Probably the dumb comments and questions I’m most eager to ‘kick to the curb’ (do we still say that?) are the ones that present a very skewed perception of a vegan lifestyle.
It’s easy to see how these assumptions come about. If the basis of someones diet is meat and dairy; they may believe that if the meat and dairy is removed there wouldn’t be much left. Thus they feel that a vegan diet is a deprivation diet, or that they would go hungry if they were to be vegan.
You’d be surprised how many people are just not aware of the many kinds of veg and fruit in existence; or have any idea of the wealth of legumes, pulses, beans, grains, nuts and seeds.
And I truly do empathise with anyone who has not ever had the opportunity to be exposed to delicious, hearty, nutritious plant-based dishes, and I would relish the chance to show them some of the infinite possibilities.
…What’s annoying is when people with such limited knowledge make wrong assumptions that a vegan diet is lacking in fun and enjoyment, and vocalise this loudly in front of an equally misinformed crowd (that THEY of course feel safe in). They may also ask you related questions with a clear intent to mock.
It’s possible you’ll feel that they are so invested in being what they perceive to be ‘right,’ you’d be talking to a brick wall if you bothered to answer, and that you’d rather conserve your energy for more open-minded free thinkers.
However, if you do gauge it to be worth a bash, here are a few ideas:
Dumb Question: Isn’t veganism really restrictive and limiting?
Answer: [My answer to this one is a little cocky, you may want to ‘nice it up’ a little. Or maybe not :)]
Uh-uh. How many kinds of animals do you eat regularly? Five, tops? Maybe cows, pigs, chicken, lamb and fish? To me, that is limited and dull. Do you even know how many different sorts of plants I eat? From how many world food cultures I eat from? I probably eat more types of beans alone than you do animals. A vegan diet is only limited if you have limited knowledge and imagination – exactly like an omnivore diet in fact!
There are vegan versions of all the basics – non-dairy milks, yoghurts and cheeses; and non-meat burgers, sausages, sandwich slices, even fishcakes! Most dishes that are ‘old favourites’ can be ‘veganised.’
There are plenty of meat eaters whose diets are bland and limited. [I personally know of several people who panic if there is anything other than chicken and potatoes on their plate – use examples from your own experience!].
Most vegans have had to get creative and learn how to find food from all different ethnicities. As a result, we often enjoy a wider range of food than most omnis.
Dumb Comment: Vegans are always hungry.
A: If you eat a whole food, plant-based diet – the complete opposite is true. Brown rice, quinoa and in fact most whole grains expand slightly in the stomach, making you feel pleasantly satiated for longer. If each meal contains a whole grain – you will rarely feel hungry – unless you leave it too long between meals, which would also happen if you were omni. Can you really say that you would be hungry after a hearty lentil or bean or sweet potato stew? Are you hungry after a big bowl of porridge? A bean chilli? A stir fry with noodles? A huge slice of chocolate cake? A pizza? You can pretty much eat the same things as you did before, just veganised – so what’s the difference, hunger wise?
Again, a poorly thought out meat-based diet can leave someone hungry. And again, for someone who believes an animal-based diet is the way to go, you are holding a vegan diet up to higher standards than you hold your own diet.
DC: Vegans don’t enjoy food.
A: You’ve never been to a Middle Eastern/Indian/Ethiopian/Korean/Mexican/Vietnamese restaurant and enjoyed any of the many, many dishes that are vegan by default? Vegans enjoy food as much as omnis, maybe more, because they can indulge knowing it is free of cholesterol, most saturated fat, hormones, antibiotics and bacteria. The truth is that a person that enjoys food as an omni, will enjoy food as a vegan.
And if you are omni – you don’t JUST eat meat and dairy do you? Don’t you also eat vegetable based, soups, dips, stews, salads sometimes? You don’t have any gorgeous fruit smoothies, or lush strawberries and melons in the summer? Don’t you enjoy any of these or are you always just gagging for the meat and the cheese?
DC: Vegans are depriving themselves and don’t live a full life.
A: How are you defining ‘a full life?’ Lots of people are vegan for ethical reasons. They wish to eat and live in alignment with their values. They would consider they live a truer, more connected, authentic and fully conscious life than an animal eater.
And just because you choose not to partake in certain practises, it doesn’t mean you are not living a full life. Just because it’s possible to eat something, doesn’t mean we have to do it. I’m assuming you haven’t tried eating monkey’s brains (as some do in China) or duck eggs with half developed fetuses in them (as LOTS do in Vietnam, Cambodia. Laos, the Philippines, and elsewhere). Do you need to try THESE things to get a fully rounded life experience? Lots of vegans eat a wide range of foods from around the world – many foods that omnis just don’t know about (see points 1 and 3). Are YOU living any less of a full life if YOU don’t eat THOSE foods?
DC: I just wouldn’t be satisfied if I couldn’t eat meat.
A: This is mostly psychological. We are socialised to believe that a full meal consists of some meat, a starch (potato or rice perhaps), and possibly a vegetable, with the meat being the main event, and the veg being a side.
This is a construct. Constructs aren’t true (the clue is in the name). Just because you see a plate of (plant-based) food that may not resemble the plate of food you’ve been used to, doesn’t mean it’s any less satisfying.
In any case, the ‘satisfaction’ you may get from eating meat comes largely from the flavours and the fat content.
Animal flesh on its own is relatively tasteless until it’s flavoured with salt and herbs or spices. We can use the exact same herbs, spices and salt on our pulses, legumes, and beans, that we can on meat – and achieve the same flavours. As for fats, we can use vegetable oils to cook plant-based food, the same way that we do meat. Yes, there probably WILL be less fat involved, and this feeds your perception that meat-free meals are less satisfying. But it’s saturated fat that you are eating less of. This is a good thing. You soon get used to it, and enjoy it.