor; the art of building flavor is critical.
How about if we avoid relying on packaged ingredients and instead use whole foods?
Let’s stop coming from the perspective that vegan food is lacking or needs to be apologized for, making it seem like a noble but less sensual experience. Make good food, make it with love, and serve it JOYfully!
I would also recommend that home cooks prioritize cooking, be adventurous and try unusual ingredients, maybe make it a goal to play with at least one new ingredient each month.
Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone a bit and play.
6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment?
I am so into all the fresh vegetables coming from my garden right now. We have this heirloom lettuce that is so beautiful, green and crisp: that was so delicious that I didn’t even need dressing. Also, the figs from our fig tree, they’re called King Desert figs and are absolutely exquisite. They are so amazing that I can’t bear to do anything with them but eat them straight. Kala namak – also known as black sulphuric salt – has been one of the my favorites for some years now. I use it in scrambles and frittatas, as well as in my tofu salad from Comfortably Yum, my frittata. I also love smoked salt.
7. You are restricted to one ethnic cuisine for the rest of your life. What would you like it to be?
No way! Why this unnatural imposition? I refuse to be restricted. ;-) Let’s negotiate instead… I could maybe do one different cuisine a month. My top three are Italian, Mexican and Japanese cuisines. I love Italian food for the sultry sauces and richness, Mexican for the fresh vegetables and chiles, and Japanese for the pure ingredients that are clean, distinct, and simple on the palate.
8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.
I have had so many influences and supporters on this path that the way I see it is that wherever I am on my path, the next person I meet will propel me further and enrich my experience. I’ve had many teachers who have deepened my life; John Robbins is one. Kim Sturla of Animal Place farmed animal sanctuary, she is one of the most inspiring people I know. My daughter, Olivia, is my little guru. My husband, too, is so supportive and encouraging of me and my work. And all the animals I have had the honor of living with and meeting throughout my life have been essential teachers to me.
9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?
Something that I have been thinking about a lot for a while is that we can’t be vegan for just one reason and be effective as vegans. The three most common motivators to going vegan are health, the animals and the environment. I hear a lot of people focusing on one to the exclusion of the others and I think it’s a huge mistake. If we’re vegan only for our health, it’s a selfish reason and we’re missing out on a deeper experience. Also, people are more inclined to drop it whenever some new study (usually paid for by the very things they’re promoting) comes out touting eggs, dairy, fish, whatever. If someone is vegan just for the animals, not for themselves at all, my heart sinks a bit because it’s as if they don’t consider themselves worthy of consideration. People are more likely to fail at being a thriving vegan when they don’t care about their well-being. Not only do they run the risk of having poor health and then conclude that the diet doesn’t work for them - which is a crushing realization for an ethical vegan - but then they are not good ambassadors for this beautiful lifestyle. If we’re vegan just for the environment it’s just too far removed. If someone is vegan for the polar bears and that person doesn’t have a personal connection to the polar bears, the hot pepperoni pizza that’s right in front of them at the restaurant will win out. We need at least two of these reasons – our own health, compassion for animals, and concern about the planet – for veganism to root firmly within us.
10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, veganism is…"
“:...The easiest way to accomplish every one of my values in a single act.”
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
“Good morning, everyone. Today is the - what is it? - 2031st meeting of the Alliance of the Hater Brigade. Thanks for coming, everyone. I think we’re going to start our meeting now.”
“It’s about time. This has been a total waste.”
“Actually, IronMan77, it’s right on time. Anyway, you’ll find refreshments in the back -”
“Same crap, different meeting.”
“Well, if you wanted something else, I suppose you could have brought something, Zeus’sThunderbolt. Now, according to my notes, tonight’s meeting is about "New Strategies in Trolling." Today we’re going to discuss vegans and what to do about them. So, let’s get right into it: a vegan recipe pops up in your Facebook feed -- what do you write?”
“Oh! I know: Mmm, bacon!”
“That would look better with some meat in it.”
“Call on me! Call on me!”
“You can just shout it out, TitMouse. Remember, you’re a troll.”
“Duh, plants feel pain.”
“They do, I know. TitMouse is right. I saw this one video once that proves it.”
“F*#cking vegans and their judgments. I’d say, ‘What about the carrots and celery you eat? Why don’t you feel sorry for them, you hypocritical crybaby?’”
“I knew a vegan once who died. It’s not healthy.”
“Okay, GrumpyCat’sMeow is bringing up an excellent strategic point. If we can bring personal anecdotes into what we say, they can’t be disputed, no matter how irrelevant or fabricated. GrumpyCat, let’s role play here -”
“Heh, you said role play.”
“Who’s the doctor and who’s the nurse?”
“No, really. Let’s, you know, act this out. How can you bring your personal anecdote into, say, a vegan recipe share to defeat it right away? Let’s imagine that I’m a vegan who really annoys you and I just shared a recipe. What could you say, GrumpyCat?”
“That’d be better with bacon.”
“Right, yes, but remember the anecdote thing? I really want to explore the possibilities with that.”
“Oh, yeah. You think you’re so healthy but I once worked with a vegan who died.”
“Okay, let’s flesh that out. Remember, I’m a vegan who annoys you. Tell me what happened.”
“Well, he got hit by a car.”
“And... I don't mean to reverse-troll you, but how is this related to his veganism?”
“He was going to the farmers market. I’m not actually sure that he was vegan, though. He ate vegetables. And, actually, I’m not even sure if he died because I just heard about it. Or maybe I saw it on Law & Order: SVU. I can’t really remember now that I think of it.”
“So this is the kind of stuff you might want to leave out of the story -”
“No, it was Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
“No, it was Criminal Minds. I’m sure of it.”
“Regardless, Darwin’sMonkey, the point is that if we want to successfully derail a thread, we need to move forward with confidence and avoid getting into that confusing realm where we question ourselves or others find flaws in what we wrote. This is why sticking to personal anecdotes is useful: they are impossible to prove wrong. Okay, now I’d like to discuss other strategies for sidetracking vegan content. What else have people found useful?”
“Okay, what about specifically about bacon, RAR444?”
“Just ‘bacon.’ It’s elegant, simple, to the point.”
“Yeah, the beauty is you don’t need to say anything else. Bacon is a universal language.”
“Or ‘Mmm, bacon.’ You can also just say it out of nowhere. That really pisses off the vegans. They all get, like, so pissed. It’s hilarious.”
“INSERT BACON MEME. LOL.”
“Also, ‘That would taste better with bacon.’ Speaking of, there’s the whole ‘If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why would He make them out of meat?’ thing.”
“I know! No one can say a damn thing to that either because it’s so, you know, true.”
“Speaking of God, you can also bring up abortion. That either stops things in their tracks or creates completely unreadable threads that go on for hundreds and hundreds of comments and everyone ends up hating one another. Creates an awesome mess. You could do that.”
“I personally like hitting vegans with the double-whammy of abortion and then the fact that they walk on ants or breathe in microscopic life forms.”
“Oh! I’ve got one! I’ve got a good one!”
“Go ahead, Fanny’sPack.”
“‘What about all the animals killed to grow grains? Huh?’”
“Again, not to reverse-troll, but aren’t they killed to grow the grains that are fed to animals for the most part? I’m just bringing this up because we want to have our story straight -”
“Soy! Switch right then to soy and the dangers of it.”
“Link: Mercola. Link: Natural News. Link: Weston Price Foundation.”
“MAD TOFU DISEASE. LOL.”
“Saying, ‘What about soy?!” can net good results. Meaning I’m not sure what but it’s something to say.”
“You know, ‘Blah-blah-blah, soy, blah-blah-blah, hormones, blah-blah-blah, whatever.’”
“Two words: Man boobs.”
“I know a guy who was vegan and he had to wear a bra.”
“Whoa, is that true?”
“No, but does it matter?”
“So you’re saying to move the goal posts in your arguments? That’s a common but useful strategy.”
“Yeah, just keep putting up link after link, whether those links are relevant or not, no matter the source. It makes things look legit. Imagine that you’re some hotshot trial lawyer: What about this? And what about this? It’s very intimidating. I’m guessing. And then saying, ‘Did you even read my link?!’”
“Don’t forget that you can also move the goal posts by making it personal.”
“Please give us an example, DingleTingle.”
“Like, ‘I think it’s fine that you’re vegan but it’s the self-righteousness that I have a problem with. Every vegan I know is a smug POS.’ True story.”
“Okay, so I am thinking that now would be the perfect time to back this up with a great anecdote. Could you reinforce it with a story about a vegan you know, DingleTingle.”
“I don’t actually know any vegans. I haven’t left my parent’s basement in two years.”
“Right. We know. That’s why we’re meeting here.”
“Does it matter if you don’t know any vegans? What are you made of, bro? Why should that stop you from making up sh*t about them?”
“Or, like, you could say, ‘It’s fine for you to be vegan but don’t try to force me to go vegan.’”
“Or, ‘It’s my personal choice to eat meat.’ Saying personal choice makes it sound laywer-y or something.”
“Post a link to that sick vegan baby news story.”
“JUST SAY PEOPLE EATING TASTY ANIMALS! LOL!”
“Why do you speak in the caps lock, MsOgyny? You realize how annoying that is, right?”
“I mean, you do want people to at least somewhat pay attention to what you’re saying, right?”
“I guess I’m not clear on your objective here. And what are you ‘LOL-ing’ about anyway?”
“PROTEIN DEFICIENT! NAZIS. SMH. LOSERS. LOL.”
“Oh, that reminds me: Bring up Vitamin B-12. Oh, that one is a killer.”
“Canine teeth, too. Iron-clad argument there.”
“You can also play on the emotions, like, how you were raised or your background or whatever.”
“I’m going to ignore you at this point, MsOgyny. So, for example, saying that your great-grandfather owned a butcher shop or something?”
“But what does that have to do with you today? Like how can you leverage that?”
“Make it out like vegans are an affront to your ancestry.”
“Oh, so it gets into that personal realm that gets highly charged and is difficult to challenge. Great tactic.”
“Right. And you can get really bent out of shape about it, you know. Keep embellishing things, keep taking things personally.”
“TROLL HARD OR GO HOME. LOL!”
“You could say that you tried to go vegan but you have some condition where you can only digest animal protein. That usually shuts them up. Or claim that you tried to go vegan and all your hair fell out. Or all the vegans you know are rail thin. Or all the vegans you know are obese. Or whatever. Just pick whatever.”
“The WiFi here sucks, by the way.”
“Or you could say that you can’t eat most vegetables. Then it becomes a life-or-death situation or discrimination.”
“Post a picture of PETA doing something wacky.”
“The ‘refreshments’ here suck, too.”
“What about oysters? Hmm?”
“Don’t be afraid to pull the Hitler card.”
“Plants feel pain!”
“Someone already said that, bro. I think it was you, in fact.”
“So? I’m saying it again. Don’t censor me.”
“SCREAMING CARROTS. LOL!”
“Could we just Skype next time? It’s, you know, 2014.”
“It seems like things are winding down here.”
“I think we made some progress.”
“It’s all good.”
“You could also bring up amino acids or complementary proteins or something.”
“I didn’t claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat lettuce.”
“Oh, that reminds me: My food poops on your food.”
“DingleTingle, I think your mom wants you.”
“You said that they’d be out by 9:00. It’s 9:18. You need to get up early to look for a job tomorrow.”
“Okay, guys. Let’s call it. Next month’s meeting is "Exploiting Sensitivities About White Male Oppression." See you then.”
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
When I was 13, I stopped eating. I was about to start at a very competitive high school that September and I wanted to be thin and popular. It started out as just a diet but as it quickly gathered speed it became something else, something that mushroomed as it progressed until I no longer controlled it. This thing, whatever it was, soon became a despot that ruled my life.
That summer, I was in a play so I was away from my home rehearsing most of the day. It was a breeze to not eat lunch there and be able to fly under the radar. At dinner, I developed a method for cutting up food and discreetly spitting it out into the napkins I’d stacked on my lap. Breakfast was a bagel that got fed to the dog under the table. (My waist shrank in inverse proportion to poor Buffy’s.) Originally, I would allow myself exactly 50 grapes a day, then 30, and I did hundreds of sit-ups a day, so many that I developed a painful rug burn line along my spine, which was beginning to protrude more and more. Once a week, I would walk to the neighborhood drugstore and steal the diet pills that managed to make my heart race even more than the shoplifting actually did. I wore loose clothes to make it harder to detect the weight loss and I kept my calorie counter nearby at all times, not that I was eating anyway. I just wanted to know what everyone else was eating so I could judge them. I would float in the bathtub and one night, I discovered that I was starting to grow downy hair on my stomach. My period stopped. I had read about this in a brochure I picked up somewhere: My body was in starvation mode. I was a success.
My mother threatened to have me hospitalized and I relished the thought of those doctors trying to force me to eat. I would be like Regan from The Exorcist and all those doctors in their white coats would run from the room in terror. Not long after that threat, though, my grandmother came to our house and she cried when she saw me, my hollow cheeks, the dark circles under my eyes. She just turned away from me and cried in the kitchen. My grandmother was my world and I’d never seen her cry before. I couldn’t bear the guilt so I started eating again that night. I weighed 74 pounds and was getting heart palpitations at the end.
This thing that had taken me over started out like any other diet but then found itself powered by a seemingly endless fuel source of social pressure swirled inside a cocktail of control, anxiety and self-hatred. This was a maelstrom inside me and it was already there before I started what my parents referred to thereafter as my “crazy diet”. My diet plus the extenuating circumstances in my life were what it took to light the sparks that already existed into a blazing inferno that burned out of my control. It took years after this original foray into anorexia to not occasionally fall back into that pattern again.
I am writing about this because there have been some bloggers, including one who has gotten a lot of news mileage but I am not going to add to it by linking here, who have publicly given up their veganism and linked it to worsening or developing an eating disorder. Specifically, they referenced something called orthorexia, which is an excessive preoccupation with avoiding what is perceived to be unhealthy foods, and they connected it to their veganism.
Here’s the thing: I think it’s a crock. Mostly. I’ll get to that “mostly” part in a moment.
If anyone is empathetic to those struggling with eating disorders in our society, I am. I know that particular hell personally because I have walked it. I also understand the pressures to be thin, to meet society’s expectations of what “hot” means, and I can plainly see what a profoundly disturbed food culture we live in today. Shuffling popular culture’s hateful messaging to and about women with incendiary attitudes about food that border on the obsessive, many of us have the perfect storm waiting to happen. Back when I had my own involvement with an eating disorder, we lived in a different world, one where we weren’t exposed as pervasively to messages about how we are supposed to look and one where there wasn’t nearly as much of an environment of paranoia about what we eat. Today, we are supposed to be concerned about alkaline versus acid, high carb versus high protein versus high raw, blending versus freaking juicing. We should be mindful to not drink water with our meals lest we mess up our digestion (and is that water reverse-osmosis and spoken kindly to or, sigh, just filtered?), not to mix fruits and vegetables, strive to eat mono-meals in a particular order throughout the day, and on and on. (And this isn’t even delving into the hornet’s nest that is GMOs.)
I understand the stress. We live in a pretty confusing, complicated world where we are exposed to countless other opinions about what we eat that are presented not only as fact but as the magic bullet to health, beauty, slimness, agelessness and more or the cause of the very opposite. One’s emotional response to this milieu is not the fault of veganism, though. Our response is what we bring to the table, literally. Our disordered thinking may well get exacerbated by the world around us but it develops within us and is not forced onto us from outside forces. This was true all those years ago when I was adding up the calories of each individual grape I ate and it remains true today, when we are bombarded with shrill scare tactics and baseless promises. Harsh as this may sound, our response to this disordered culture is ours to own and to take responsibility for fixing within ourselves. Blaming and pointing fingers is just that: Averting responsibility and going for an easy excuse. Just as I had to look within to find causes and solutions for my anorexia, so do others. It was not something that anyone or anything else did to me. The reality of disordered eating is that it is much more complex and much more personal than that.
The blogger who built up a large fan base and went on to denounce veganism as triggering orthorexia within her said that now she is seeking “balance” rather than restriction. Those of us who have been vegan for a while understand that veganism really has very little to do with restriction: We no longer perceive animal flesh and products as food. Accusing vegans of stringency for excluding these things from our diet is like accusing someone who doesn’t eat cardboard and clay of restriction. We know that within the parameters of what we consider food, it is easy to find both balance and abundance. If you come to veganism with a framework of disordered thinking about food or it comes to the surface while vegan, that is what you have brought with you.
This is where that “mostly” part comes in, though, in reference to blaming veganism for disordered thinking about food. While I think a great deal of the high profile decamping is a crock and an attempt to widen a fan base, I can also see how current trends in how some people frame veganism can be like kindling to an obsessive personality. This trend within veganism to employ tactics that manipulate anxieties around fat, nuts, fruits, grains and who knows what else can aggravate someone who is already on overload and we, as a movement that is rooted in nonviolence, justice and kindness, should play no part in this. It is unprincipled and antithetical to our movement as well as an injustice to those, human and otherwise, who would benefit from an adoption of a vegan framework, which is, well, pretty much everyone.
It is what we bring to veganism that determines our mentality about it, but we don’t help the cause by cultivating a culture of anxiety and phobic thinking around what should be a source of joy, abundance and empowerment. We should be a voice of balance, reason and equanimity in this very disturbed food environment that preys upon body image angst. Veganism isn’t a dietary fad and we shouldn’t resort to either trumped up promises or the pedaling of fear in our outreach because that is what we will convey to the public. To me, veganism is a pathway to living in alignment with my deepest core values and a way to actively cultivate the world I want to live in, not an instrument used to drumbeat more shaming, more anxiety and more misogyny into the world. If people feel healthier as vegans, fabulous! Please understand that I am not one who really cares how someone gets their foot in the door. I am not one who says that vegans are only allowed in the club if they are here for ethical reasons because, frankly, I don’t think the animals would give a damn why someone is not eating them and their babies. That is not what this is about: This is about being mindful of our messaging.
Does veganism cause eating disorders? Emphatically, no. Do we need to remove our participation in the disturbed, manipulative culture surrounding food and shame today? Just as emphatically, yes.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
1. We won’t be dating anyone who will ask to store a deer carcass in our freezer.
2. We’ll never ask you to clean up your mess so we can host a snooty wine-and-cheese party. (Our vegan book club, though, yes, please straighten up for that.)
3. We don’t overstay our welcome in the bathroom. We’re in and we’re out. Can you say the same?
4. We keep Jehovah's Witnesses away by insisting that if they want us to read their materials, they will have to agree to read ours.
5. We use cruelty-free cleaning products, so at least you won’t be exposed to carcinogens that way.
6. As we experiment with making our own cashew cheese, you will get to sample the results. (This could be a downside as well.)
7. As a captive audience, you’ll be the first to hear your vegan roommate test out his or her persuasive arguments and/or standup comedy routine. This may be a little like #6, though.
8. You can use “your vegan roommate” as an excuse for why your old friend who is now a competitive hotdog eater can’t stay with you while he’s in town.
9. If our almond milk ever goes bad, it’s not going to require a HazMat team to identify and remove.
10. If you are dating someone who eats meat, there is a reduced likelihood of one of us trying to seduce this individual. He or she is all yours, roomie.
11. Having a vegan roommate means that you’ll have backstage pass to otherwise mysterious treasures like nutritional yeast + popcorn and coconut milk whipped cream, which means that you have access to the oddly addictive gustatory pleasures that fly under the radar of so many omnivorous commoners.
12. You can make jokes about your hippie vegan roommate to fit in better with the bro culture at work.
13. You don’t have to worry about us stealing from your Slim Jim stash. Really.
14. Our likelihood of ruining your weekend by lying around groaning on the couch because of salmonella poisoning is pretty slim.
15. We will pay our rent and bills on time because otherwise we might end up needing to move back in with our parents and have to deal with their kitchens and bizarre rules again and that is the secret panic nips at our heels, makes us wake up in a cold sweat and motivates us to be responsible. So now you know.
16. As vegans, we are survivalists by nature having dealt with inhospitable environments before and many of us are MacGyvers of the kitchen who can create fully respectable meals out of what anyone else would consider incompatible pantry items, an onion and a few stalks of celery. Also, because of our survivalist nature, we tend to horde condiments, grains, beans, vinegars and bulk spices so, as the roommate of a vegan, you should be set with a good stockpile of food for a while after the zombies invade. You won’t want to be around when the nutritional yeast runs out, though, but the world will end then anyway. (Actually, maybe someone should go stock up now.)
17. We just might just have a kick-ass blender. Keep your yucky dairy and egg crud out of it, though.
18. You will probably learn to love dark chocolate - real chocolate - if you don’t already.
19. You won’t have to deal with the freaky folks in the raw goat's milk collective hanging out at your place all the time.
20. Your roommate may be gone for weeks at a time whenever Morrissey tours.