Wow. I kicked a hornet’s next yesterday when I dared to suggest going vegan made me more open-minded about food. Someone called bullshit. Or rather, someone screamed bullshit. When I explained the comment I was confronted with explosive rage. It’s been almost two years and this is the first time anyone has lost their shit at me for being vegan.
You’ll remember that one of my resolutions at the beginning of the year was to stop volunteering the information that I’m vegan unless it is necessary or productive to do so. I’m still resolved for my original reason but I have a new one now. Rage-aholics. Vegans make them redline. Well, that’s not completely true. Happiness seems to be the actual problem.
It started innocently enough. With small talk, of course.
Roger Rager: “How was your lunch, Mercy?”
Me, grinning contentedly: “Outstanding.”
Roger Rager: “What did you have?”
Me: “I made a sloppy joe out of turnip greens.”
Roger Rager, snickering: “That’s not a sloppy joe.”
Me: “I threw in some beans too, and glued it to the bun with mayo.”
Roger Rager, eyebrows raised: “I thought vegans didn’t eat mayo.”
Me: “It was vegan mayo.”
Roger Rager, with expression of disbelief: “Greens and vegan mayo are outstanding?”
Me: “And beans. On a wheat dinner roll sliced open like a bun.”
Roger Rager: “How in the world did you ever come up with that combination?”
And here’s where it got ugly.
I explained that an interesting side effect of going vegan is that matching meal items seems to matter less. I don’t worry about which foods or dishes go together anymore. Sometimes I toss things together and try them and get pleasantly surprised. Often it’s because I live with a meat-eater who still wants food to match.
For example, folks who eat meatloaf usually serve it with mashed potatoes, right? And maybe another vegetable. Entree plus side dishes, right? If you take the meatloaf away you’ve got potatoes and the other vegetable. The vegan in the house makes a meal out of the side dishes irrespective of whether or not they go together. After several days go by there are tons of leftover side dishes which were intended to complement meat entrees but not necessarily complement each other. I dared to suggest that as a result of this I had become more open-minded about what makes a complementary meal, especially without the meat.
All of that was ignored. As if I didn’t even say it.
Roger Rager: “Don’t you think you gave up the right to call yourself open-minded when you turned vegan?”
Me: “No. I didn’t give up any rights.”
Roger Rager: “Well, by definition vegans are not open-minded people.”
Me: “I was open-minded before I was vegan. The functions of my mind did not become reduced when I stopped eating animals.”
Roger Rager: “Sure it did. You closed your mind to eating meat.”
Me: “My mind works exactly the same as it did before. I didn’t close it. I’m just using it to make a different choice.”
I went on to stipulate that I am still capable of discovery and that becoming vegan meant opening my mind to a completely different lifestyle.
Roger Rager, squaring up to me: “I don’t buy that. You already knew how to eat vegetables. You closed your mind to eating meat, that’s all.”
Me: “Then why do most meat-eaters tell me they could never do it?”
Roger Rager, face reddening: “Because we refuse to close our minds. You make an extreme restriction of something considered normal and then call it a lifestyle choice. You’re lying to yourself. You modified a normal lifestyle to make it more restrictive. There is nothing open-minded about that.”
Me, jokingly: “I’m open-minded about the definition of a sloppy joe.”
Roger Rager, voice beginning to raise: “No, you made a sandwich out of vegetables. You don’t get to lie and call it a sloppy joe.”
Me: “So it’s a sloppy greg or a sloppy james. The point is that I was open to an alternative sandwich in the style of a sloppy joe. I’m more willing to experiment with food now. The mind must be open to learn new things.”
Roger Rager, shouting now: “Making a substitution doesn’t make you open-minded. You’re compensating, that’s all.”
Me: “Maybe I’m improvising.”
Roger Rager, sneering, pointing finger at my face, “You’re delusional.”
Me: “I’m expanding my mind to include more options instead of limiting it to only one. That’s not closing my mind.”
Roger Rager, fists clenched, still shouting: “No. You’re just exchanging eating meat and vegetables for only vegetables. You do not have to expand your mind to take something out.”
I took a deep breath, opened my mouth to respond, got cut off.
Roger Rager, palms slamming tabletop: “You know, this is why the world hates vegans so much. You pervert something normal in society and pretend you’re doing something better. The human race would not have survived if we hadn’t started eating animals.”
I tried to diffuse by suggesting the hate is misplaced. Vegans are not threatening human survival. We no longer need to eat animals to survive. We can feed ourselves without animals now. The way we’ve always done things is not the only way it can be done. This is not a perversion of society. It’s evolution of society.
But none of this worked. It failed miserably. It was gasoline on the fire. My opponent threw a coffee cup at the wall, pushed over a chair, and stormed out of the room cursing.
I sat in shock. The meeting was postponed. After the fight-or-flight subsided I realized this exchange was not about meat. Not about animals. Not about perverts. It was the fact that I was thrilled with my lunch. That I dared to be delighted with my concoction. That I congratulated myself on being open-minded. The trigger wasn’t the food. It was my satisfaction. I’m delusional for claiming it and perverted for celebrating it.
Unfortunately Roger Rager knew I was vegan in advance of this exchange, so my New Year’s Resolution wouldn’t have saved me the argument. I guess I should have seen the query about my lunch as a baiting question. He must have been spoiling for a fight and picked one with me because it was easy. My crime wasn’t veganism. It was happiness.
What do bullies eat for lunch? Vegans.