I didn’t have time to cook last night, so dinner was the delicious “Schmancy” sandwich from Clementine, a local vegan bakery. The listed ingredients are “baked and seasoned tofu, pesto, spinach, avocado, tomato, and hollandaise sauce” on a rosemary roll (and I’m not sure if it’s obvious from the photo, but it’s served hot). I’d like to try and make this myself; it sounds like a bit of a faff, but if you prepared the tofu and vegan pesto in advance and used store-bought vegan hollandaise, I imagine you could then throw it together pretty quickly.
A sandwich might not seem like much for dinner, but this was really filling, and I’d already eaten a big bowl of leftover Thai Red Curry for lunch (I apparently made an infinite amount, because there’s still some left). I also think it helps make your vegan life a little easier if you stop thinking about breakfast, lunch, and dinner as “something sweet / something small / big meal.” So long as you’re eating enough—that’s really important—it doesn’t matter whether your food conforms to some odd notion of traditional mealtime fare.
And speaking of that “local vegan bakery”—I want to acknowledge how bloody lucky I am to live somewhere with plentiful vegan food options and decent supermarkets. More than 23 million Americans live in “food deserts,” areas with limited or nonexistent access to healthy food (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables). According to the Food Empowerment Project, in New York alone an estimated 750,000 residents lack access to well-stocked food stores:
Supermarkets throughout New York City have closed down in recent years due to increasing rents and shrinking profit margins, but the disappearance of urban grocery stores has had the most serious impact on low-income communities, especially those that are predominantly African-American (such as East/Central Harlem and North/Central Brooklyn).
It’s obviously going to be much more challenging to adopt a vegan diet when the only food store near you is a Burger King or a bodega. Not to mention—if you live miles from the nearest supermarket (and can’t afford the gas to drive there) and you come home from work every night utterly exhausted and worried about where your next meal is going to come from, you’re unlikely to have the time or emotional energy to think about animal rights or the health benefits of a plant-based diet. And if you did find yourself looking online for information about veganism (assuming you even had access to the internet), you might be a little put off when you discover that so many of its proponents are rich white people who seem to care more about sheep and cows than their fellow humans. So when some vegans insist that, since rice and beans are plentiful and cheap, everyone can be vegan, no excuses—well, that seems woefully simplistic to me. This video from A Privileged Vegan sums it up much better than I can:
[The “rice and beans are cheap” argument] is typically used by vegans who, like myself, did not have to surmount any meaningful obstacle when going vegan. It is unfair to benefit from a bounty of support all along your journey to becoming a vegan and then, once you are thriving on a plant-based diet and have developed a strong ethical connection to animals, turn around and pretend like none of that process existed and that ‘poor people’ really have no excuse not to go vegan.
Of course, this is not to say that members of disadvantaged socioeconomic groups are incapable of or excused from engaging in ethical reasoning—that would be a ridiculously condescending position. It’s simply to acknowledge that becoming a vegan is going to be a hell of a lot easier for some of us, and if we really care about advocacy for animals and people, we should be talking about the systems of oppression—not freaking rice and beans.