Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Veganism is a State of Mind

Last week I gave a talk at the inaugural Cleveland VegFest. My talk was entitled "Veganism is a State of Mind."

I said that the nonvegan mind approaches veganism often with anxiety and a fear of scarcity.  In their reactions, nonvegans tell us that they judge a plate by the presence  (or absence) of animal products. (In The Sexual Politics of Meat I propose that the presence of animal products symbolizes the patriarchal world.)  Remove animal products and nonvegans fear facing an empty plate.

The nonvegan scarcity model can be heard when people say, “Where do you get your protein? Where do you get your calcium? I couldn’t live without meat.”

The reasons for these anxieties are cultural and personal, influenced by what nonvegans think vegans eat: unseasoned, uncooked tofu and iceberg lettuce salads.

Often nonvegans see us in situations where vegan food is scarce. In fact, they may have been the ones that created those circumstances. They take us to restaurants where the only thing we can get is a baked potato or an iceberg lettuce salad. They assume they will be miserable as vegans so they want to see us being miserable to confirm them in their failure to act on their ethical intuition.

But when we can control the environment we live with an abundance of choices. (And there’s nothing wrong with baked potatoes or salads either!) That’s because we haven’t emptied our plates. We have rearranged our plates. In fact, most vegans find that their food choices have greatly expanded.

In Living Among Meat Eaters, I coined the Adams maxim: People are perfectly happy eating vegan meals as long as they don’t know that’s what they are doing. As long as they don’t realize we have rearranged their plate, they can approach a vegan meal without suspicion or anxiety.

In Cleveland last week, I observed that we don’t even know what vegan cooking is capable of because it is so new. Certainly, the past ten years have seen the emergence of incredible dishes from talented chefs. This week I received in the mail yet another proof of how incredibly inventive vegan cooking is: a new book, Vegan Secret Supper by Mérida Anderson. Wow.  

Many of us are fascinated by the new vegan cheeses being developed. Among the cheeses Anderson has created are “baked hazelnut cheese,” “coconut cashew cheese,” and “pine nut parmesan.” Many of Anderson’s seem do-able by the average cook! 

Watch out, those who eat in my home, your plates may soon be bursting with “hazelnut-crusted portobellos with carmelized fennel parsnip mash, radicchio marmalade and balsamic port reduction,” “pine nut Caesar with lavender balsamic croutons and crispy oyster mushrooms” or “coconut fettucine alfredo with seared brussel sprouts and cherry tomatoes.” Come on over and fill your plate! 

Veganism is this state of mind.


  1. I love your phrase "rearranging our plates", because it is so true. The vegan cuisine has so much to offer and there are so many creative cooks and cookbook authors out there.

  2. interesting article. ı follow you.