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[twenty twenty-four day fourteen]: there’s no such thing as an “egg vegan”

centaur 0

My wife eats vegan almost exclusively, and I often try to eat vegan when I’m with her. But she’s experienced a lot of difficulty in finding vegan food, even at restaurants that claim to serve it; it’s not resistance to veganism per se, but a strangely baffling lack of understanding that vegan means “no animal products”.

On our recent trip to Asheville, we got a BIG set of clues as to why this is happening: purely by chance, a number of people inadvertently exposed to us why there’s so much confusion around the concept of vegan as “plant based food”.

First, there’s no such thing as an “egg vegan” – but, apparently, there are a lot of people who are going around claiming that they are, and confusing the heck out of restaurants because of it. At one restaurant in Asheville, the host stand told us they had a “vegan southwestern benedict” but there was nothing vegan about it: it had eggs, butter and hollandaise sauce (which is egg AND butter). Our server then let slip that many people claimed to be “egg vegans” and this dish was aimed at them.

Well, maybe they THINK they’re “egg vegans,” but there’s no such thing: the word for someone who eats eggs is “vegetarian”, or if you want to get specific, “ovo-vegetarian”. Regardless, the FOOD is not vegan if it has eggs in it, so it is really unhelpful to people who have chosen to be vegan, or who are avoiding eggs for health reasons, to mislabel food with eggs in it as vegan.

“Egg vegans” remind me of another group of people: those who say “they’re mostly vegan, but they eat fish”. The word for that is “carnivore”, or if you want to get specific, “pescatarian”. I actually knew a real vegan who added fish to his diet for about a month for nutritional reasons, but he was clear to everyone and himself that this was a departure from the vegan diet.

Second, some people literally do not understand that vegan is different from vegetarian – and if that person owns a restaurant, he’s going to have many unhappy customers. At one Japanese restaurant we visited this weekend, there were dozens of “vegan” items marked as such on the menu – but a kindly waitress stopped by our table and warned us that the owner did not know the difference and repeatedly labeled food with butter and eggs as “vegan”, despite being told otherwise.

This reminds me that some people do not understand that any animal products makes a dish not vegan. My wife’s mother frequently tried to get her to eat food cooked with a ham hock in it because “it’s just for flavor”. The P.F. Chang’s we used to go to put fish flakes in most of their vegetarian items, which makes them not just not vegan, but not even vegetarian. And so on.

Third, even when a restaurant is trying, vegan and vegetarian are confusing because they both start with VEG and end with N – and there’s no standard abbreviation for either of them which can be used to unambiguously label a meal. I’ve seen “V”, “VG”, “VE” all used to refer to both vegan and vegetarian, and if you look around I bet you’ll find some menus using “VN” for both purposes. Regardless, at one or two restaurants this weekend, even the waitstaff got confused as to what was vegetarian or vegan due to the “V/VE” issue.

And finally, sometimes the waitstaff just gets it wrong. And at another restaurant this weekend, the waiter didn’t write our order down and completely messed it up in her head – but fortunately came back to ask before passing the wrong order to the kitchen. As another example, the staff at a very vegan-friendly local pizza joint told us that one of their pizza sauces was vegan, only to discover months later that it was not.

So it’s seemed strange to us that some people can’t seem to wrap their head around what vegan is. But if some people are running around claiming to be “egg vegans”, the owners are mislabeling the meals, the meals are not labeled clearly enough even for the staff to tell, and sometimes people are just mistaken even when they’re trying to get it right, it seems more clear why things get messed up.

But really, vegan is just plant based food, and if it’s not plant based food, it’s not vegan.

-the Centaur

P.S. Fine, fine, bacteria and fungi aren’t technically plants, but they’re vegan. Just nothing with a face or a mother, and nothing from something with a face or a mother, okay?

Pictured: Sunny side up eggs, bacon, and French toast, NONE of which are vegan.

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