Why are we still surprised when something amazing is vegan?
People share vegan recipes with me everyday. Whether it’s a cashew based cheese or a seitan brisket, chefs are getting more and more creative in their preparation of food imitations. Mimicking experiences like the squeak of mac n’ cheese or the chew of jerky has been easily duplicated and often times improved by plant-based means. So why are we still always promising non-vegans they’ll be surprised to find out a dish is vegan? How come people still don’t believe something enjoyable can come from something that doesn’t exploit animals? The stereotypes around what vegans like is still very much perpetuated by the non-vegans who fear veganism, and the vegans who look to make converts without much conversation. It shouldn’t be assumed that vegan things are bland, boring or granola, but it also shouldn’t be assumed that they’ll be perfect, better, and infallible. The way we promote vegan things is influencing how they’re perceived.
The phones in our hands are capable of incredible feats that are so easily taken for granted. So forgive me, but I find it laughable that it’s still considered “unbelievable” when someone manages to make veganism appealing. There’s always an underlying assumption that vegan food won’t taste as good, vegan clothing won’t look as good, and that generally, veganism isn’t the best route because it’s not the norm. And although many relish in the opportunity to bust that myth, the vegan culture we are shaping is simultaneously leading people to become the judge and jury on whether or not the vegan option is worth celebrating by always holding vegan items to an unfair standard. Why is it that vegan things always have to over-perform in comparison to their non-vegan counterparts?
Think about it, there are mediocre examples of everything in the non-vegan world. You can get animal proteins that aren’t cooked to your standards. You might buy a leather coat that shows signs of wear and tear long before a coat should. So why is it that if a vegan item doesn’t blow us away at first impression and all attempts that follow, it’s not worthy? Should we not wish to create the alternative to what exists, and not have to reach the insurmountable status of always being “better?” We already know the vegan option is better to animals, for sitting out on their commodification. We are not obligated to now rewrite the rest of human experience so that we can proclaim just how much more veganism does past that.
We should want to have the feeling of satiety when being vegan consumers. The growing availability of vegan resources and products should mean people are made aware of how easy it is to substitute one buying habit for another less destructive one. More options mean being able to critically choose what brands we like best again, instead of always being stuck with a single option. But when we hope non-vegans will renounce their beliefs at the taste of a vegan sausage, we don’t give permission to the cause of fighting for animals to be good enough. In my experience, I’ve been witness to people loving vegan food, without giving veganism a chance. For that reason, I feel like only promoting how sensational something vegan can be detrimental. We don’t merely want vegan items to sell better, we want more vegans. Of course some people will come through veganism that way, I’m simply expressing that many more don’t.
When morals propel your buying decisions, it can be a powerful vote for change. But since morality isn’t as commonly present when a non-vegan considers dining out at a vegan establishment, the new thing always needs to be decidedly better for them to give up whatever they currently enjoy. It can be wonderful to use the delight in a vegan item as an ice breaker for conversation, but when we leave it up to the item alone, one disappointment could mean rejecting the conversation later. Most people won’t give a second or third vegan brand the same attention once they’ve labelled a vegan thing “bad.”
If we flipped the tables and exclaimed “can you believe there’s a carcass in that,” things would no doubt be different. I strongly feel that in order to adequately put the assumptions applied to veganism to rest, we have to promote being as good instead of always being better. Until people are able to get rid of their “I can’t believe it’s not butter” lens and start focusing on what non-vegan items are lacking, it won’t be an even playing field. Emphasizing that how someone lives right now can translate easily to the vegan world is going to be much more attainable than sitting it atop a pedestal just out of reach. Go ahead and blow their minds with the latest vegan cheese, just do animals a favour and enjoy it while conversing about veganism, too. Helping someone understand why they should go vegan will make it taste all the more better.