Even two decades ago, veganism in the United States was still thought to be something that only the “hippies” in northern California and New York followed. Hardly any restaurants offered vegan menu items and you would be hard pressed to find a grocery store that regularly had tofu, tempeh and other vegan foods. Those who braved the vegan diet were forcedto get creative and always cook for themselves. Now, however, we are living in a completely different culture. Grocery stores like Whole Foods are everywhere, companies boast about their vegan items and restaurants attract customers by promoting their plant-based menus. Weird looking and humorous foods such as “Fakin’ Bacon,” “Tofutti” and “Tofurky”are not uncommon.
The dining hall at my college, and many others, serves multiple vegan dishes and desserts at every meal and book stores practically have entire sections devoted to vegan cookbooks. Although you will still encounter the occasional person who doesn’t know what “vegan” means, it’s a lot less likely to happen.
While Millennials (the term given to the generation born around the year 2000 that has the reputation of being technologically advanced, attached to their phones and more connected to other parts of the world) are credited with being more environmentally aware than previous generations*, the popularization of veganism seems to be driven by the accumulative force of people across several generations. For example, I have a 10 year old cousin who is vegan and a 70 year old grandmother.
And it’s not just my weird family–it’s many people across America. According to a 2011 poll, about 1 million Americans are vegan (The Vegetarian Times). Considering the upward trend of veganism, that number has probably risen quite a bit in the last three years.
*Whereas Generation X (the generation after the baby boomers of WWII) were characterized as the “Me Me Me” generation, many people and news sources have been putting a positive spin on Millennials, claiming they are more globally and environmentally aware than the generations before them. However, this is much debated and it is commonly agreed that although Millennials may be more aware, they neglect to take any action.
Ways to Avoid Arguments
No matter where I am or who I’m with, it always seems to become evident to those around me that I am vegan. Once it has been established that I am, in fact, a plant-eating, meat-avoiding human being, the questions ensue. Sometimes, especially where I come from (Bakersfield, California, which is staunchly anti-vegan despite being in California), people take my veganism as an attack on their animal eating habits and feel the need to defend themselves, which first presents itself in the form of a very loaded question concerning the logic behind my diet. On multiple occasions I have found myself in the sticky situation of trying to avoid the argument that is surely blossoming, but not wanting to belittle the importance of veganism. I have come up with a few quick responses that usually shut down the conversation without getting into an argument. They typically only work with someone who isn’t a close friend or family member. Rather, they are tailored for the person you meet for coffee once in a while or the coworker who you see in the staff lounge.
- I just don’t really like meat, so I thought “why not be vegan?”
- This doesn’t have to be true–you may love meat but decided to sacrifice this great love for the greater good of the planet. You can still, however, use this line. How can they argue with your taste buds?
- Eating that food messes with my stomach, and nowadays it’s so easy to find vegan substitutes, so I eat that instead.
- Once again, this doesn’t have to be true for you to use it.
- My mom/dad/spouse/sibling/professional chef is vegan and they cook all my food, and I know it’s healthy enough to be vegan so I decided to join.
- This works especially well for me. I became vegan in the first place because my mom was vegan and she cooked most of my meals.
- Have you ever seen “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”? Don’t you want vegan powers? *Change subject*
- If you don’t understand this reference, go watch the movie. Or use it anyway and pretend like you’ve watched the movie.
Here are a few well-known people who just happen to be vegan:
Split Pea Soup is one of my favorite dishes, especially on a cold winter night (even if you’re from California).
Here is a great vegan recipe for it: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/vegan-split-pea-soup-i/