The Vegan Month of Food is drawing to a close. The purpose of this month of intensive blogging was to show the world how fun, easy, delicious (and normal) vegan food can be (I can't say the same for gluten-free food, but that's for another day). Vegan MoFo has also been about dispelling misconceptions. Sure, I eat tofu, I eat lentils, but I also enjoy a wide and colorful variety of plant-based food, some of it deliciously unhealthy. Cooking for myself, frequenting vegan-friendly restaurants, and trading ideas with other vegan food bloggers, I sometimes forget how baffling and restrictive a vegan diet can seem to people from outside my food community.
This week, we've got family from across the country staying with us, and trying to plan meals that will satisfy everyone has reminded me of the tension between veganism and the way most Americans eat. One dinner highlighted the common misconception that vegan food = rabbit food: monotonous, flavorless, and relentlessly healthy. The other night, through a series of compromises and circumstances beyond my control, we ended up at Chili's. Fortunately, I was able to print their allergy menu beforehand and study my options. Eliminate meat, eggs, dairy, and gluten from the Chili's menu, and you're left with a dinner salad, sans cheese and croutons. Iceberg lettuce and dry carrots that were shredded last week do not make an attractive or satisfying meal. I picked at my salad and waited until I could get home and eat real dinner: corn tortillas, leftover lentil salad, and blueberry pie a la mode.
I'm not complaining; I wasn't expecting anything better. Vegans, gourmands, and food allergy-sufferers have no business eating at Chili's. But I'm disappointed that a humane meal is still so hard to find outside my vegan bubble; I'm frustrated that to most people eating the Standard American Diet, veganism looks unattractive and unrealistic.
It's easy, really. And totally delicious.
Being vegan does not mean eating salad everyday; it does mean choosing better, more creative restaurants than the chains found next to shopping malls. Unless you live in one of a handful of vegan-friendly major cities, eating well as a vegan requires learning to cook well (from scratch). It means collecting cookbooks and gathering inspiration from other vegans online and in person. It may mean skipping the grocery store for a farmers' market or coop in order to find the freshest fruits and vegetables. To eat well as a vegan, you must love food: cooking it, eating it, shopping for it, and reading about it. Veganism is not deprivation; it is deepening your relationship with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.
And that, my friends, is what Vegan MoFo is all about.