The Vegan Fallacy

By D. R. Hildebrand

Not too long ago I was in LA for work.  I arrived in the evening, starving, of course, and as soon as I reached my hotel I headed across Sunset Boulevard to the closest Veggie Grill I could find.  There are no fewer than ten of these godsends on the West Coast, and along with Loving Hut they comprise the closest thing I can think of to a vegan fast-food chain.

The Sunset Boulevard location is huge, though at 9:00 at night just about every table was taken.  I ordered the Papa’s Portobello with the Soup of the Day and sat down next to an energetic group of three, twenty-something surfer guys who couldn’t stop talking about the one thing they were all eating: carrot cake.

“Dude, holy shit, this stuff rocks!”

“I know, man.  We keep telling you, it’s incredible.”

They carried on until it became apparent that two were vegan, educating their non-vegan friend in the joys of, as one said, “actually eating real food.”  I sat there with little else to do but listen and try to pace my own consumption—the Papa’s Portobello was fantastic—when one of them made a comment that caught my attention.

“Dude,” he said (to his not-yet-vegan dude friend), “it’s good and it’s good for you!”

Oh geez, I thought, the ultimate vegan fallacy.

At first I wanted to laugh.  Then I glanced at them and realized they were each ordering seconds, and in all likelihood really believed what they were telling themselves.

To be clear, I’ve never studied nutrition.  I can’t explain why it is that some foods are good for us and others are not.  In general though, I think it’s safe to say that the carrots, walnuts, coconut, and perhaps a few other ingredients in this particular delicacy fall on the healthy, beneficial side of the nutritional spectrum.  I think it’s just safe to say, however, that non-dairy cream cheese, non-dairy margarine, a cup or two of cane sugar, and any sort of oil undoubtedly do not.

It seems a number of vegans equate cruelty-free for animals with cruelty-free for themselves, forgetting—or ignoring—that what isn’t the devil isn’t consequently a saint.  This is not to say we should all eat three salads a day with nothing but whole fruit and nuts for snacks in between.  It is simply to say that we should educate ourselves about the products we most often consume, and remember to be as kind to our own bodies as we strive to be others’.

We often hear non-vegans tell us about all the foods of which we supposedly deprive ourselves.  And it is tempting to shove the delicious vegan options of those foods straight down their throats.  It’s tempting to shove them down our own as well, but we would be wise to do so in moderation.  For cake will always be cake, junk food will always be junk, and at the end of the day a treat should remain just that—a treat—not the foundation of a meal, and never the basis of one’s diet.

Taste and Believe: Veggie Grill, Los Angeles

I finally got to try the phenomenon known as Veggie Grill in Los Angeles. It was my last night in LA and a friend nearly punched me out for not having tried it yet. Los Angeles is like a giant, confusing strip-mall, I explained to her. How was I supposed to have just stumbled across it? I’m a New Yorker, I need grids and subways!

We drove over (in a hybrid, of course) ordered their new “cheeseburger” with sweet potato fries, which was ridiculously amazing. This burger hit that late-night, salty, savory, ooey-gooey spot. We also got the breaded cutlet sandwich, the tomato soup, a side of mac and “cheese” and a kale salad. If you are a health-nut, this place is great – but if you have a hankering for a juicy, cheezy, bready, filling indulgence, even better! Next time you’re in Hollywood, don’t pass this up! They even have gluten-free and soy-free options, as well as desserts, daily special soups, and they cater!

Ethical Exploits Vol.4: California Dreamin'

Day-to-day choices for the ethically handsome man
By Matt Lara

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Where the Wild Photos Are: BABOONS IN PROFILE, AMBOSELI 2007

While everyone was checking out wild fashion at NYC Fashion Week, I was moving out to the wild, wild west known as Los Angeles. My first excursion out of the world of unpacking and back into the world of enjoyment was a visit to the Fahey/Klein Gallery to see A Shadow Falls by photographer Nick Brandt. Little did I know that a fun afternoon trip would turn out to be a private audience with the photographer himself! I was astonished to hear him explain that it was the gorgeous African wildlife that originally drew him in, and that this was the best way for him to honor it. The work is also available as a book. An excerpt from the introduction:

“For me, every creature on this planet has an equal right to live. Whether human being, Serengeti elephant, or factory farm cow. That is why I take these photographs. I hope that maybe you will see these animals, these non-humans, in the way that I do—as not so very different from us.”

App Happy:

According to a friend of mine, I have finally joined the “evil empire” with the purchase of my new iPhone. After figuring out picture-texting and voice activation, I sought out some of the more useful apps for healthy and compassionate ladies and germs:

Vegan Yum Yum has fantastic recipes from their blog, some with photos. I like how you can check off ingredients, which is helpful while in the grocery store.

Dirty Produce from the Environmental Working Group is a quick list of the most highly sprayed crops for when it’s difficult to find all organic produce.

Thanks to Chloe at GirlieGirlArmy for Be Nice To Bunnies which lists companies that test their products on animals. So helpful in those giant drug store aisles.

Whole Foods also has a nice app full of recipes I have been flipping through. They are arranged by category including vegan and gluten-free dishes.

Stir Crazy
Okay, I am still learning how to make astounding dishes a la Joshua Katcher (the DB himself). For now, I am a fan of the “dump-and-stir” recipe. This one looks, feels, and tastes special every time I stir-and-serve it. Therefore, I make it often:

Lemony Chickpea Tofu Stir Fry, and Stay tuned for more crazy stirring…


A Real Food Day

A few days after my big move I grabbed lunch with the man behind those naughty candles over at A Scent of Scandal, Ari Solomon. We laughed and chewed for quite a while over some wonderful dishes at Real Food Daily in West Hollywood. According to his recommendation, I am to come back and stuff myself with their nachos with melted cashew-cheddar cheese. That is after my next stop, the brand-new Veggie Grill on Sunset Boulevard!

Now that I’m pretty much all moved, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a good living space and a good day-job. I’ll keep you posted! If anyone out there has any tips, questions, or suggestion about living Ethically Handsome on the West Coast, please leave me a comment below!