Read the original article by Megan McArdle at washingtonpost.com here.
Breathes there a cook with heart so dead that he or she has not, at some point, wanted to kill a vegan?
There is, after all, nothing better calculated to ruin a nice dinner than inviting a vegan along. Out goes the pot-au-feu and the cunning little crab canapes; in comes the nut loaf and the seitan curry. (Seitan is a gluten-based meat substitute. It is usually pronounced “Satan,” and for good reason.) Most baked goods behave appallingly when deprived of eggs, and the substitutes employed for dairy products often add an odd aftertaste to the finished product.
Yes, there are websites and books that will tell you being a vegan doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of anything except the guilt of torturing animals for the table. These websites are, shall we say, exaggerating for a good cause. No unbiased observer can plausibly deny that vegan baked goods are inferior in texture and flavor to the traditional sort. And while the products labeled “vegan sausage” may involve no cruelty to animals, many humans would find them torture to eat.
And I’m talking about vegan cooking produced by an expert vegan chef, armed with all the latest tricks for coaxing something edible out of coconut oil and flax seeds. What about ordinary cooks who are unfortunate enough to find a vegan at their table? Well, I hope they like a challenge. They’ll have to start learning entirely new techniques, leaving a good many of their ingredients in the cupboard – who knew that lots of wines aren’t vegan, and that many vegans forsake even honey?
The production tends to be expensive, and the result dispiriting, even for vegans.
I speak, mind you, as someone who used to be a vegan. I have nothing but respect for my former co-religionists and their admirably humane project. I’m just saying, even when I was a vegan, I understood why the people who cooked for us sometimes, you know, wished we were somewhere else. Like, say, six feet underground.
So I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that William Sitwell, a magazine editor and food critic for the BBC’s “MasterChef,” had recently responded to a freelance writer pitching a series on vegan eating to suggest instead “a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”
I was, however, a tad nonplussed on Wednesday when he was actually forced to resign from his editorship at Waitrose Food magazine over this fine bit of hyperbole. Obviously, it would be a firing offense to actually threaten to kill vegans; just as obviously, he was joking, not seriously proposing a new all-vegan version of “The Hunger Games.”
But then ours is the era where jokes have come to die. The new thing in comedy is apparently not to tell jokes, because jokes aren’t funny. Jokes, we are informed, diminish the essential humanity of either the teller or the target; they erase too much hard-won pain.
Of course there are some jokes that shouldn’t be told, and some things are not proper targets for humor. But until five minutes ago, vegans were not among those taboo subjects.
Like many vegans, I knew vegan jokes and laughed at them – like Anthony Bourdain’s observation that “vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.” Or perhaps you’ve heard the one about the fellow who became an eighth-level vegan adept? He doesn’t eat anything that casts a shadow.
I could enjoy these jokes even from omnivores because I understood that vegans are indeed kind of funny, especially the bizarre lengths to which they will go to avoid animal products, as anyone can attest who has hiked 10 miles to a town’s lone vegan dining option — which is to say, a bag of Fritos from the Gas-N-Go.
But the other thing I understood is that vegans aren’t a protected class, and with good reason. We aren’t what we eat, and however healthy or moral your food choices, they do not grant you immunity from criticism.
And really, a little pointed humor is hardly the worst thing vegans have to endure. Basically everything about being a vegan is harder than having some unreconstructed meat eater kvetch at you. Vegans nonetheless persist because their ethical concerns outweigh the inconvenience.
And though I am no longer a member of the tribe, let me delicately suggest that this is yet another area where vegans should forbear in a good cause. Calling for people to be fired from their jobs because they joked about vegans won’t make anyone more enthusiastic about humane food. It will, however, do a great deal to advance the stereotype that vegans are prickly, humorless prigs.