Once mocked as a fringe diet for sandal-wearing
health food store workers, veganism is moving from marginal to mainstream in the
The vegan Skinny Bitch diet books are best-sellers, vegan
staples like tempeh and tofu can be purchased at just about any supermarket and
some chain restaurants eagerly promote their plant-only menu items. Todays
vegans are urban hipsters, suburban moms, college students, even professional
Its definitely more diverse. Its not what you would picture
20 years ago, which is kind of hippie, crunchy, said Isa Chandra Moskowitz,
author of vegan cookbooks including the new Appetite for Reduction.
says its easier being a vegan now because there is more local produce available
and more interesting ways of cooking.
Its not just steamed vegetables
anymore and brown rice and lentils, she said.
Veganism is essentially
hard-core vegetarianism. While a vegetarian might butter her bagel or eat a cake
made with eggs, vegans shun all animal products: no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no
honey, no mayonnaise.
Ethical vegans have a moral aversion to harming
animals for human consumption, be it for a flank steak or leather shoes, though
the term often is used to describe people who follow the diet, not the larger
Its difficult to come up with hard numbers of practicing
vegans. Theres a blurry line between people who define themselves as vegan and
vegetarian, and some eaters dip in and out plant-only diets.
instance, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has described his vegan till
6 health plan, in which he becomes more omnivorous in the evening.
2009 survey, advocates at the not-for-profit Vegetarian Resource Group reported
about 1 percent of Americans are vegan, roughly a third of the people who
reported being vegetarians. A separate survey released last year by the same
group found a similar breakdown for Americans aged 8 to 18.
veganism something short of a fad sweeping the nation like low-carb once did.
Consider that while Kraft Foods reports that it shipped out more Boca Original
Vegan Burger Patties and Boca Ground Crumbles last year, the increase was a
modest 1 percent.
Still, there are plenty of signs that vegans have
pushed beyond their old, exclusive cocoon that once inspired celebrity chef
Anthony Bourdain to mock them as the Hezbollah-like splinter faction of
Exhibit A would be the Skinny Bitch diet books, which
provide vegan lifestyle tips in a blunt, girlfriend-on- the-phone style
(Sample passage: Soda is liquid Satan. It is the devil.).
Alicia Silverstone added a dose of star power to the vegan cause more recently
with The Kind Diet, a No. 1 best-seller. Vegan diets also have been touted by
other celebrities, including Emily Deschanel of Bones and Lea Michele of
Veganism has been buoyed by the same health-conscious wave that
has drawn Americans in unprecedented numbers to low-fat, vegetarian and organic
foods. The idea of eating lower on the food chain is especially attractive to
environmentally conscious consumers, since large-scale meat production is a
major source of greenhouse gases.
Veganism also provides a safe harbor
for the growing number of people concerned about where their supermarket meat
comes from. Critics of industrial-scale food processing like writer Michael
Pollan have been gaining a wider audience in recent years.
And sign of
the times some famous guys are eating vegan now, too.
known for his burger-loving ways when president, has credited his trim build at
his daughter Chelseas wedding this summer to a plant-based diet (though he
eats a little fish sometimes).
Even former heavyweight champion Mike
Tyson has talked up his vegan diet.
And vegan cookbooks, once a niche
product, are coming out at such a fast clip that there are now sub-niches. Da
Capo Press 20 vegan cookbooks in print include one on vegan soul food and
another with Latin vegan recipes. A book of vegan recipes containing alcohol,
The Tipsy Vegan, is upcoming.
Abstaining from animal products is an
ancient practice found in cultures worldwide. But veganism never got traction in
Tracye McQuirter, a vegan for 23 years and author of
By Any Greens Necessary, a vegan guide aimed at black women, said things were
different until about a decade ago. While she was part of a vegan community in
her hometown of Washington, she says there was little understanding beyond
People did not know what it meant, McQuirter said. There were not
a lot of options in terms of grocery stores. There was no Whole Foods. . . . We
had to basically cook everything for ourselves.
Thats changed. More
than half the 1,500 chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association for its
new Whats Hot in 2011 list included vegan entrees as a hot trend. Vegan
entrees came in at No. 71 out of 226 trends (beating out organic beer and
drinkable desserts). Thats evidence of veganism making inroads beyond urban
strongholds like New York City and Los Angeles.
Some chain restaurants
such as Sweet Tomatoes even mark vegan items on their menus.
So That Others May Simply Live
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