The Imperfect Vegan

by D.R. Hildebrand

Not long ago I wrote an editorial for this site titled “The Meaning of Meat.”  I began by recounting how, at an airport, I had been reminded of the absurd pricing system at restaurants: items that contain no meat or dairy very often cost the exact same as comparable items that do.  The observation was meant merely as a preface to the broader topic of government subsidies, but apparently moved some readers more than the focus itself.  “Fuck that,” one person commented.  “Support 100% vegan establishments and tell your omni ‘friends’ to suck it up.”  Another wrote, “You made that decision alone to live that lifestyle.  Knowing there are minimal vegan options out there, you should have brown bagged it.  Such an entitled attitude…

We could talk for days about how shameful I am for being dropped off at an undersized airport hours before my flight, waiting even longer for an unforeseeable delay, and not having carried nearly enough granola bars—preferably homemade—with me across the country, only to end up getting hungry and—let the flogging begin—ordering a vegan meal from a non-vegan vendor.  Yet perhaps we could ask ourselves why, instead, in the bigger picture of our ailing society and our otherwise mutual goals to heal it, this is such a big deal.

Shortly after I read these responses I was on the subway and found myself listening to one vegan snobbishly correcting another.  “Jason,” the one said, “you’re not a vegan.  You’re just vegan.”  Jason looked dumbfounded.  He hadn’t realized that the vegan elite decree our parts of speech.  It is not acceptable just to be an adjective.  You have to be a noun.  Being vegan must be every molecule of who you are.  It must define you categorically.  If it only describes you—in part—then you can kiss being worthy goodbye.

Hillary Rettig wrote an exceptional piece on an analogous topic for Vegsource last year called “The Rise of the Nonperfectionist Veganism.”  She focused, in great detail, on some vegans’ abrasive treatment of vegetarians and omnivores and on the way they internalize their own flaws.  In adding to Ms. Rettig’s assessment, I say some are no less critical of, and nasty to, each other.  The choice to be judgmental, absolutist, arrogant and unfriendly instead of cordial, encouraging, measured, and kind sets us back, not ahead.  It almost reminds me of a particular political party in the United States right now that is so hell-bent on universal conservativism that anyone within the party who isn’t berating their liberal-leaning colleagues they ostracize.  Last time I checked, this approach was not working.  Voters have stopped listening to anything they say for it is crass, premeditated, and void of any basic individuality.

There is a restaurant in Philadelphia, Govinda’s, that I support just about every time I am there.  The food is delicious and, nearly as important, it attracts one of the most racially, economically, socially diverse groups of patrons possible—a characteristic, true or false, not often associated with the vegan community.  Govinda’s has been around since the 1980’s when veganism was anything but cool, and it is likely due to the restaurant’s presence that Sweet Freedom Bakery opened half a block away in 2010, further strengthening the city’s vegan visibility.  Govinda’s, however, is not strictly vegan.  It offers both a dairy and a non-dairy cheese.  Yet with all that Govinda’s has done to advance veganism, do we spurn it for its one “imperfection?”

Govinda's

Similarly, there is an Italian restaurant in Manhattan that dates back to 1908.  It stands alongside the vegan hot spot Angelica Kitchen, and a few years ago it nearly closed due to weak business.  In an attempt to remake itself, the owner decided to create a complete vegan menu—right down to the homemade seitan and cannolis—to complement the original, failing one.  The restaurant was packed when I ate there last month, and while part of me felt I should be eating elsewhere, another part of me didn’t see anything wrong with walking into a vegan-friendly restaurant and putting my money on the menu that saved it, reminding the management that there was a reason for this revival.

Examples extend beyond just dining and grammar.  “You’re still wearing those leather shoes?”  “How can you call yourself vegan and shop at Whole Foods?”  “Do you have any idea how bad that vegan dessert is for you?”  “I can’t believe you aren’t donating to animal rights groups.”  “What do you mean you’ve never been to a protest?”  “Cheater.”  “You should volunteer more.”  “You should leaflet more.”  “You should speak out more.”  “You’re bad.  You’re a bad vegan.  You’re like, not even a vegan.”

And on.  And on.  And on.

In his conte moral, La Bégueule, Voltaire reminds us, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  Striving for perfection, albeit naïve, is of course a personal choice, one that does not, in theory, impose on others.  Dismissing or even attacking someone, however, for not being perfect—particularly for not meeting some arbitrarily crafted rubric of perfection—is wrong.  It is narrow, it is divisive, and it is futile.  It is complete nonsense and it in no way advances our education or our enjoyment for the lifestyle we advocate and admire.  Let us be better than this.  Let us find increasingly creative, intelligent, inspiring ways to motivate each other.  Let us be an example, reliable and dignified, for a slap in the face does nothing but sting.

Haikure, Ghosts, Superheroes & Phoney Baloney

Haikure is an Italian denim line with simple, classic style. Haikure also utilizes hemp, organic cotton, recycled poly, lyocell, tencel, linen and low-impact, plant-based dyes and aging processes. PLus, they have a really innovative tracking and transparency system in place that lets the buyer know the life-cycle and impacts of the purchase.

THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE is a journey of discovery into what is a complex social dilemma. In essence, humans have cleverly categorized non-human animals into three parts: domesticated pets, wildlife, and the ones we don’t like to think about: the ghosts in our machine.”

Liberator_issue1cover-TimSeeleyMoCCAfest exclusive.  Cover art by Javier Sanchez Aranda, colors by Kathryn Mann

I grew up reading comic books which is why I’m so excited about LIBERATOR, a new series from Black Mask Studios where gritty antiheroes put the target on animal abusers and dog fighters. The comic book is a collaboration between Matt Miner & Vito Delsante. Go to the signing for Liberator #1! Visit any of the following links to pre-order online:

CLICK HERE to find your closest comic book store.
Pre-Order from Discount Comic Book Service (USA, ships internationally)
Pre-Order from Midtown Comics (USA, ships internationally)
Pre-Order from Things From Another World (USA, ships internationally)
Pre-Order from Forbidden Planet International

When I finally got to try Phoney Baloney’s coconut bacon, I went through half the bag by itself in the first 15 minutes! Needless to say, the smokey, savory, crispy flakes go great with everything from salads to cupcakes – but don’t forget to make a classic BLT. Check out Isa’s recipe for butterscotch cupcakes with coconut bacon, and Phoney Baloney’s own recipe for a BLTA

Prospector, Treeline, Uniforms for the Dedicated

http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0208/4178/products/IMG_4906_1024x1024.jpg?1555DukeThe Kingsley http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0208/4178/products/xIMG_5491_1024x1024.jpg?1555

treelinecheeseplateTreeline-hardTreeline-Scallion-2

Treeline Cheese is a cashew-based, aged, artisan cheese that ripens in upstate New York’s Catskill mountains. Whether you stuff a date with it, eat it on sliced fruit, mix it into rice or pasta, or use it to top-off any dish that would call for a fine cheese, it seems there’s no way to go wrong with fine vegan cheeses. Sometimes, though, nothing is better than enjoying a glass of wine while simply letting one small wedge at a time slowly melt in your mouth.

 

A Word on Wallets

by D. R. Hildebrand

I was about ten, maybe eleven years old, the first (and only) time my mother bought me a wallet.  The store sold leather jackets, leather purses, leather everything, all at very inexpensive prices.  As she paid I asked her, unaware, where this thing leather came from.  She hesitated a moment, probably caught off guard, then told me, “from animals.”  As someone who grew up vegetarian, not because of my parents but because of my stubborn older siblings who demanded it, there was no doubt my mother knew exactly what I thought of this suddenly morose, unappealing gift.  Before I could even utter a rebuttal she looked at me with frustration, and a little guilt, and said, “Well what other options are there?  It’s leather or nothing.”

I made that wallet last through college.

Fortunately, twenty years later my mother’s question has a host of answers.  Leather is passé and the alternatives are abundant.  The assortment below, by no means exhaustive, is intended simply to highlight a few of the materials and styles currently available, and to hint at what innovation will bring in the future.

My first vegan wallet was the National Bi-Fold, a very popular item from the Vegan Collection.  It had a leather-like look and feel and was often mistaken for leather.  Unfortunately, it wore out like leather too.  Others have found theirs to be quite resilient however and if a likeness to leather is the aesthetic you desire then this, or one of the company’s other designs, is worth considering.  Prices range from $24 to $32, with MooShoes carrying select styles in-store.

TheVeganCollection

Dynomighty Design, intended to “accentuate the modern urban lifestyle,” by Terrence Kelleman offers a tear-resistant, water-resistant, expandable, and recyclable wallet at an affordable $15.  The material is tyvek, which makes for an extremely lightweight, almost unnoticeable presence.  Dynomighty’s only drawback comes for those who carry extra credit cards, piles of receipts, photos, condoms, business cards, or anything else that will strain it.  For the minimalist, though, it is a gem.  Find it online at Alternative Outfitters or in a Whole Foods supermarket.

Dynomighty

For the past year I’ve carried a US-made wallet by HARVEYS.  This California-based maker, founded by the couple Dana and Melanie Harvey, offers no visible mention of being vegan—something I actually kind of like.  Each item, though, is made of seat belts and has a fashionable yet conscientious look.  The wallet, Black Label, costs $48 and is as reliable as, well, a seat belt.

Harveys

Additional options include: Franklin by Alchemy Goods, which makes wallets from reclaimed bicycle inner tubes for $29; hemp wallets by Rawganique ranging from $4 to $17; the effortless yet resilient Flowfold at $30, crafted in Maine from the sailcloth of boats; RAGGEDedge Gear, with badass wallets made of carbon fiber and Kevlar at $60; handmade by “dudes in California,” Couch Guitar Straps offers Jet Age, a funky $30 vintage-style wallet manufactured from vinyl; and for $74 any number of the sleek and über-chic stainless steel wallets by Stewart/Stand.

You Eat Like A Girl: Why the Masculine Dilemma toward Veganism is No Dilemma at All

by Daniel Kucan, carpenter, fighter, interior designer, & television personality

Remember when smoking was manly? When the notion of a “smoker” conjured images of cowboy poets and late-night, tequila-fueled rendezvous?

Yeah, me neither—born too late. But from what I can tell, once upon a time smokers were all Don Draper coolness and hot downtown abandon. Say “smoker” to me now and I’m thinking pacemakers and wrinkled old women who breathe through holes in their necks. I don’t know any smoker today who doesn’t wish he never started.

It’s as if our whole society learned an ugly lesson there, and we’re still coming to terms with it. Although the same ugliness is true of eating flesh, that lesson is proving more elusive.

The first time I met Maldanado—the guy who I’m fighting in ten minutes—we were maybe 19 years old. He was a little guy with thin, whipchain arms and a long braid down to his waist. Everything was point-style back then, which meant you never went to the ground, and if you got into a clinch, the referee would stop it and separate you. It wasn’t like the continuous brawls that you see now in the UFC. But at the same time, in point-style, you could have five or six fights in a day. Nowadays you have one fight, and then you recover for three weeks. Back then you just became close friends with that shady cat who had a Percocet connection.

finished-roundhouse1

Spot the vegan in this image.

I’m a vegan—haven’t eaten any meat since ’89—and it’s funny how I get all this guff for it. The grand master of our school was a Chinese National Living Treasure named Chan. He was, I don’t know, four, maybe five hundred years old and mean as a snake. The only words in English I ever heard him say were “wrong!” and, my favorite, “idiot!” He used to teach class with the smell of cigarette smoke on him and a glass of whiskey in his hand. Chan called me Lo Han Jai, which sorta means “vegetarian” or “guy who eats like Buddha,” but—in that ineffable way Chinese phrases can mean several things at once—is more like calling me “Spicy Tofu with Veggies.” That used to make me crazy because he was basically calling me a wimp.

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