I have some things to share today that don't involve recipes per se. They involve something I knew would come for a while, as the backlash against #mindfulness, clean eating and detoxing begins- a period I think of as the death rattle of Hipsterdom (we're moving into the Yuccie era, for anyone that didn't catch the Mashable article that got a meagre 184,600 shares).
As my bus to work yesterday came to a halt at its stop, I spotted the sign above in the local co-operative food supermarket I can't afford to shop in. I got off the bus, retraced its tracks down the road in Shoreditch and took this photo. Because a) the bullshit. And b) I think many vegans fall in the centre of this debate without meaning to.
I read with glee the findings the Guardian published at the end of last year that stated detoxing means absolutely F all. I cannot stand the idea that a family or even one person would be put off trying veganism because of the fads, limpets, currently attaching themselves to it. If anything I'm looking forward to the point in a year or so's time, when veganism is finally not at all cool again and we can all get on with it without the eye-rolls that come with it right now. There are a lot of people, brands and businesses out there currently making a lot of money from the total crap that is the clean living concept, and it drives me nuts.
This article (click on the title) on the empty promise of slow living I spotted that my friend Alice shared kind of sums that feeling up. And I appreciate the fact veganism isn't included anywhere in the article, and the writer doesn't level any insults that way- I appreciate she gets that nuance. But I think if you're talking about clean eating in 2015, you are probably including veganism in that bracket. It's the unsaid feature of so many bloggers and slow movement personalities featuring in the press at the moment- despite the fact break-out detoxing star Deliciously Ella "hates" the word vegan and "would never describe herself as one" because it's "all about being really exclusive". Le sigh.
Here's one of the best bits from the article before I digress too much:
"As we've downshifted there have been religious and philosophical renaissances that have little to do with religion or philosophy. All around us, everyday, people are publically transcending, glowing, healing and undergoing revelations initiated by blended cashews and pairs of sunlit converse on cobbled streets. Awash with pointless pointers, we're instructed on the slow movement website that the reduced speed living exists as a reminder of 'who you actually are so that you don't wind up getting entrained into a human doing rather than a human being.'
"Figuring out to be rather than do is an unsolvable riddle. Sartre couldn't figure it out, for example, so it's unlikely feeling grateful for your morning espresso will make much difference. In case you hadn't noticed, the code word for this cursed lifestyle is mindfulness. As far as I can decipher, it means taking time to Instagram a picture of a sunrise rather than simply seeing it. But I could be wrong. Perhaps it has more to do with yoga? That's only a mindful $25 a pop, extra if you're wearing Lululemon."
Equally, I think the article goes too far. Take pottery- no-one I know that likes or makes pottery thinks they are a better person for it, they just like pottery. And I like buying it- far more than having identikit Ikea stuff shoved in my cupboards. Hell, if all my friends made stuff, I'd be able to give all my friends more money for stuff they'd created themselves. That probably would make us all better people. Is it a bad thing to want to be a better person?
Which brings me to this second article, this time spotted when my friend Tsouni shared it (link in the title again). This one is from Vice and 2014, but it's the best break-down of the exasperation I feel when people equate being vegan to being pretentious.
"I'm not saying that, because I try to avoid hurting animals, I'm somehow more ethical than you. Nobody is ethical. Humans are cancer. Everything would be better off if we were all dead. I'm typing this on a fossil-fuel-powered laptop that contains conflict minerals and was, I assume, manufactured in conditions that look vastly different from the conditions that I am working in right now.
"I'm also wearing a shirt that cost $6. I'm not totally sure how it was manufactured, shipped to the US, and sold to me, but I'd imagine someone is getting shit on pretty heavily somewhere along the chain if the whole thing cost $6. And how awful is that? I'm wearing a shirt that probably made multiple humans miserable as it was being created, and almost certainly harmed the planet in a fairly major way, and I don't even know where it came from or how it was made. There is no way of living in the modern world without doing morally reprehensible things on a daily basis.
"What I'm trying to say is that I am a piece of shit. And so are you. And I don't care what you eat. You can eat whatever, whenever, and however the fuck you want. As previously discussed, beyond the whole murder thing, I barely even give a shit what I eat. I definitely don't have time to worry about what you put in your mouth."
And I love this article too- for saying everything I never know how to say. But I think you can go further than resigning yourself to not caring what someone else eats- I think it is okay to care. I get pretty tired of sounding like a vegan apologist some days, when I don't want to start a row with a close friend about what really happens in a certain farming industry they are obviously wilfully ignorant about. I don't know if I'm in the wrong or the right at those points, and I hate the idea that by being so determined to not offend or be 'the vegan at the dinner party', veganism is becoming this illusive set of beliefs even people that are close to vegans never hear discussed. Probably not. I do have the feeling a lot of my friends and even family continue to see veganism as eccentric and extreme, and perhaps it would be better if I did test their beliefs more regularly.
Over three years of being vegan I've given up soy, tofu and meat-replacement products at some stage, but I've gone back to the point I'm happiest at (eating all of those things), because I realised you don't need to *also* subscribe to every health food trend to be a good vegan. You can drink beer and eat seitan burgers and Instagram stuff that's happening IRL for lunch (like three days of leftover lasagna in a row) because the main thing is you're not eating animals. There's a lot of vegan food out there I can't afford, like £4.99 for a small block of vegan cheese, coconut oil in general, or buying smoked tofu more than once a week. But there's still food out there. We can't just rely on the detoxing/slowfood/cleansing aesthetic to define veganism this year or next.
Maybe we can aim to be better people, but maybe it doesn't need to come from buying something (which seems to be such a pesky habit of the slow movement experience- all those faux farmer's markets, candles and teepees). And maybe it doesn't need to come from being diametrically opposed to something. Hating people that give up sugar or coffee or meat or dairy for any length of time doesn't help anyone, but on the flip-side, making a lifestyle that's organic, fair trade and vegan look exclusive is really the worst. Veganism, by its very nature, is about opting out- it's about choosing *not* to get involved with something you don't believe is right. You shouldn't have to do anything else to prove your convictions.