Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vegan Mofo: Vegan American Might as Well Be a Caveperson's Cuisine

The vegan American cuisine is about 50 years old and, in some ways, created from whole cloth. Compare that to other cuisines around the world, which have evolutionized over thousands of years and have developed from an extended, indigenous collective wisdom.

On the one hand, you have a baby cuisine still struggling to figure out what it is. There are odd permutations, such as Healthy Vegan (unseasoned black beans, rice, kale), Facsimile Vegan (a soy bean is an egg, a soy bean is beef, etc.), and Junk Vegan (cupcakes and jerky). Unfortunately, vegan American has also grown up in a vicious corporate culture that in many ways plays the improper role of greedy manipulator, not helpful facilitator, of what those who choose vegan American should be eating.

The vegan American cuisine is also victimized by its understandable emphasis on the analogue. For example, the overwhelming percentage of eaters of this cuisine grew up eating non-vegan food and developed their sense of comfort and palate from this. They then try to re-create it in vegan form.

For example, compare scrambled eggs to tofu scramble. The nutritional profiles are radically different, as are the tastes. No doubt, it's better in many ways to eat tofu than eggs, but certainly not in all ways. For instance, how does tofu scramble, when combined with hash browns and toast physically affect a person compared to scrambled eggs, hash browns and toast? What kinds of chemical phenomena are set off when you combine eggs with those things versus when you combine tofu with those things? Certainly, both eggs and tofu contain protein, but they contain myriad other chemicals and create obviously different reactions when combined with other food. Is that combination harmful. If so, how? A mature cuisine would have largely worked out these matters.

Maybe tofu is healthier than an egg in most ways. But you can't end the discussion with an either/or fallacy. Is tofu healthy enough? Is it tasty enough? What is it really doing to our bodies and brains? How might it negatively affect our physiology in a way that the egg doesn't?

Traditional cuisines also have mostly developed incrementally through the passing on of flavors and techniques from family member to family member and from combining whole, local materials. American vegans, however, are often the first person in their family to adopt their particular diet. They must get much of their knowledge from the outside world. Their diet is often less borne of patient evolution than of radical invention.

I'm not suggesting eggs are acceptable to eat. I just think that those who eat a vegan American diet should consider how radical of a cuisine this is and think about the implications of eating a cuisine that's in its infancy as opposed to one that's been developed over thousands of years.


  1. I wonder about that too.. I usually eat ovo-lacto, but I've been eating vegan for MoFo. I feel really great and have loads of energy, but I've been hesitant to use a lot of tofu or seitan or fake cheese in my meals. I've read that women should limit soy to a serving a day or less, so I've tried to keep most of my intake unprocessed and vegetable-based foods.

    I've made a vegan omelette and a vegan eggs benedict this month, but other than that my breakfasts have been soy-free... tomato sandwiches, beans on toast, cereal with almond milk.

    Though I feel a little limited at breakfast time, I realize that I relied on eggs A LOT (which people have done for thousands of years) and that's probably not that healthy either.

    There are unanswered questions in vegan cuisine, and just because we can rest assured that our food is compassionate, it doesn't mean we shouldn't consider what we're putting into our bods. Good point, Dazee. It's just another thing we have to navigate without a map.

  2. I have sex with all my cousans. and yes its stated in the vegan big book that its not only vegan it is a major part of the progam Einstin,Rosevelt and all the british roalty were not vegans but they got this right anyway