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.