Just so we’re clear – there is no such thing as ‘vegan’ food.
So why do we often hear phrases like..
‘I tried vegan food but I didn’t like it’
‘I could never eat vegan food; it’s really dry and rubbery’
‘Come to our party, there will be vegan food’
What is this ‘vegan’ food?
Ok, hands up, I’m also guilty of using the term ‘vegan food’ for ease of expression on occasion, but it’s a term that is grossly overused by vegans and non-vegans alike.
Do we say vegan carrot? Vegan strawberry? Vegan olive? Er…no.
Food that vegans eat, non-vegans often eat too!
The word vegan already, to some ears, sounds like something from another planet; so using ‘vegan food’ to mean, well, just food, isn’t really gonna attract anyone to it. Which is a shame if the food in question is a gorgeous Ethiopian Berber lentil stew, or black-eyed pea fritters with Creole sauce, or salted caramel ice cream.
It’s not surprising someone invented the term ‘plant-based.’ It’s more specific, and everyone knows we all already eat plants, so it’s not as alien-sounding.
Maybe we should even quit using the word ‘food’ to mean anything other than plant-based food!
For if we believe that non-human animals aren’t ours to eat or take bodily secretions from; then we really don’t see meat, dairy, fish and eggs as edible; i.e., as food.
If we could all switch our perception thus – just think! We wouldn’t even need the word ‘vegan’ – there would just be people who ate food, and others who ate food and animals. It may have the effect of bringing home to people just what they are eating.
If you think ‘vegan foods’ means fake meats; soy protein burgers etc, you may have a point. It’s true that these products were made specifically with vegetarians and vegans in mind.
But bear in mind that most vegans, after a period of transitioning to a vegan diet, don’t tend to eat this kind of thing often. It can be helpful for some people when they first go vegan to eat foods that resemble the meat-based foods they used to eat. But after a while of experimenting with all the veg, beans, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds etc – it’s common to start to naturally move away from the fake stuff and make real foods the basis of your diet the most often.
I only tend to eat a seitan or a gardein dish (gardein is another plant-protein with a meat-like texture) on holiday. I DO eat veggie burgers but they’re made from spicy brown rice and pumpkin seeds, so they are just really GOOD food. Hey – maybe we should reclaim the word ‘burger’ too?
And as for some people saying ‘vegan food’ is tasteless or dry etc – well guess what? Lots of non-vegan food is tasteless and dry! I remember many a dry, overcooked piece of meat on my plate, or something cooked in milk that had gone off, or cheap disgusting vanilla ice-cream where the food colouring was so intense it was practically glow-in-the-dark!
Of course there is bad ‘vegan food’ just as there is bad non-vegan food. Why the double standard? If food is badly sourced and badly made, then it’s crap – vegan or not! At least if ‘vegan food’ is bad, no one had to die and the environment wasn’t ruined for something that everyone hated anyway.
I believe in the future perceptions WILL change around what constitutes ‘food’ and what does not. They will HAVE to if we are to survive on this planet – as anyone who has seen the documentary Cowspiracy, or read Comfortably Unaware by the dedicated and brilliant Dr Richard Oppenlander will tell you.
But in the meantime if you hear anyone refer to an animal product-free dish as ‘vegan food,’ try and find a polite way of saying…
…’dude, it’s just food.’