Monday, May 20, 2013

Normal Vegans? Are you for real?

Voracious readers and voracious vegans, we have a real problem. Most books aren't written by vegans.

So most stories will, without any warning, launch into lingering descriptions of animal-based meals.

Food in Fiction

Revisiting childhood favourites like the Narnia adventures or Little House on the Prairie can be especially jarring for me. Vegetarians or the health-conscious are usually relegated to being the weirdo minor character, a target for the main characters' mainstream contempt. Remember Eustace and family in Narnia?

It's a rare treat to find even one sympathic vegetarian character in a book (eg, the tough FBI agent Dillon Savich in Catherine Coulter's romantic thrillers).

(Hey. I bet I'm not the only one reading escapist fiction as counterbalance to heavy activism.)

What a thrill to read Sweetheart Deal and meet lead character Lilly, who is a vegetarian so health-aware that she travels with boxes of organic trail mix bars for emergencies. This is a semi-autobiographical character for the author, Claire Matturro, and I'm sure rings a bell for many of us too.

Stereotyping is alive and well

However, we soon discover that lawyer Lilly is not only a vegetarian health foodie but also certifiably neurotic. She's obsessive-compulsive about germs and dirt and fears flying. She is constantly finding similarities between herself and her dysfunctional mother.

So we've advanced from odd vegetarian bit players to a strong, sympathetic, but still very odd vegetarian heroine. "Disappointing and unfair!" I thought. Boo! Booooo!

Or... is it?

Truth Stranger than Fiction?

I'm not normal. I'll happily stand up for my many abnormal choices. And I'm struggling to think of any vegans I know whose only quirk is in their diet. Thinking...thinking...

Instead, the vegans I know would agree with this: 
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. (Krishnamurti)
Does a vegan consciousness go naturally hand-in-hand with other social misfittings? 

Stand up and be counted...

Anyone out there want to raise their hands as vegans who are basically normal in all other ways?

Also, please share any cool fiction about vegans. I've almost finished my book.


  1. I think one of the funniest books is the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. In one part, the adventurers visit Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. In this restaurant, is an animal who has been bred to be happy to be eaten and is capable of telling you so himself. Arthur Dent, the last remaining human finds this idea totally repulsive and refuses to eat the creature, even though the animal says he will humanely kill himself for everyone's dining pleasure. During the conversation Zaphod asks the apeman why he would rather eat an animal which doesn't want to be eaten. Arthur isn't vegetarian but the whole episode brings up some interesting points.

    1. Ah yes. Gets strange when we apply logic, doesn't it?

  2. My husband and I will put our hands up as a pretty normal vegans. Actually, we find it difficult to meet other vegan friends we really click with for the same reason. Our friends are very supportive and are quite knowledgeable about veganism however they are not prepared to make such a sacrifice themselves. We feel that being a highly visible, quite "mainstream" vegan family sends a powerful, positive message. Since getting to know us our friends are very happy to eat and prepare vegan and vegetarian meals. A few of our friends and family have even become vegetarians or have really cut back on animal products.

    1. Very glad to meet you! Sounds like you're setting a great example...

  3. Ferdinand the Bull is a good one about a vegan.

  4. I call myself a "97% vegan", which means I try to eat vegan 97% of the time. If I eat more than 1000 meals a year, that means if I have a couple of meals per month that are not vegan, I'm still 97%. It's a plan that works for me and means that if someone invites me to their home and serves meat, I just eat what is served and focus on the enjoyable experience with the friends, rather than the food. A lot of people would say "well, you aren't vegan then," and that's fine. I respect people who never ever ever EVER eat dairy or meat. For me, 97% of the time is enough, and gives me some leeway for those situations where it would be quite awkward to refuse.
    Peter Rabbit is a great vegan eater (although his dad gets made into a pie!).