The Weekend Vegan Warrior

I’m embarking on an experiment this weekend. I have basically zero actual obligations for once in my goddamn life, and I feel fantastic about it. Tomorrow I’m volunteering at a blood drive (and giving blood! It’s finally been long enough since I last got tattooed/pierced/traveled out of the country that I can do this!) and then going to my sister’s house for my father’s birthday/father’s day celebration.

I’m bringing a batch of gluten-free cupcakes, as my sister recently developed a gluten intolerance. She’s also historically had lactose difficulties, and I prefer soy milk anyways, so I have a shiny copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (by the same ladies who did my favoritest cookbook, Veganomicon. Check out their ultra-rad website, The Post Punk Kitchen). So, I’m bringing vegan gluten-free cupcakes. Is it possible to get anymore touchy-feely “oh wow, you are clearly a liberal who lived in Cambridge for just a little bit too long”? I don’t know!

But I’m going to try. My experiment: this weekend, I shall be vegan.

I’ve been vegetarian on and off since I was in eighth grade. I really LIKE being vegetarian, even though yes, I do miss meat (I think that is a common misconception–a lot of vegetarians really enjoy meat! It is delicious! But similarly, I really enjoy punching people in the face when they irritate me, but I nonetheless do not do it). I’ve recently been working at steering myself back toward vegetarianism, and it’s going well. I like it.

A weird observation, however: part of the reason I got away from being a vegetarian is my concerns about inconvenience. Not to me–I genuinely love tofu and tempeh and can eat a bucket of raw vegetables for a meal and be incredibly satisfied. I prefer Nayonnaise over mayo (that shit is gross, yo), and any other number of things. However, I don’t like to be the burden. I hate feeling like when I go to someone’s house, they are going to feel obligated to make sure that there is “something Cuppy can eat.” At a wedding a few weekends ago, everyone was piling the chicken and steak on their plates at the buffet while I spooned up the mushroom ravioli. A caterer asked, “Vegetarian?” “Yes.” “Oh, so you’re why we had to bring this stuff.” I know I’m not the only one who ate it–I saw other people with the ravioli–but there was a momentary flash of guilt of, “Oh my god, my friend had to add an entire dish to his wedding catering just because of me!”

And of course, there’s the pointed comments. “Well, we were going to go to XYZ restaurant for dinner, but we have a vegetarian coming.” “For every animal you don’t eat, I’m going to eat TWO!” “I’m going to eat this hamburger right in front of you.” Uh, yeah. Okay. What’s your point?*

And the more I linger on the fringe of being a vegetarian–not putting the label on myself, but simply ordering the veggie burger instead, or ignoring the platter of meaty appetizers at a party–the more I see the weird way we are about them.

If you aren’t one of them, it seems like you’re against them. This isn’t a blanket statement, but it’s a pretty regular trend. If I go out with a group of friends and I order the vegetarian option (say, a veggie burger), I will get mocked. If I make dinner for people and as they’re praising how great it was I toss in, “Yeah, and it was vegan!” they will respond by either saying, “How dare you TRICK me into eating that stuff!” or “Yeah, well, it’d be better with meat,” or both. (Cause yeah, I totally tricked you! You never would’ve eaten… pasta… and… vegetables…) I’ve had people tell me that I’m weak because I choose not to eat meat, I’m a wimp, I’m girly…

Wait, what?

Yes. Eating meat has become GENDERED. And also sexualized!

I’d really like to dig up some images or websites to go with this, but I feel like I can’t be the only one to have noticed this. In the same way in which girls who play videogames are fetishized, girls who eat meat are fetishized. There’s this huge backlash of now when women are asked what their favorite food is, there’s a huge push of “ugh, I hate salad! Give me a bacon double cheeseburger any day!” and so on.

My best guess is that this is a backlash to all the dieting restrictions thrown at women. A woman who shamelessly loves a bacon double cheeseburger is a woman who is not tied to the social mores of what is and is not appropriate for her–she eats what she wants, and, one may extrapolate from that, enjoys all of the hedonistic pleasures of her body. (Personally, I prefer cannolis to bacon double cheeseburgers when it comes to hedonistic pleasures.) There is something, well, sexual about a woman indulging in eating, and eating excessively.

Is abstaining from meat viewed by the male gaze as similar to abstaining from sex? If you don’t know that I’m eating a veggie hotdog, is my consumption of a phallic symbol any less “hurr hurr hurr”-inducing than the girl sitting next to me eating an actual hotdog? Does knowing that it’s vegetarian remove the sexiness from it?

I don’t know. But the more I stand around NOT labeling myself as a vegetarian, the more I hear people’s candid remarks on it. For all that I will get mocked and harassed for being a vegetarian, there’s a lot that they don’t say straight up. Vegetarians are painted as being repressed, joyless people. They’re no fun to bring anywhere. They’re buzzkills.

And maybe this is only me, but I started to associate it with how I used to feel about being a female. In high school, I used to proudly announce that “I’m NOT girly. I’m not like all those OTHER girls!” I took it as incredibly sweet when my boyfriend would tell me how unfeminine I was. I feel a swell of pride when my dad jokingly refers to me as his son.

Basically, I had so internalized that it was BAD to be female and feminine that I took great pains to establish that I was not like that, via renouncing my feminism. I had completely internalized the idea of what femaleness is, and it is bad.

I was even told at certain points that I was allowed to participate in certain things–attending autocross events, or LAN parties–because I wasn’t “really a girl.” I was admitted into a special club.

Does anyone else think that is enormously stupid? Because I do.

But I get the same affirmation–when I don’t speak up about dietary wants or needs, when I just go and eat wherever, I get propped up that I’m a “fun girl” because I don’t get obsessive about needing to have access to a salad or whatever. Because now apparently my gender has predestined my meal plan.

Look, I eat vegetarian for personal reasons. Just because it works for me and makes me happy doesn’t necessarily mean the same is true for you. I appreciate some open-mindedness (why yes, if I cook you dinner, it will be vegetarian!) and some sensitivity (how about we DON’T go to dinner at the All-Meat Uber-Meat-o-rama Meatfest?) but you don’t have to change yourself and I am NOT judging you.

I think PETA and the nose-in-the-air-pro-veg-bumper-stickers-on-our-Prius crowd has mucked it up a little. Sort of like people abruptly become deeply defensive about owning a car when they find out my primary transportation is a bike, people become really adamant about loving meat and defensive about that love when they hear me call myself vegetarian. They become really defensive about all their life decisions when they hear I’m a feminist.

Is it subconscious guilt? Do people recognize that using a car as a primary method of transit in Boston is wasteful? Do they get that they probably eat way more meat than they need to satisfy their body’s requirements for protein and nutrients? (And that their meat is likely not produced in the greatest way? I actually have a huge eco-friendly boner for people who care enough to buy only small amounts of locally produced, fairly raised, grass-fed meat. Now that is social responsibility and gourmand-love coming together!) Do they get that they probably passively endorse misogynist behavior?

I do a lot of wasteful shit too. Hell, I occasionally prop up “patriarchy,” or whatever you want to call it, because dudes, I like wearing thong underwear sometimes. I’m no flawless angel. So… I’m not judging. But I guess everyone thinks I am? I don’t know. I don’t understand why what I eat, where I shop, etc, is such a big deal to people. Why is how I curate my body so offensive to you?

But anyways, this has been a way, way longer entry than I ever meant. I meant to just throw out one or two cute little comments on why I’m experimenting with veganism for the weekend. Basically, I’m pushing my own boundaries–I know I can be vegetarian and enjoy it, but I’ve let myself be pushed around by external forces. So I’m challenging myself to be vegan for an entire weekend. It’s going to be tough (I have a brick of parmesan in my fridge right now), but I think it’ll be good for me. It will push me to get more creative in my cooking (I’ve fallen into a rut, and vegan cooking uses such fun ingredients!) and it will remind me of how simple it is to be a vegetarian. It’s not hard for me to live my regular life–including social life–and be a vegetarian. Vegan? A little harder. So I’m going to spend this weekend of lack-of-obligations in treating myself well and spoiling myself.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to the farmer’s market before I head out to the blood drive. I can’t wait!

I’m really, really looking forward to this weekend. I don’t know to what extent being vegan will stick with me, but I know I want to commit to working more veganism into my diet when I can. I want to keep my vegetarianism going strong. I hope this weekend brings about some positive changes in my life. I’m excited!

Also, I’ll share some recipes and results at the end of the weekend. You don’t have to be vegan (or even vegetarian) to enjoy good food! 🙂

*I get that people do this under the assumption that it will distress and horrify me. But dude, if you’re supposed to be my friend, why do you feel like it’s funny and cool to do something that you think might be borderline traumatizing to me? (I know a very sweet vegan who would be brought close to tears by that behavior, and people know it but do it nonetheless. People who are supposedly friends.) Why will you respect my choice of clothing, or what career path I have selected, or where I choose to live. Why is what I choose to eat so offensive to you?

Advertisements

06/18/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized.

3 Comments

  1. H replied:

    100% true. I don’t know why people give a crap what other people eat. Who cares? I also think PETA is hurting vegetarians/vegans/environmentalists of any sort. If you tell someone you’re some vegetarian, they automatically assume you must be some PETA nazi snob and are going to judge and harass them for eating meat, and so they get all defensive about it. It’s really annoying and pathetic. I honest to god don’t care if someone eats meat and never did. I wish it wasn’t so hard for some people to GET IT. I understand that meat IS a natural part of the human diet and nobody is less of a person for eating it. The less-than-natural part is the amount of meat Americans eat and all the shit that’s in our meat. But that is society’s fault, not the individual’s.

    Aside from eating occasional fish, I’ve been vegetarian for almost 11 years now and the annoying, judgmental people are the ONLY part I’ve ever found to be difficult. It’s very funny to me when someone tries to tempt me with a burger. It’s like, I haven’t touched one of those greasy bastards in over a decade. You really think I give a shit? It’s been so long that I don’t even associate meat as food anymore, so I don’t understand why they try. Just to be annoying I guess.

    Fun fact: Vegetarians live 10 years longer on average than meat-eaters.

    More fun fact: The Vietnamese make the BEST faux-meat dishes. Holy crap. What the hell is their secret?! There’s one Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant in particular out here that I’m pretty sure their fake meat tastes even better than real meat, because if real meat tasted that good, I wouldn’t have been able to give it up so easily!!

    Have you checked out UC Berkeley yet for grad school? I think you’d LOVE Berkeley, and I’m not just saying that to lure you over here. I think it may perhaps be the most vegetarian and foodie-friendly city in the country. And even the non-vegetarians are completely obsessed with sustainable farming. It’s so easy to be a big, weird hippie in Berkeley without fear of being judged. I am always reminded of you when I go to Berkeley.

  2. Cuppy van der Cake replied:

    I have a long list of vegan restaurants out here that I’m definitely going to try. I keep hearing about amazing Vietnamese, so I should really bump that high on the list.

    I looked at UC-Berkeley pretty promptly, because I REALLY want to live in SF/the Bay Area. Alas, they don’t match up with what I’m interested in, which surprised me, since I thought they were all about the weird and quirky shit. Oh well. Davis is just a train ride away, so that’s something.

  3. Sandra replied:

    “I took it as incredibly sweet when my boyfriend would tell me how unfeminine I was. I feel a swell of pride when my dad jokingly refers to me as his son.”

    You won’t like it half so much when your boyfriend dumps you for some mail-order, third-world Oriental. Just like women prefer a confident, virile, manly man, men like a gentle, refined, feminine woman. The only thing the promotion of masculine behavior in women is accomplishing is to drive a wedge between Western women and their men. Wake up, dearie, before it’s too late.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: