If ever there were a subject more controversial than zoophilia, it would be veganism. Just like zoophilia, it taps into deep insecurities in our culture about how we view and treat animals, and the care that some show, whether that be love of a partner as an equal, or concerned attempts to reduce suffering, the end result often is a defensiveness and backlash. And in that heated swirl of emotions, many ideas have bubbled to the surface, reacting with each other, and congealing into ideas that get adopted by our culture as true, whether or not they have much truth to them.
It’s not possible to address all those misconceptions at once, but focusing on some of the ones that surround cooking without animal products should cover some important ground. And a good place to start is to talk about just what vegan cooking looks like in the first place. Because when many people think of “vegan” food, a few things come to mind. Unseasoned boiled vegetables they may have been served as sides to much better meals. Or, health food designed to be maximally nutritious with little concern for taste - kale and celery smoothies, perhaps. Or, especially with their time in the spotlight recently, fake meats like Beyond and Impossible brands, or older attempts at replacing meat in an existing meal, like tofurkey or garden burgers.
Of all those, the brand substitutes are probably the most palatable, but also by far the most expensive, and probably are big contributors to the idea that vegan cooking is expensive or inaccessible. Of course, for those living in food deserts, or other places where choice is limited, often there aren’t many choices at all, and that’s also a contributing factor, but in general, the opposite is true. Compared to actual vegan staple foods, like rice, beans, and vegetables, meat is much more expensive, and most people find the amount they spend at the store decreases as they cut it out.
And the truth is, those meat substitutes aren’t required for flavor. Even for many meat dishes, what is pulling most of the weight? Garlic, onion, scallions and other allium varieties. The incredibly wide array of spices and herbs to be found. Sauces of all sorts. The maillard reaction, giving flavor to anything that’s given the opportunity to brown up on a stove or in an oven. If your experience of vegetables has been having them boiled and served unseasoned, I’d suggest taking another look and trying out some of what there is.
If you do, you might also find that it’s easier than expected. Despite a lot of claims about protein or iron or worries about amino acids concentrations, it’s not really any harder to manage any of those things than with a meat based diet. The only consistent concern is Vitamin B12. Most non-vegans get it from animal products they eat, and while that might include the results from going down on your partner, you’ll probably want a supplement, just to be safe. Besides that, while complicated meal planning might be a good idea if you’ve got general nutrition concerns, it’s no more necessary for a plant-based diet than for one that’s not.
Having to take a supplement is a small price to pay for the good that cutting meat out of your diet can accomplish. Especially for us, who care so deeply for animals, who’ve already shown we can look past the species divide. Whether or not any particular zoo is also vegan, the fact that so many of us are is a tangible demonstration that we care. It doesn’t hurt that the goals of both groups are aligned. Fighting for our rights requires fighting for our partners’ rights. And fighting for our partners’ rights requires challenging the way that society views them, and all other animals as well. Vegans, likewise, can’t force society to accept that animals have lives and concerns which matter without raising them up in the eyes of society either.
We’re going to leave off with a recipe here. Something pretty low-effort but plenty tasty.
Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup
800g or 1.75 lb fresh tomato
150g or 3/4ths cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
30g or 1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups vegetable stock
salt to taste
10g chopped cilantro (optional)
Place the tomatoes in a tray, chopping them into chunks first if they are larger than cherry tomatoes. toss with a bit of oil to prevent sticking, and then salt to draw out water and speed up the cooking process. Roast in the oven at 375 until the tomatoes gain a roasted flavor. Optional, but at this point I turn the heat up to maximum and let them get a small bit of blackening on the edges, for extra deep flavor.
While the tomatoes are cooking, saute the onion until it begins to brown, and then add the garlic. Cook for an additional couple minutes together.
Add in the tomatoes, onions and garlic, and all the rest of the ingredients excluding the cilantro together into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for about an hour, stirring a few times throughout. Give a taste when the soup is near done, and adjust the seasoning as preferred. Don’t add in any more red pepper flakes at this point, if you want a little more heat, add in a dash of cayenne or a hotter pepper powder. You may want to add in a bit more salt depending how salty your stock was.
Blend the entire mixture in a blender until smooth. If using, add in the chopped cilantro into the soup now and mix in. The soup can be served hot or cold, by itself or with bread or crackers.
Article written by NettleWolf (October 2022)
Find her at https://twitter.com/NettleWolf
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