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Oh for Heaven’s sake, NOW what do you eat?!

If any of you are wondering what the title’s about, you should check out my past series on questions I’ve gotten over the years.

I’ve actually been asking myself the above question over the past couple of months. I’ve been a lil’ slow with my recent posts because I’ve been having a tricky time re-learning how to cook. After almost a decade of being vegan, everything seemed so simple. I never had to think about any of it. If a recipe called for cheese, no sweat! I had a handful of tasty alternatives (home-made or bought) to choose from. Baking with “eggs” was easy-peasy with any number of terrific substitutes that are not only easy to find, but generally kept on-hand anyway. Even eating out was a cinch because so many main-stream restaurants now offer vegan or easily veganizable dishes, and the number of vegan or vegetarian restaurants is skyrocketing. Life was good.

Enter what I’m pretty sure is an intolerance to gluten. I’m still waiting for the results, but my tummy and head have already told me that they get mega-angry when I eat gluten. Part of me wonders whether it was the decade of enjoying seitan that did it, but the other parts remind that part that there are any number of factors that enter into the equation, and that ODing on seitan isn’t necessarily the reason. There are other parts of me still (yes, I’m a woman of many parts) that enjoy the versatility and delectable-ness of seitan, crusty french bread and the ability to eat a ton of easily made items made from flour that doesn’t cost an arm or a leg. So much so that I often think: “hell, that loaf of fresh bread or panko-crusted seitan is worth the discomfort later, screw it, I’m diving in.” Needless to say, I curse myself for that cavalier attitude later on.

I’m hoping that this “oh screw it” attitude is just due to the rather steep learning curve associated with changing my diet (again). Because of course a life of discomfort isn’t worth a loaf of bread, no matter how fresh and crusty it is (I’ll be honest, I’ve now made myself drool thinking of fresh baguette). The key, I suppose, will be to find all those delicious things that I can eat and enjoy just as much if not more than the originals. I’ve done it once before, I can do it again, right? I think it’ll just require the same amount of research that went into my decision to become vegan. I’ll need to look into (and perhaps develop my own) easy substitutes, experiment with different recipes and learn from my failures. Oh, and keeping an open mind of course.

At least I won’t be going at it alone: I have the support of my Darling (though he has been known to complain about the lack of bread of late), my  family, friends and fellow bloggers. I’ve been having a great time saving tons of recipes for me to test my GF-legs out on. Here are a few blogs that seem particularly awesome, which I’ll be visiting quite a bit and hopefully drawing inspiration from:

Gluten-free Vegan

Manifest Vegan

Clean Eating Chelsey

For the Love of Food!

So, for now, I’ll say thanks for making me feel a little less alone in this, and for letting me know that there is delicious food to be had at the end of the vegan-GF-rainbow. Oh, and thanks for your future patience too – it may take me a while to figure out the 10 new flours I have in my freezer. So far I’ve learned that chickpea flour is NOT a good substitute in dessert. Yech. Hopefully, in the end, I’ll be able to edit and rehash all my old recipes so that they’re vegan and gluten-free, not to mention easy and fabulous. Fingers crossed fellow foodies, fingers crossed.

Fingers crossed, paws crossed, same thing really… My boys are supporting my GF ways too, I swear.

Yes, Me!

If you’re wondering what the title’s referring to, check this post out and all will be clear. Be sure to come back to this one though…  🙂

Who, me? Yes, ME! I don’t usually post photos of myself here, but I figured this was a special occasion. Even as a child I was clearly excitable.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been very good at tooting my own horn. So it’s with a bit of trepidation that I write this post, because it has to do with the fact that I was just honoured with Food Stories Blog monthly award for Excellence in Storytelling. Along with the recognition of my peers, I’ll apparently be receiving a mysterious award in the mail. I’m pretty excited about it – not only because it’s going to be coming from people with obviously awesome taste (har, har, har, couldn’t help it) but also because I love receiving stuff in the mail. Thankfully most of our bills are now electronic so those don’t clutter our mailbox – more room for awesome mail! A bit of an aside while I’m on the topic: I can’t tell you how tickled I was to recently receive a hand-written thank-you note from a wonderfully thoughtful friend of mine. It makes such a difference to know that someone that you just spoke to over the phone took the time to sit down, select a unique vintage greeting card from a stack, think about the words she wanted to write, and carefully commit them to paper without resorting to the “delete” or “send” keys. It made my day.

But back to my award! I have to admit I’ve always wondered what strangers would think if they came across my site. I doubt any blogger starts writing without thinking about what a wider audience might think… To those thinking “oh no, I write entirely for myself” I say PSHAW! If that were true you’d write a journal, not a blog accessible to all, so there. Anyhoo, I started this site years ago now for friends of mine, and it developed into a way for me to keep pushing my culinary tastes and boundaries: “Nope, I can’t post another stir-fry recipe, I need to ensure each post is as dramatically different from the previous post as possible”. I’m sure fellow food bloggers will recognize this driving force. It’s worked wonderfully for me, and I now use my site (and others of course) as my own personal cookbook. No more photocopied, chocolate-smeared pages for me, just a few key words searches, a couple of clicks and I’ve found that favourite recipe that I go back to again and again. The only downside is that my computer has gotten into a few dicey situations involving chocolate (yes, again), flour and various spices. I’ve always though that ASUS and DELL should really invest in some kitchen testing. Maybe America’s Test Kitchen should do a piece on computers best suited for kitchens…

My Darling and I posing with our new found friends, Mr. Ostrich and Ms. Penguin, back when we were eating our way through NY City. He’s indispensable to my creativity and to my life, so I figured it was high time I splashed him around the site a little.

Boy I really can’t seem to stay on topic. The point of this little post is to thank Food Stories Blog, the judges who took the time to peruse my site, all the folks who continually inspire me to be the best Lil’ Vegan I can be, and my Darling, who happily test drives every recipe I try, no matter how nuts it seems at first. So far we’ve only ever had one major fail, owing to an ill-timed sea salt tureen drop, but even that was eaten… Mostly.

Hopefully the above will serve as one of my favourite take-home messages: all in all, cooking isn’t that difficult and shouldn’t be approached with trepidation. Cooking/cheffing is a glorious way to unplug from work, spend time with friends and family, and allows you to express creativity in an ever-evolving manner (think omnivore to vegan to gluten-free vegan… quite the progression). So go out and try that recipe that’s always daunted you. The worst that might happen is you’ll experience something new (or end up phoning for Chinese take-out… Win-win!). The best thing might be that you’ll receive a delightful award for doing what you love. Thanks so much C.J.!

I had to. This has nothing to do with my post other than the fact that Gus, one of my lil’ munchkins,  always keeps me company in the kitchen. He hovers directly under me at all times, poised to scoop up any veggie that plummets from the counter top. This was taken after a particularly yummy batch of tomato sauce; his tummy’s full of carrots.

Can’t have one pug and not the other… Mr. Bo Jangles is charming you on the left, Gus is passed out (his natural state after keeping me company in the kitchen) on the right. Utterly munchable puglets.

Part 4: So what do you EAT?!

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Welcome to part 4 of 4 in my Conversation series. This one took a lil’ while longer to produce because my sweet tooth recently went bananas and I’ve been busy baking up a storm. Today is WAY too hot for baking though, so I thought I’d finish up the series with one last piece of the typical vegan-omnivore conversation. For those of you just joining us, please check out Parts 1 (A Simple Conversation), 2 (Why Vegetarians May Hate Me) and 3 (Honey?! Are You Kidding Me?) before feasting your eyes on this last post.

Lil’ Omni: So what do you eat if you don’t eat meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or milk?

Lil’ Vegan: I eat a greater variety of foods now than I did when I was an omnivore. Look at me – do I look like I’m starving?! My culinary skills and tastes have expanded exponentially since I became vegan. I spent my childhood eating my favourite meal: white macaroni noodles with butter, salt, and knackwurst, despite my very healthy parents’ fervent attempts to get me to eat something that had even one iota of nutritional value. As a result, I was a tubby little kid, and an even tubbier teenager. Now, having reached adulthood and a healthier understanding of human physiology and ecosystem functioning (among other things hopefully), I inspire myself from different cultures, am open to trying anything (that didn’t have a face/mother) and I enjoy eating every mouthful, to the point that I’ve created a blog to celebrate it. My cupboards and fridge burst with creativity (and 8 billion types of sauces and spices) and yet I eat pretty “normal looking” food (or so says my omnivorous roommate who is open to my lifestyle and refreshingly willing to try anything I throw at her). There is a wealth of foods out there that doesn’t cause pain to other creatures, tastes great and is, for the most part, extremely nutritious and highly digestible. Why would I restrict myself to eating meat, fish, chicken, eggs and milk when I have all of these other foods at my fingertips?

This looks pretty good to me: diverse, colourful, nutritious and easily assembled!

Lil’ Omni: Well what about the plants? Ever think about how they feel?

Lil’ Vegan: The simple fact is that plants do not have a central nervous system (CNS) and so very likely do not feel pain the same that creatures with a CNS do. However, if The BFG was telling the truth when he said he heard trees scream when they were being cut down and flowers crying when they were being plucked, well, then we’ve got way bigger issues than me being vegan. This world could not exist without plants. They filter the air, provide food and shelter, stabilize the soil… The list is practically endless. But I digress – one of the more relevant points directly related to the above, usually snarky comment, is that omnivores consume both plants AND animals, and will therefore consume more vegetable material because they eat the herbivores that survive off plants. If you don’t believe me, look at a basic food web or ecological pyramid. So, if a snarky someone comes along and asks about plants, you can smile sweetly and say that they eat more than you do – they just don’t realize it.

There are several websites that address the “vegans are plant murderers” joke and other related replies to an interesting and seemingly controversial NY Times article portraying plants as noble creatures fighting to survive. I find the debate and controversy over the whole issue pretty funny and will therefore leave it to others to delve into. Instead, I turn my attention to the last question in our series.

Lil’ Omni: So… Why are you vegan anyway?

A final lil’ pause here. Unfortunately, when some folks ask you this, they are not actually prepared to hear the answer, since it usually involves you bringing up your aversion to killing, using and/or being cruel to animals, which they do on a regular basis without really thinking about it. Others are honestly curious and are prepared to listen to your reasons. Until recently I had a standard response that I trotted out whenever someone asked me why I was vegan. As you may well imagine, it started out long and complicated as I verbalized and sorted through all of the reason, but got shortened after being repeated a million times and realizing that some people don’t actually want to hear the answer in any great detail. After a while I just got used to spouting off the shortened version, which was, thanks to all the chopping and condensing over the years, rather blunt. I never really thought about it until I was describing a recent encounter with someone who had asked me that very question in the middle of a work lunch. I wanted to avoid the question because I knew that as soon as I answered there would be a myriad of questions that would follow, and I was in a work environment and didn’t really want to get into my personal choices as the rest of the bunch happily ate their omnivorous meals. This was no time to delve into details. Not thinking, I spouted off my pro forma response: “I know that I can’t kill anything so I decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to get anyone else to do my dirty work. I also think that supporting factory farming through the consumption of animal products is one of the worst things you can possibly do for the earth and everyone living on it”. Not terribly subtle, am I? When I described the event to my sister and then complained that I then got inundated with rather pointed and defensively phrased questions and comments, she shook her head and said: “Well no kidding! Think about your phrasing! You’re guaranteed to put someone on the defensive if you use the word kill”. She’s totally right. Though I argued that people should be aware that they’re responsible for killing the creatures that are on their plate, she rightly pointed out that it was still one of the worst ways to start a conversation, true or not. I can’t believe I’ve been so oblivious to my phrasing over the years. So, from now on, my response will be…

Lil’ Vegan: Why not?

We’ll see what kinds of conversations the future holds for me now.

Part 3: Honey?! Are You Kidding Me?

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Welcome to Part 3 of I don’t know how many! I suggest you peruse Parts 1 and 2 to fully prime yourself before delving into this part of the conversation. But first:

If any of you are offended, I would gently suggest that you lighten up a tad. I found this cartoon absolutely hilarious, especially compared to the sea of inane cartoons floating about the internet belittling vegans without wit or even a hint of intelligence. If you

Lil’ Omni: Wait, wait, wait – you said you don’t eat honey?!  What’s wrong with eating honey!? They don’t kill the bees.

Lil’ Vegan: Well that’s not entirely true – they do (more on that in a second). But you’re not the only one confused by the exclusion of honey in a vegan diet. Not eating meat, drinking milk or eating eggs, however “extreme”, tends to make sense to omnivores because the bulk of these creatures are recognized as animals, and are killed or kept confined in poor conditions. Bees, on the other hand, aren’t generally categorized as “animals” in the eyes of most folk, and they don’t tend to register on the same scale as farm animals. After all, they’re free to do as they please, aren’t they? And beekeepers do everything they can to keep their bees “happy and healthy” so that they produce as much honey as possible, right? If that were the case, then wouldn’t most dairy farmers also strive to keep their cows “happy and healthy”? Unfortunately this isn’t how mass production works.

To most people, eating honey is as benign as it comes. Ask a “hardcore” vegan though, and they’ll most definitely say it is not. It’s a product taken from an animal and is therefore off-limits, regardless of whether the insects are killed. It just so happens that lots are killed, as with most intensive endeavours, and not all accidentally. Queens are routinely killed to rejuvenate and exert control over the hive.  There are also companies that strictly breed queens and ship them all over the place in pathetic shipping conditions. So, it’s looking more and more like eating honey doesn’t jive with veganism. I mean really —  most beekeepers need to wear protective suits to be able to gather the honey, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to believe that these animals are not in favour of working to collect the pollen to make honey only have it swiped. For many vegans, it’s also just a lot easier not to consume, support or otherwise engage in ANY activity that is based on the exploitation, abuse or neglect of animals, rather than to disallow most activities but to allow one or two.

All that being said, if you do not eat honey because of the exploitative nature of beekeeping, you open the door to questions like “What about mosquitoes? What about spiders? What about the insects that are destroyed to protect our fruits and veggies? What about the fact that commercially produced bees are one of the only ways to pollinate crops now that we’ve practically wiped out the wild pollinators?” True, only the last one really touches on exploitation and not self-preservation, but they are all very valid questions, and this is where the water gets very murky. Really, a perfect vegan cannot exist in this society. Most of us do our best to educate ourselves, to think about things based on our own personal experiences, and then draw our own lines in the sand as best we can. It’s relatively easy to issue the blanket statement “I’m vegan”, but what does that really mean?  The more I think about it, the cloudier my definition gets, which really doesn’t help when I’m trying to clearly explain it to others. The definition of veganism is precisely what Keith Akers’ follow-up essay on Dr. Michael Greger’s article on Why Honey is Vegan discusses. It’s an interesting read, especially if you’ve first read Dr. Greger’s article which makes a lot of very good points, much to the anger of many a card-carrying vegan.

All of this comes down to, you guessed it, THINKING about my impact on other creatures and on the Earth itself, and not blindly stumbling along under some rigid definition of veganism, as one of my last posts hinted at. Am I doing more harm than good by touting the fact that I don’t eat honey, in terms of clearly explaining what veganism is to a non-vegan, as Dr. Greger so keenly points out (and yes, I’ve lived through the situation he describes)? I don’t know, but I would counter that every act of compassion is a good thing, regardless of whether I  can extend it to its logical conclusion (i.e. I don’t support honey production therefore I don’t support the proliferation of captive pollinators which means I may not be able to ever eat a cucumber or strawberry ever again lest I be called a big ol’ hypocrite). You can see why the honey issue is a sticky one (heheh that was inadvertent but terribly à propos). All this to say that I haven’t eaten honey in 6 years, but I’m currently redrawing my line in the sand and thinking about which side to place the honey pot on.

Join me next for Part 4 in this meandering series, which explores what on earth vegans can POSSIBLY eat if they don’t partake of animal products.

Part 2: Why Vegetarians May Hate Me

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For those of you just joining us, welcome! I suggest you grab a hot beverage of your choice (or lemonade if it’s summer time when you’re reading this) and pick up at the start of this thought tidal wave: click on over to Part 1.

Now that you’re caught up, let’s check back in on our vegan-omnivore conversation…

If these two aren't deep in conversation, I don't know who is.

Lil’ Omni: So let me get this straight – you don’t eat or use anything that comes from an animal? That’s way too intense for me. I could never live without cheese.

Let’s pause. This is, hands down, the most common comment I hear from someone who has just discovered that I’m vegan (aside from the scrutinizing, which I dare say is quite rude). I truly don’t understand this, especially when it’s coming from a vegetarian. Ok, I realize that what is about to follow may win me some enemies since all us “fringies” are supposed to stick together, but vegetarians (the ones who abstain from eating meat for ethical [a.k.a. animal welfare] or environmental reasons anyway) truly puzzle me. Please note, dear vegetarian, that this doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I live with a vegetarian and we’re quite happy together in our little veggie nest (though he’s been mulling over veganism of late…). BUT, let’s get to the point here: are you really telling me that you’re so addicted to cheese, milk and eggs that, while you are against killing animals for their meat and you extol the virtues of abolishing factory farming because of its cruelty and undeniable role in environmental degradation, you don’t care enough about the fact that dairy products and eggs require the perpetual mass-captivity and forced pregnancy of billions of individual animals to provide you with these food items? Really? Because, in this day and age, there’s no way someone can NOT know what it takes to get that well-aged cheddar or omelet to their table. We all know. We just opt to turn off and chow down, and that’s one of the saddest things that I can think of.

A cow’s role (or any domesticated animal bred for food production for that matter) in the world has been so engrained in our thoughts and traditions that the vast majority of us rarely think about it anymore. When it’s pointed out that their actions are causing, at a minimum, discomfort to other creatures, people get defensive (hence the searching for leather bits on a vegan). This defensiveness either results from being directly reminded that they are personally contributing to pain, suffering and pollution by some ballsy vegan who doesn’t mind being called preachy, or, as I’ve found over the years, it results simply from meeting someone who’s vegan.  I find it udderly fascinating (heheh I’m sorry I had to) that the very word seems to inspire a strong sense of guilt in most people, yet they will fight to defend their way of life by claiming that humans are meant to eat meat, that humans need to eat meat to be healthy, that free-range animals do not experience pain or discomfort, and that eating soy is worse than eating meat. Trust me, there’s a lot more where that came from, and I’ve heard it all. Clearly though, I don’t think any of these so-called arguments hold any water for a wide variety of reasons, but I’m saving that for another post (or series since that’s likely what it’ll turn into).

Debates still “rage” on in the public media, in scholarly articles and even between friends and family. However, I don’t think any of it matters. The only thing that matters is that we now know that (at a minimum) vertebrate animals feel pain, discomfort, cold and heat just as you or I do. That fact is simply no longer up for debate: it’s biology 101 and denying it is indefensible. That alone should be reason enough to stop harvesting animals that way we do, because there are so many alternatives available to those of us who choose to use them. The unfortunate reality is that we eat meat (red, white, dark, light, whatever) because we like it and we’re used to it. Humans don’t take to change very well – most of us aren’t willing to give up a way of life that we’ve grown up with, no matter how badly the choices we make impact our health and our world. We would rather unplug ourselves from the reality that we’re causing through our consumption, turn down the volume on the suffering that we’re causing, close the blinds on the pollution we’re contributing to, and ignore the blood that’s covering our hands – or rather, the hands of the people who we pay to do the actual dirty work.

Now, chances are those of you who are already vegan are nodding and agreeing, because that’s what I would likely be doing at this point. I’m also betting that those of you who are vegetarian, if you haven’t already thought about going “all the way”, are feeling slightly peeved for being called out by some know-it-all vegan, while those of you who are vegetarians and have been toying with the idea of going vegan are perhaps giving it slightly more thought? And the rest of you darling omnivores – family, friends I’ve met and friends I haven’t yet met (I’m so going to get called a hippy for that statement, but I stand by it) – well, I can only hope that this has given you cause to pause. Cause to think about what you’re eating, to eliminate the distance and disconnect between you and what used to be a living creature with nerve-endings and yes, thoughts. I ask that you do one thing for me (and for the rest of the world, because who are we kidding, we all impact each other): THINK about what you’re eating, THINK about how you obtained it (and yes, think beyond the cellophane-wrapped package because that doesn’t count), and THINK about how you could begin to do things differently. Just think. That’s not so much to ask, is it? Oh, and the next time you’re talking to a vegan, maybe think about how many other people have claimed that they would TOTALLY be vegan if it weren’t for the cheese, before you say anything.

Umm… I didn’t get as far into my “typical” vegan-omnivore conversation as I thought I would, but it’s getting late and I think you’ve read (and I’ve written) enough for tonight. If you simply can’t wait, I suggest that you read about some of the myths that appear to be prevalent about vegans – that should tide you over. Next in our series: honey, Part 3. And nope, I’m not kidding.

Part 1: A Simple Conversation

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This post  will be a departure from my normal foody abstractions. After much thought, I’ve decided to talk a little about veganism and society. Pretty broad topic, eh? Not really – talk to most vegans and they’ll tell you how easy it is to become frustrated and sad when faced with the choices made by the vast majority of society. It’s also easy to feel isolated in a crowd, even if the crowd is your loving family and friends. By the way, for those of you who don’t know me, I don’t tend to aggressively convert or berate anyone – at least intentionally *wink, wink*. In what follows, I’ll simply be trying to convey what it’s like to walk a kilometer in my extremely fashionable, non-leather shoes. I’ll also be trying to convey how important I think it is to remain positive and to enjoy everything that life has to offer while treading softly and thinking of others – all others. That is, after all, what being vegan is all about for me. So, if I haven’t lost your interest already, by all means read on.

I sat down with the excellent intention of delving back into a great book I’m currently reading, only to get sidetracked after quickly checking my email. Since I’ve “gone blog”, I’ve found this whole other world at my fingertips: other vegans; other eloquent vegans; other eloquent vegans who can cook, and write, and engage the imagination and the spirit; other eloquent vegans who can cook, and write, and engage the imagination and the spirit, and remind me why I became vegan in the first place.

This post (or series of posts if this thing gets any longer) will likely surprise those of you who know me, since, after a brief outspoken period at the start when I was all excited about it, I’ve generally kept my thoughts on veganism more or less to myself unless pushed. I was stunned to realize the other day that I’ve been vegan now for over 6 years. Though they have flown by, and aside from the very start when I was fortunate enough to have a great friend/mentor living nearby, these 6 years have been spent in vegan isolation. True, I went to school at an “environmental” campus (though the only official information I found linking McGill and vegetarianism was a single page about eating vegetarian, and I only just discovered the McGill Animal Liberties Club… Goes to show how well stuff is communicated between the two campuses… but I digress). However, there really weren’t a whole lot of true vegetarians around, let along vegans. Sure, there were a few “vegetarians” who ate chicken and fish, but that AIN’T vegetarianism – but let’s not get started on that.  If there were fellow veggies around, they certainly weren’t very vocal about it. And this is the crux of the matter.

I’m not alone in my veg-isolation. Recently, a former student of mine came up to me and shyly let slip that she was vegan too. She told me how isolated, frustrated and alone she felt. Aside from joining vegan clubs or the like, which are pretty hard to come by in some places (though I am pleased to see that it’s getting better), it’s very difficult for someone who holds what are very likely to be strong ethical beliefs that eating and using animals is wrong to talk about it with someone who is not vegan. More often than not, such a discussion will get heated and turn into an argument or, at the very least, an uncomfortable conversation. Let’s face it – what you choose to eat is surprisingly personal, and talking about it with someone who doesn’t share the same views is not always a pleasant experience. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why veganism has been compared to a religion by some people, which I completely and categorically disagree with because one is based on fact and the other is based on faith. But that’s something for another time —  Ari Solomon wrote a great piece (“Who You Calling’ Vegangelical!?“) that discusses this issue, so go check it out.

My point is this: it is often difficult for a vegan to share their thoughts about veganism with someone who is not. This leads to isolation, since so much of our social lives revolve around food (at least mine does). So, the dilemma is this: should a vegan speak openly about their lives with others who probe, with the full understanding that they will likely face a verbal firing squad and/or end up being called a preachy twerp, or should a vegan give up, shrivel and withdraw from society? You may think that I’m exaggerating or being overly sensitive, but until you’ve walked in a vegan’s (non-leather, just in case you’re checking) shoes and heard the things that we’ve heard (over and over again), you won’t truly understand how tempting it is to just give up and be done with the bulk of society. Most vegans have felt isolated and targeted on more occasions that they can count, and the worst part of it is that the people doing the targeting and ostracizing don’t realize it in the least.

This brings me back to my new world, this online gathering of kindred spirits. I’ve now lost count of the number of posts out there written by vegans for the world to read and to understand. I’ve come to the conclusion that we vegans are generally not freaks, not hippies (well ok, I’m some of us are), and, most importantly, we are not striving to make you feel bad about yourselves – that’s something you do all on your own. We have simply made a choice that the bulk of the population is not ready to make for a variety of reasons. The issue I have with these reasons is that the vast majority are complete and total bunk, and it all boils down to convenience and tradition, which should never be considered reasons for anything. But again, that’s fodder for another post (you can see I’ve got a lot boiling away in this noodle of mine, eh?). This post is meant to explore the incredible déjà vu that most vegans encounter in conversations with omnivores. There are countless posts out there comparing the most typical things vegans hear on a daily basis. These posts  blew me away, because — and I didn’t realize this in my isolation — they’re almost identical. Anywhere in the world, you’ll get the same series of responses to the same set of answers. It’s absolutely incredible.

No, this is not an after-school special. It's just really hard to find a decent image of a conversation! Google it, you'll see.

Assuming there’s a preamble that would require me divulging the fact that I’m vegan (please note: I use the term divulging deliberately), what follows is the inevitable and predictable exchange that, 9 times out of 10, will occur.

Lil’ Vegan: …yep, I’m vegan.

Lil’ Omni: *Puzzled look* So you eat fish right?

Lil’ Vegan: Nope, being vegan means that I don’t eat anything that either had a face or a mother, nor do I wear or use any product that’s derived from animals. That includes silk, leather, wool…

Let’s pause the conversation here for a moment. I don’t understand how someone can think that a fish is not an animal. True, I majored in Zoology, but I knew fish were animals when I was in preschool. I always let this slide, ascribing the question to the fact that Lil’ Omni may not have come across the term “vegan” before. I’m happy to explain, with a smile, exactly what veganism is. I usually leave it at that. However, it takes all of my inner strength not to break out my biology book when someone immediately asks the follow-up “but you eat chicken right?” I think that everyone would benefit from a quick biology review, or at the very least a quick skim of a biology textbook discussing Kingdom Animalia. That would clear a bunch of things up right off the bat. But again, I have no problem explaining what vegans do and what we stand for. The problem I have comes with the almost inevitable exchange that follows the fish-chicken question.

Lil’ Omni: *Looks me up and down* But you’re wearing a leather belt right?

Lil’ Vegan: Nope, no leather.

Lil’ Omni: Shoes?

Lil’ Vegan: Nope, no leather.

Another pause here. I don’t understand why, when I’ve just finished telling someone that I don’t use any animal products, that they immediately try to find something – usually leather – supposedly squirreling itself away somewhere on my body. And again, this appears to be universal phenomenon, and is usually the first hint that the person you’re having the discussion with is setting themselves on the defensive, looking for some way to make themselves feel better by finding fault in your as yet unsaid argument. But back to our conversation… in a couple of days. It’s way too beautiful to stay inside any longer.  Stay tuned for Part 2.