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Veganism and elitism - the funcrunch files


Apr. 18th, 2014 11:43 am Veganism and elitism

One of the biggest myths I hope to dispel in my promotion of veganism is that it's only for the elite. Some vegan cookbooks and web recipes are full of exotic, expensive ingredients or champion all raw food paired with juicers and dehydrators. None of this is necessary for a healthy diet. The most exotic food I ate yesterday was quinoa, and on most days I eat old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast. Many of the meals I enjoy on a regular basis consist of ingredients that can easily and cheaply be found in any supermarket in the U.S.:

- Bean and veggie burritos
- Pasta with tomato or peanut sauce and veggies
- Stir-fry rice and veggies
- Soup with beans, veggies, and/or sweet potatoes
- Salad and baked potatoes

I made that last meal yesterday for lunch. Normally I prefer to bake potatoes in our toaster oven, as I find the taste is so much better oven-baked than microwaved (which is really steamed). But there's no difference nutritionally, and since I didn't plan an hour ahead and was hungry I decided to nuke. I had been a bit annoyed at boyziggy for buying this Potato Express gadget as he didn't realize I almost always baked potatoes in our toaster oven, but since we already had it I decided to try it. What do you know, it makes perfectly tasty potatoes. Not markedly better than just nuking them without the protective bag, so I definitely wouldn't buy it unless you're going to be eating microwaved potatoes on a frequent basis. But I admitted I was too hasty to criticize.

A similar issue came up on Facebook yesterday, where although I've been successful at scaling back I have been logging in more frequently in the last couple of weeks to promote and post photos from my last concert. Dr. McDougall, whose diet plan I mostly follow, posted a link to Simply Spuds, microwavable bags of potatoes and sweet potatoes. A number of commenters gave him an unbelievable amount of shit, asking how he could recommend such an abomination when it was so easy to prep potatoes yourself, saying that microwaves were dangerous, accusing him of selling out (when in reality he's published some recipes that use microwave ovens from the very beginning), etc. This kind of thing is exactly why I've been avoiding most discussions on Facebook and other web forums.

But then Natala from the Engine 2 Diet team, a courageous woman who I met at a potluck last year, posted this beautiful blog post on the issue. It was a good reminder that most people are not in a position to have a diet consisting of only the most "perfect" food prepared in the most "perfect" way. As Jeff Novick (who advocates a diet consistent with McDougall's) humorously commented in his re-post of Natala's blog (excerpt; full comment in this thread):

I am going to start a FB page for the Nutrition & Health Elites. Members can eat only 100% fresh grown organic whole and unprocessed food that is GMO-free, local and in season. At least 80% of their diet (by calories) must be raw food and they must include 2 oz of walnuts every week. They can never use any plastic, microwaves or any salt, sugar or oil, let alone anything that comes in a box, package or bag of any kind or eat white potatoes or any oil or animal products.

All of this brouhaha is a good reminder that I really became vegetarian and later vegan primarily for ethical reasons. The health aspects absolutely are important as well. But there's no agreement on the specifics of what constitutes the "perfect" vegan diet.

So, back to elitism. What I really think is elitist is to say that the solution to our health and environmental problems is to switch to all grass-fed animal agriculture. Even if I could support that idea morally, the economic reality is that meat procured from truly "free-range" animals could not even begin to meet the current demand for meat in this country, and would be prohibitively expensive for most people. (Same goes for dairy and eggs.) I recently read a critical essay on that subject that goes into more detail about land use and locavore schemes that involve animal foods.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with my oatmeal, potatoes, and pasta, and keep bringing vegan baked goods to chorus rehearsals. At last night's rehearsal, every one of my mini maple muffins got eaten. :-)
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