An item in our local newspaper appeared recently under a category called “Food Fails” that listed “Five common mistakes vegans make.” The list came from a piece originally published on www.bonappetit.com and so I looked it up to read the whole article. (I was anxious to see about my mistakes and failures.)
The abbreviated list of mistakes (and my responses):
- Eating plant-based junk food. (Carnivores eat junk food too. No?)
- Relying on too much faux meat as a protein source. (Relying too much on real meat as a protein source is a mistake, in my opinion.)
- Ignoring nutritional needs. (Really? Because I try hard not to.)
- Forgetting about fat. (Not only do I not forget about it, but I try hard to avoid it.)
- Making substitutions willy-nilly. (I’m not even sure what this means.)
For today’s post, I was going to launch into a long tirade about vegan diet vs. the Standard American Diet. But then I realized, you know what? I’m being defensive, aren’t I? I have my back up. I’m taking umbrage at a benign article that may even have a few good points.
I decided to calm down and get to the root of the issue.
The first step? Look up the word “umbrage,” because who really knows what that means?
The second step? Take a good look inside myself to understand my upset.
I decided I’m uncomfortable being different. So I’m different! It’s OK to be different. Right? I’ve been different many times before.
Which reminds me of a story about how in 6th grade I moved to a new house and a new elementary school. The house was new. The school was new. I was new. Our first test that year was spelling. The teacher read the words out loud, and we spelled them, writing a list on lined paper, one through ten. Just like my old school! This new school was going to work out fine! We swapped papers and marked each other’s tests as the teacher read the correct spelling of each word.
A girl named Erin corrected my paper. Erin was by far the prettiest, most popular girl in the class, I could see that right away. Unfortunately, Erin had a devious side, the way popular girls do. I spelled a word ending in “d” only I didn’t make the “tail” on the “d” very high, so it looked slightly like an “a.” I mean slightly. I mean it looked like a deformed “d” but it did NOT look like an “a.”
She marked my word wrong even though she knew it was a “d” and not an “a.” I took umbrage.
As the new girl, the other girls told me, I threatened Erin, although I didn’t know how this could possibly be true. I was new, yes, but I was a nerd. I wanted to say, “Erin! Look! You’re the pretty girl! I’m personally wearing my older brother’s hand-me-down pants! They’re checkered, for god’s sake! No need to worry! The only thing I’ve got going is this spelling thing!”
I showed my test to the teacher later, and she agreed I spelled the word correctly even if I was wearing checkered pants. I felt bad about not belonging. I couldn’t believe somebody could go so far out of her way to be so hard and so cruel. (I’m from the suburbs, so this felt like a pretty big deal.)
As time went on, I began to fit in. I forgot about Erin, and she forgot about me. I won my class spelling bee. I went on to win the school-wide spelling bee and clinched a spot on the county-wide spelling bee, which was to be staged and televised at the local mall. I was finally hitting my stride in my new environment!
The evening of the contest, I was nervous. But I had a new prairie-type dress and a fresh bowl haircut. (It was the 70’s.) I was pretty much like Laura Ingalls but with a bowl haircut and no bonnet. THAT’S how good I looked.
During the first round, I noticed the words were easy for the contestants before me. I felt a blossoming confidence. When it was my turn, I stepped to the microphone and held my breath.
My word: “raisin.”
I smiled. “Such an EASY word!” I thought to myself.
I spelled. R-A-I-S-O-N.
More smiling. I bet I looked good on TV with my new haircut and everything.
“I’m sorry. That is incorrect,” said the moderator.
WHAT?! I was dumbfounded.
Turns out the correct spelling is R-A-I-S-I-N.
Somewhere in the audience, someone laughed. I think it was Erin.
“I’m new!” I wanted to shout.
I misspelled raisin, but in the end there were no excuses for it. I went home and there it was on the cereal: Raisin Bran. There it was again on the bread: Raisin Bread. There it was on the package of raisins: Raisins. My own kitchen mocked me!
From that experience, I learned three things:
- Never be too sure about things.
- It’s best to get comfortable being different.
- You can’t just make substitutions willy-nilly (or you’ll be marked wrong).
Being vegan is not a “fail.” Right now, it’s my raison d’être.
(Hey wait a minute. I think I have a case here…)