By Published On: 11 December 20101108 words5.5 min read

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Filling the Knowledge Vacuum

By Maria Erb, Guest Contributor

I was at an alternative transportation symposium last month in a very progressive city in my home state of New Hampshire.  Lunch was catered by a local eatery and there were lots of white bagged sacks with big “V”‘s on them waiting for the hungry crowd at noontime.  What tasty morsels awaited me and the roomful of other hopeful eaters, I wondered.  I expected great things from this lunch since Keene, NH where the symposium was held, is a good-sized college town with lots of enviro-friendly businesses and lots of eco-activist residents.  Surely, their local foodistas would be right on top of the latest veg offerings and I couldn’t wait to have my taste buds tingled by something fabulous.  To my horror, my “V” lunch consisted of two bookends of bread with a paper thin slice of pale tomato and a wilted piece of lettuce between them,  a giant no-doubt-sugar-and-butter-laden cookie and an apple which I naively tried to slice with a plastic knife since braces on my teeth make biting into one out of the question.  Fortunately, I make it a policy to keep an arsenal of Cliff Bars on my person any time I fear a long separation from edible food so I dug into my stash to find sustenance for the afternoon workshops.

Yep, this was the in-the-know eatery’s version of “vegan” — it’s everything but the cheese, the eggs, the meat, the mayo, and the everything else apparently.  People know what vegan is NOT, but they have no clue what vegan IS.  To be fair, the vegetarian communtiy hasn’t done such a hot job of communicating what vegetarian is either.  On a recent three day bicycle tour tour with a large state-wide bike advocacy group in Massachusetts, I was really excited to see that a vegetarian option was included in the daily meals provided for the riders on the tour.  And after a long day of cycling 30 or 40 miles up the hilly terrain of western Mass, I was ready to pound the pasta, bean balls, falafel, and basically, whatever else was on the menu.  Did I have that luxury?  Nope!! Nuthin’ but portabello mushrooms as far as the eye could see with a dinner roll or two thrown into the mix.  We had marinated portabellos the first night, grilled the second, and the third night was the send-off celebration fiesta so we at least had tortellini with pesto for that instead of portabellos.  Despite the parmesan and whatever else was in the pesto and the tortellini,  I piled my plate sky high then went back for more.  Otherwise I’m sure I would have bonked or blitzed or whatever else athletes do after the granola bars and bananas have stopped working for them.

What I’m saying here is that people are confused.  In the same way that people know Christian Scientists “don’t go to doctors” but have no clue what they actually do for healthcare, we in the vegan community have a masssive PR problem with communicating what we actually eat and what constitutes good vegan food.  I’m just wondering if we’re partly to blame in a lot of ways for that.

All of us have a lot of chances to interact with other people and a lot of times those interactions center on or around food.  At work, are you the one with the pallid sandwich, the mish mash of containers full of steamed carrots and overcooked brussels sprouts? If your social group has a potluck, do you show up with lentil loaf or Tofurkey? I’m Just askin’ here and I’m not trying to insult anyone who likes lentil loaf.  I’m just saying if that was your first introduction to the vegan world you might not ever come back to it.

We are all ambassadors for the “V” word.  Let’s at least put a tasty face on.   Wouldn’t it be nice if you heard the average guy on the street say something like “Vegan? OMG!!! I had this great baked pumpkin ravioli wtih sage breadcrumbs at my friend’s house the other night and it was FREAKIN’ awesome!!  And then we had a coconut cake for dessert!  I can’t believe that stuff is vegan b/c it’s so good!”  Wouldn’t that be nice?  You can make it happen.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of eaters out there with really bad taste in food.  Part of this is upbringing (my husband was downing Coke and Poptarts for breakfast when I met him as a teenager), part of it is fear of anything new or different, and part of it is just lack of exposure to anything really good.  Taking all of that into consideration, you might want to save the tofu ricotta for the well-seasoned vegan eaters but pull out the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the “V” curious crowd in your area.  You have lots of opportunities to show others what vegan is.  Let’s fill the knowledge vacuum with something “V” good.

I did have one nice vegan food surprise this summer.  I was at a web developer’s conference just outside of Brattleboro, Vermont (another enviro-haven that comes as close as we ever get to “hippie” in New England).  When lunchtime rolled around and the lines formed in front of the large portable grill pit outside, I could smell the burgers and chicken wafting through the air and my expectations for a decent “V” lunch flagged as I got closer to the front of the line.  I spotted a small cadre of veggie burgers in a corner on the grill and a huge bowl of some sort of grain-based salad on a picnic table off to the side.  I assumed I’d have to pick my way through most of the salad, filtering out the chunks of cheese, ham, or chicken but to my great surprise, the salad turned out to be quinoa with chopped veggies and herbs. It was entirely vegan!  Wow!  But in Vermont where local, organic, free range, and other mantras have been a state-wide focus and near mandate for a decade or two, it’s not surprising to see some gains on the frontlines.  If it’s going to take that kind of effort for a vegan grain salad to show up at lunch, I’d say we’ve got a lot of work to do and we need to get moving.

Photo: Maria Erb

By Published On: 11 December 20101108 words5.5 min read

Share This Story!

Filling the Knowledge Vacuum

By Maria Erb, Guest Contributor

I was at an alternative transportation symposium last month in a very progressive city in my home state of New Hampshire.  Lunch was catered by a local eatery and there were lots of white bagged sacks with big “V”‘s on them waiting for the hungry crowd at noontime.  What tasty morsels awaited me and the roomful of other hopeful eaters, I wondered.  I expected great things from this lunch since Keene, NH where the symposium was held, is a good-sized college town with lots of enviro-friendly businesses and lots of eco-activist residents.  Surely, their local foodistas would be right on top of the latest veg offerings and I couldn’t wait to have my taste buds tingled by something fabulous.  To my horror, my “V” lunch consisted of two bookends of bread with a paper thin slice of pale tomato and a wilted piece of lettuce between them,  a giant no-doubt-sugar-and-butter-laden cookie and an apple which I naively tried to slice with a plastic knife since braces on my teeth make biting into one out of the question.  Fortunately, I make it a policy to keep an arsenal of Cliff Bars on my person any time I fear a long separation from edible food so I dug into my stash to find sustenance for the afternoon workshops.

Yep, this was the in-the-know eatery’s version of “vegan” — it’s everything but the cheese, the eggs, the meat, the mayo, and the everything else apparently.  People know what vegan is NOT, but they have no clue what vegan IS.  To be fair, the vegetarian communtiy hasn’t done such a hot job of communicating what vegetarian is either.  On a recent three day bicycle tour tour with a large state-wide bike advocacy group in Massachusetts, I was really excited to see that a vegetarian option was included in the daily meals provided for the riders on the tour.  And after a long day of cycling 30 or 40 miles up the hilly terrain of western Mass, I was ready to pound the pasta, bean balls, falafel, and basically, whatever else was on the menu.  Did I have that luxury?  Nope!! Nuthin’ but portabello mushrooms as far as the eye could see with a dinner roll or two thrown into the mix.  We had marinated portabellos the first night, grilled the second, and the third night was the send-off celebration fiesta so we at least had tortellini with pesto for that instead of portabellos.  Despite the parmesan and whatever else was in the pesto and the tortellini,  I piled my plate sky high then went back for more.  Otherwise I’m sure I would have bonked or blitzed or whatever else athletes do after the granola bars and bananas have stopped working for them.

What I’m saying here is that people are confused.  In the same way that people know Christian Scientists “don’t go to doctors” but have no clue what they actually do for healthcare, we in the vegan community have a masssive PR problem with communicating what we actually eat and what constitutes good vegan food.  I’m just wondering if we’re partly to blame in a lot of ways for that.

All of us have a lot of chances to interact with other people and a lot of times those interactions center on or around food.  At work, are you the one with the pallid sandwich, the mish mash of containers full of steamed carrots and overcooked brussels sprouts? If your social group has a potluck, do you show up with lentil loaf or Tofurkey? I’m Just askin’ here and I’m not trying to insult anyone who likes lentil loaf.  I’m just saying if that was your first introduction to the vegan world you might not ever come back to it.

We are all ambassadors for the “V” word.  Let’s at least put a tasty face on.   Wouldn’t it be nice if you heard the average guy on the street say something like “Vegan? OMG!!! I had this great baked pumpkin ravioli wtih sage breadcrumbs at my friend’s house the other night and it was FREAKIN’ awesome!!  And then we had a coconut cake for dessert!  I can’t believe that stuff is vegan b/c it’s so good!”  Wouldn’t that be nice?  You can make it happen.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of eaters out there with really bad taste in food.  Part of this is upbringing (my husband was downing Coke and Poptarts for breakfast when I met him as a teenager), part of it is fear of anything new or different, and part of it is just lack of exposure to anything really good.  Taking all of that into consideration, you might want to save the tofu ricotta for the well-seasoned vegan eaters but pull out the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the “V” curious crowd in your area.  You have lots of opportunities to show others what vegan is.  Let’s fill the knowledge vacuum with something “V” good.

I did have one nice vegan food surprise this summer.  I was at a web developer’s conference just outside of Brattleboro, Vermont (another enviro-haven that comes as close as we ever get to “hippie” in New England).  When lunchtime rolled around and the lines formed in front of the large portable grill pit outside, I could smell the burgers and chicken wafting through the air and my expectations for a decent “V” lunch flagged as I got closer to the front of the line.  I spotted a small cadre of veggie burgers in a corner on the grill and a huge bowl of some sort of grain-based salad on a picnic table off to the side.  I assumed I’d have to pick my way through most of the salad, filtering out the chunks of cheese, ham, or chicken but to my great surprise, the salad turned out to be quinoa with chopped veggies and herbs. It was entirely vegan!  Wow!  But in Vermont where local, organic, free range, and other mantras have been a state-wide focus and near mandate for a decade or two, it’s not surprising to see some gains on the frontlines.  If it’s going to take that kind of effort for a vegan grain salad to show up at lunch, I’d say we’ve got a lot of work to do and we need to get moving.

Photo: Maria Erb

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  1. YourDailyVegan December 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    Did you miss it earlier? [ New Post by Guest Contributor @erbfarm ] Filling the knowledge vacuum – https://www.yourdailyvegan.com/2010/12/11… #vegan

  2. Topsy.com December 11, 2010 at 10:27 am - Reply

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Your Daily Vegan, Vegan Valkyrja. Vegan Valkyrja said: RT @YourDailyVegan: [New Post by Guest Contributor @erbfarm] Filling the knowledge vacuum – http://bit.ly/f4Q2it #vegan […]

  3. YourDailyVegan December 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    [New Post by Guest Contributor @erbfarm] Filling the knowledge vacuum – https://www.yourdailyvegan.com/2010/12/11… #vegan