A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled We are NOT Vegans. I thought I gave a pretty good rendering of why the term vegan does not adequately define those of us on the whole food, plant-based diet. The vitriol that came at me in one Facebook group, where apparently a number of members, unbeknownst to me considered themselves ethical vegans, was overwhelming. In fact, the moderator, who stated that she found nothing wrong with my blog posting herself, decided to take the discussion down because the comments were coming so fast and furious and getting so ridiculous that she decided it was best to take down the whole discussion.
I was reminded of that posting today when I read Carla Golden's excellent essay on the same subject at I am NOT Vegan. Carla has a different take on it than I did, but I agree totally with what she is saying. After reading Carla's posting, I feel even stronger about not calling myself vegan.
And the main reason that I want to get away from that word is because I think it misdefines us when we go into a restaurant or into someone's home for dinner or in other social contexts. First, it conjures up images of extremism, which after seeing the reaction to my previous blog posting, I can really understand that. But more importantly, not eating animal products is only one facet of our whole food, plant-based diet. It does not define the entire diet.
So, when we go into a restaurant and tell the server that we are vegan or we think of ourselves as vegan, then the focus becomes pretty much on not eating animal products. In reality, our focus in a restaurant should probably be more on avoiding oils and other fats, salts and added sugars. That's where the real danger lies in a restaurant. Finding non-meat options is easy. There's always salads and pastas and main dishes that can be asked for without the meat. The hard part is getting the pasta to be whole wheat or to not be drenched in a lot of oil or butter. And extra salt and sugar is put on pretty much everything. That's what makes restaurant food taste so good.
Saying we're vegan makes life easier, but it hardly explains how we eat. I much prefer to say that I eat a whole food, plant-based diet. And to think that way as well. When I go out to eat, I look for whole plant-based foods. That doesn't lead me to vegan restaurants. It does lead me to search out farm-to-table restaurants when I travel or when I want to go out. At a good farm-to-table restaurant, there will always be food there that contains no animal or dairy products. But at a vegan restaurant, that's all I'm guaranteed. I'm not guaranteed against being drowned in a sea of oil or buried in a pile of salt and sugar. But at a farm-to-table restaurant, I can more easily avoid those kind of pitfalls. Even if an item does come heavy with olive oil, chefs in farm-to-table restaurants will generally accommodate requests not to do that.
I encourage others to think that way as well. Thinking that way will improve the quality of the foods you eat and lead to better options when eating out. Forget the word vegan. Instead, think whole food, plant-based. That's what I plan to do going forward. I plan to strike the word "vegan" from my vocabulary.