Your concern is duly noted. A vote for vegan

To me, “going vegan” is not about being trendy or better-than-thou, or guilting anyone into doing what I have come to believe is the right thing, or showing anyone up. It’s just what my wife and I have done in our household after our younger daughter introduced us to it about 18 months ago. I’m overjoyed to see this new nutritional path increasingly going mainstream, including full stories in major media venues.

I also laugh (or cringe) when I see some of those venues take interesting angles on plant-based nutrition.

One editor recently wrote about quick-eats-and-treats for Super Bowl parties. To me his one ‘token vegan’ entry was unappetizing in print and after trying it, his taste buds agreed. Case closed. Settled science. Forget anything vegan for your next party! You and your guests should just keep chowing down on burgers and wings and hot dogs, and pizzas drowning in meat. Jam as much animal product down your throats as possible.

Not that I am bitter.

Another writer dug deep to find out that one of the popular new vegan burgers has, she said, “similar levels of sodium to a regular beef hamburger.”

This reminds me of…

  • when Christian rockers started being signed by major mainstream music labels. (Think: dc Talk and the Newsboys signed by Virgin Records, or Jars of Clay doing Letterman and soft drink commercials. dc Talk’s Jesus Freak single wedged between Kiss and Marilyn Manson at #4 on Billboard.) Music critics born and bred on sex-drugs-rock-and-roll, incoherent singers falling off stages, and Keith Richards suddenly got all scholarly about song structures and wrote headlines like, “Christian rockers are hitting the charts and hitting the stage; but how’s the music, and what’s the message?”
  • the sudden, all-consuming concern on the part of learned media types — cue Dave Barry describing a highly trained TV journalist “making frowny faces” to let us know we should all be worried — about the health impacts of e-cigarettes (vaping). Wave after wave of stories repeated endlessly and mindlessly by an army of vapid [rim shot] talking heads has much of the American populace all a-dither over the scourge of e-cigarettes and how it must be stopped. That’s right, the tobacco industry has been poisoning children and adults around the globe despite mounting concerns about tobacco dating back to 1602; and cigarettes are on track to kill 10 million humans PER YEAR by 2020; but by God, we must protect the public by stamping out vaping. The smart money says that most of the content for these “news” stories is being fed by the tobacco industry to the media mouthpieces in order to kill its only natural predator, the e-cigarette.

But back to our juicy [it is a great day for rim shots] vegan burger discussion. I am not, like Bill Gates or Leo DiCaprio and a number of other celebrities, an investor in Beyond Meat, although I will be in a much smaller way by grabbing some shares when it goes public, which reportedly will happen later this year. Searching for meat company stock symbols I found that Beyond Meat’s proposed stock symbol is BYND. Here’s my proposed stock symbol for them: MEAT. I can’t find another company using it — ok, software company Atlassian’s stock symbol is TEAM, but now we’re just having fun with scrabble letters — and MEAT would be the perfect way to send certain people into a rage. People like the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, which fired a shot across the bow of the plant-based nutrition industry by cowing Missouri lawmakers [rim shot] into passing a law prohibits any company from referring to any product that did not require killing defenseless animals as “meat.” This is thinly-veiled intimidation as the meat industry watches plant-based foods start to supplant (!) animal products in the public consciousness. It also inspires several headlines I wish I’d written:

MISSOURI LEGISLATORS BUFFALOED BY CATTLEMEN

MISSOURI KOWTOWS TO CATTLE LOBBY

CATTLE LOBBY HAS A BEEF WITH CONSUMERS GOING VEGAN

I’ve got no horse (or horsemeat, for that matter) in this race. I have no dog (I don’t even want to think about it; restaurants in certain culinarily-enriched areas of major US cities, you know who you are) in this fight. What I’m really big on, though, are things like basic logic. So while some vegan burgers may indeed contain “levels of sodium comparable to regular hamburgers,” I’ll tell you what they contain a LOT less of: DEAD ANIMALS.

It’s Not a Crusade. These Burgers ROCK

These burgers also feature something that would surprise everyone who has ever proudly declared about vegan eating, “I could never do that,” or, “You know mah husband, he’s a meat-and-potatoes mayunnn”: they TASTE GREAT. We are loving Beyond Burgers out at TGI Fridays, and picking them up to cook ’em up ourselves from Sprouts and other grocers. Yes, you can grill them, and we do. Having had every burger Fridays makes, to me these are the best, tastiest burgers on the menu. Somewhere in the depths of my slogan-seeking heart I’m hearing:

ONCE YOU GO VEGAN YOU NEVER GO BACK

They now have Impossible Sliders at (yes) White Castle, marking the first time I’ve been to that particular establishment in decades. Azzip Pizza serves up really good “zero dairy zero cholesterol zero animal products 100% flavor” pies. They serve your basic regulation full-size Impossible Burgers at places such as the coolest local brew & burger pub here in our little corner of the Indiana countryside, Charlie’s…which leads me to my next point:

If we can eat vegan here in the heart of middle America, so can you.

Probably anywhere.

On my first real business trip to London last November — before that, my only visit had been a stopover at Heathrow — I had a Beyond Burger at Honest Burger. You can find great vegan or vegetarian fare in a lot of places now.

A Vote for Vegan Variety

I’ve learned there’s a lot more to vegan eating than black bean burgers (which aren’t bad, either) and tofu. We do eat a lot of straight vegetables and grains, but I guess knowing how most of us love burgers and such, the food industry keeps going above and Beyond, doing the Impossible [rim…ok, enough rim shots for one piece] to create amazing vegan versions of familiar comfort foods. These are some of the ones we are loving in our household:

  • I’m Italian but hated Italian sausage all my life. Field Roast ‘Italian sausage’ is the best I’ve ever tasted and I’d eat it damn near every day if I could.
  • Field Roast and other brands of ‘hot dogs’ are about 90-95% of the way to hot dog nirvana. We eat ’em all the time just the way we ate regular dogs (and do you really know what’s in those?), with sauerkraut and mustard. Those of us (me) who are unafraid of the hot dog gods raining down fire on their heads also add ketchup. Don’t even get me started on “ketchup versus catsup.” Another tale for another time.
  • Daiya products, available at most grocery stores now, include ‘cheddar’ and ‘mozzarella’ slices and ‘shredded cheese’ so you can grab a zesty slice or enjoy on pasta and salads. I defy you to have just a little of its ‘cheesy mac’ macaroni & cheese without finishing the whole thing.
  • Gardein ‘meatballs’ are amazing alone in sauce or with the whole wheat and vegetable pastas we eat. Gardein also makes killer ‘chicken nuggets’ that, to quote the time-honored phrase, really do “taste like chicken.”
  • We buy Dave’s Killer Bread bagels and other healthy breads, which are sweetened mostly with apple juice instead of refined sugar, and put Earth Balance ‘butter’ (stick and soft whip) or Daiya ‘cream cheese’ on them.
  • We are people who MUST have tacos on a semi-regular basis. We make them with a savory bean mix or Beyond ‘ground beef’ crumbles, or both, then eat ’em with all the normal fixings including vegan ‘sour cream’ and the Daiya shredded cheddar.

Other weekly or frequent favorites include:

  • Mouthwatering (yes) baked potatoes loaded with vegan butter, sour cream, and shredded cheddar
  • French toast — sometimes with real eggs, so yes, not vegan, but lovingly slathered with vegan butter and real syrup (the expensive kind, so let’s just say our dishes aren’t swimming)
  • Soy milk and almond milk, which we get in plain or vanilla flavors or sometimes chocolate milk
  • Daiya ‘blue cheese,’ ‘ranch,’ and ‘Caesar’ salad dressings

These things all taste amazing. I love to eat and couldn’t do this if they didn’t. I feel light-years better, and maybe I’ll live longer. Ok, so on that point maybe my wife will reconsider us doing this vegan eating thing.

Am I perfectly vegan? No.

When in NYC on business I’ll get some giant slices of NY-style pizza made with real cheese, probably at what has become my favorite place there, Famous Amadeus — but no pepperoni like the old days; either loaded with nature’s most buttery-smooth mushrooms or full veggie (hold the onion). One time I even had pizza with pasta on it at Famous Original Ray’s Pizza in NYC, so right there that covers two of your major food groups. I also like soft ice cream a couple times a year.

Not trying to be a model citizen and don’t have all the answers. Just having the eating time of my life. You’re welcome to join me.


The piece above may be a pretty lighthearted look at the issues and the possibilities, but another picture remains heavy on my heart and provided equally strong motivation for a plant-based nutrition lifestyle.