All I Am Saying, Is Give Peas A Chance

November 8th, 2010 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration

In honor of MoFo, some rare candid musings from the mind of Bonzai Aphrodite:

Last week I got into a bit of an . . . erm . . . discussion . . . with an acquaintance on Facebook. Usually I’m good about avoiding Internet drama (practicing positivity!), but then every so often . . . I’m not. Sometimes it’s just so hard to stay silent. Especially when it comes to misrepresentations of veganism.

In this case, someone had posted a status update snarking vegans. She proclaimed them to be self-important and preachy (I know, creative right? Such a tired old cliché, but I digress.) and added a sarcastic “sure, I’ll give up everything that tastes good, yeah right!” (paraphrased). The first part has been discussed to death, but this second sentiment got me thinking. And that’s what I want to talk about today.


Eating is such an emotional act, whether we realize it or not. And preference is a funny thing, where the flavors we favor are formed by a lifetime of positive and negative reinforcements. If you grow up eating curries, you’ll have a taste for spice. If you eat a lot of collards, you won’t mind bitter greens. And if all you ingest is fast food, you’ll have a penchant for grease and salt. This is pure training – tongue training – plain and simple.

Even if you understand this, you might not think to apply it. After all, *patience* is not often brought to the table when one is changing their diet. But patience is the most important ingredient!

In this modern world we want a quick fix and instant results. The decision to go veg is often epiphanal – a shocking connection is made (be it health, animals, or environment), and we’re inspired to act fast. We decide to go veg*n all at once, rejecting in an instant our whole history of habits. And when the cravings hit – and of course they do – then we cave, and give up, and tell ourselves “It’s just not worth depriving myself of such pleasure!”

But it doesn’t have to be like that! Take the story of Damian and the Tofu, a parable that perfectly illustrates what I’m getting at:

A long long time ago, Damian had a girlfriend. She was a vegetarian, he was a meat-eater, and they were together for two years. Once a week or so they’d go out for Thai. He always got the same thing – pad thai chicken, and she always got the same thing – tofu yellow curry. And can you guess how many times Damian tasted her dish? None. Never. Not *once*. Each week, every week, for two years, he turned up his nose because he “didn’t like tofu”.

Flash forward through the years, and one day poor Damian’s wife (that’s me!) declares that their home is now vegan. Damian is skeptical but supportive. The wife works hard to create the most tastiest meals. Damian genuinely gives them a chance. He slowly drops meat, and then removes all animal products.

And now, a few years later (Thanksgiving will be 2 years vegetarian!), Damian is practically begging for tofu with every meal (and that wicked wife just won’t make that much soy, haha). Tofu has become his absolute favorite, full of happy memories and delicious flavor associations and a whole new nostalgia. And it’s been that way for almost two years – it didn’t take long for him to come around at all.

The moral of the story is that you can change your tastes! You’ll never have to “give up everything you love”, because if you keep a truly open mind and allow yourself some time, then “everything you love” will become vegan!

I mean seriously, seriously, does anyone really think that vegans just sadly slurp down their flavorless food, secretly coveting cheese like some joyless moral martyr? Hell no! We are eating the MOST AMAZING food, and enjoying every. damn. bite.

  • windycityvegan

    SO TRUE!! And my husband was the same way – very supportive but wary – and now he can’t stop raving about all the great vegan food that comes out of our kitchen! He even had me bring a platter of the uber fabulous chickpea cutlets we practically live on to his very omnivorous parents’ home for a holiday meal.

    Growing up in the Midwest, my secret junk food was breaded tenderloin. But with the right mix of herbs (and perfect vital wheat gluten:bread crumb:chickpea ratio), the vegan cutlets I make every week taste even better than I remember the tenderloins of yore.

    Have you read Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals”? He does such an eloquent job of describing all of the emotional aspects of eating.

  • VeganFoodRocks

    I love this post. I am so sick of hearing people say “I could never give up meat” or “I love cheese too much” when it gets brought up that I am a vegan.

    windycity – i’m reading that book right now, it really is a great read. I normally hold onto books after I read them so they can be reread but I am going to be passing it around to my family and friends when I am done.

  • Minna


  • pharaohscat

    AMEN!!! And you say it so eloquently!

  • MathTutor

    EXACTLY! you go girl! :)

  • Kat

    This is how I feel about salt. I cut way, way back a few years ago and learned other ways to season my food and once my mouth had adjusted, everything tasted like it had before. Yet people still assume that everything I eat must be really bland. Or that I’m just trying to make myself “feel better” when I say that I prefer the (salt-free) soup I make myself to the stuff I can buy at the deli. Sigh.

  • Crystal

    AGREED! After being a vegetarian for more than half of my life- and vegan now for 4 years- I will have to admit that I really used to hate tofu.. and now I can eat it straight out of the box (and actually prefer it this way most of the time!) People are so obnoxious sometimes.. believe me- working at Denny’s as a vegan I come across more in 1 day than most do in weeks!

  • Allison

    What a fantastic post! Seriously, that is the most rediculous premise for an argument against veganism. Who in their right mind thinks that we all just sit around forcing ourselves to eat bland, joyless food while we secretly covet non vegan foods?

  • Rea

    Haha, I’ve always loved fruits and veggies and beans and all the foods I’m eating now. I never cared for meat, ‘cept for chicken, but my homemade chicken seitan is WAY better! My wife and I often remark to one another how much more we enjoy food now that we’re vegans.

  • Ashley

    I’m looking for any good info on going vegetarian, any good books etc… I have a very meat loving husband, so I’m trying to do this gradually and he’s putting up a Fight:-) HELP!!! lol

  • Miss Curiosity

    I’m so glad you discussed this! I’m actually at kind of a transition right now myself. I recently made the switch from vegetarian to vegan and also cut out soy (I think I have a sensitivity to it). I find that my cravings for foods have completely changed! It’s pretty crazy that, at one point in my life, I would get a craving for something like poutine, but now I find myself getting powerful lusts for things like cucumbers and hummus.
    Anyone who’s ever grown up to like coffee or wine should understand that tastes change! Spluh!

  • Melisa

    What she really meant was, ‘Yeah, right! Like I’m going give up anything for ethical reasons.’
    I was AMAZED to realize the other day, after eating my half of our weekly homemade pizza with just veggies, no cheese for a couple months, that my stomach turned at the thought of a cheesy, greasy slice! Tastes changes, and you’re right, it doesn’t even take that long!

  • Melisa

    Ashley, I basically converted my hubs with the recipes in How It All Vegan. :)

  • Annie

    I’m really glad that, though omnivorous, my mother had very eclectic and adventurous food tastes. We eat a wide range of cuisines and ingredients, and due to lactose intolerance of my sister (severe) and I (mild), we were exposed to all sorts of substitutes, replacements and improvements on meals that can be applied to veganism, including home made – dairy free stuff was hard to find and rally pricey when I was a kid.
    I am constantly surprised when people say ‘but what do you eat!?’. Seriously? You would not know what to eat without meat or meat products? I never ate that much when I did eat meat, nor were dishes solely based around meat. No offence, but eating like that is completely unhealthy and incredibly uncreative. No, I don’t only eat salads and steam veggies. Yes, I love those things, but screw eating that all the time!
    I do think it is important to modify your tastes – and it is totally possible.
    But, sometimes, it’s good to make veganized versions of classics, for example the totally successful caramel slice I made today! By substituting a few ingredients from my Nanna’s recipe, it’s slightly different but loads better in taste and nutrition (but still a little bad :P).

  • Sara

    Agreed! For me it’s honey. I don’t know if anyone else has had this happen to them, but people seem to be okay with the veganism until you say no honey. Then you get the eyeroll and all that fun stuff, like “I was putting up with you until now, but you have to give up honey? really?”

    Well, bees happen to be smarter than most crustaceans. But even before I knew this, I decided, do I NEED honey? No. So then why is it such a big deal not to eat honey?

    And no kidding on the vegan parable thing. For example, my boyfriend grew to like soy yogurt and almond milk. He’s becoming vegan (slowly… well at least he’s doing it!). Now he thinks regular milk tastes disgusting.

  • Minna

    About honey. I don’t consume honey either, but I’ve recently heard stories about how all the cultivated plants need bees in order to be pollen and that we don’t have enough wild honeybees to do that anymore, so that’s why we should instead support the honey industry.

  • RawJoy

    You go, girl!

    I make a beautiful salad almost every day at work. EVERYONE comes in, sighs, and then says “You’re always so good.” Much like you said, they see me as a martyr, passing up fries and instant entrees. I keep telling them, this is what I LIKE. This is what I WANT to eat.

    You go, girl!

  • Court

    thank you all, i needed this right now. it can be so exhausting to be forced to define yourself (at least to the confronter) by what you eat. i am always surprised by why people care so much? why should THEY care what I EAT? weird.

  • molly

    I think you are a really great example of veganism. I really love your blog and am amazed at many things you do to support it. I also LOVE vegan food. That being said, I have been a vegetarian for 18 of my 30 years and won’t be going vegan. Well, I was vegan for 2 years and I was not healthy or happy. I know vegans will argue to the death that this is not possible unless you are really stupid about nutrition, but I’m not really stupid about nutrition.

    Through my 18 years as a veg, I have come across many, many unpleasant vegans. And I’ve no longer been able to hang out with people “just because” of their dietary choices. I usually completely disagree with their views on life, politics, and with their complete obsession with veganism. There ARE other things going on in the world, and while it’s important to believe in something, it’s also important to remember that not everyone is going to make it their #1 focus in life. So for as much as vegans want people to be open-minded about them, us lowly non-vegans want the same! We CAN all get along!

  • Julie

    Great post! On the subject of changing tastes: growing up on the Standard American Diet, you come to expect that every thing you eat tastes like fireworks going off in your mouth. There is no room in that flavor palette for subtle flavors. If you happen to see any commercials for chain restaurants, take a look at the plates they present – it’s one exploding flavor after another. It’s not just that everything is loaded with fat and salt, it’s that everything has to try to take center stage. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to enjoy having one stand out flavor with subtle background flavors on my dinner plate. I have also enjoyed coming to realize that plant foods have amazing flavors to marvel over, all on their own. (Think of biting into chickpeas, for instance. Imagine that flavor and texture. Now why muck it up by burying it in other flavors?)

    I too get sick of people talking to me like I’m some sort of martyr for the cause, whenever it comes up that I’m vegan. I’m vegan for many reasons, but one of them is that I simply couldn’t care less about eating non-vegan foods. They just don’t cross my mind as options any longer. Ergo, I am not, in fact, giving up anything. And I eat much better – with more variety – as a vegan than I ever did as an omnivore!

  • Annie Minnaar

    I love you. This is TOTALLY what I need right now, such amazing advice :) I decided yesterday to try 2 weeks dairy free, in my attempt (again) at going at a vegan diet. Starting with dairy. Anyway, thankyou :)

  • Kelly H.

    Well done! And I agree…Never have I eaten such amazing food before! But then…I’ve been Veg a LONG time now. Our choices keep getting better.

    That big white blob used to scare me as well in the beginning and now I can’t picture my life without it!

  • Gena

    HA! Indeed. It always shocks me that people assume we’re eating subpar food listlessly. Vegans are pretty outspoken about how much they love their grub!

  • Pler

    I’m not vegan. But I really like where vegan’s come from. I have radical politics, and appreciate the vegan position against animal exploitation/cruelty. I appreciate the vegan position on environment. I appreciate the concern for health.

    However, I find it exceptionally difficult to disagree with vegans. When I do, I get a lot of reactionary anger back. A lot of platitudes or slogans repeated verbatim. And often times a lot of dishonesty.

    I find it virtually impossible to have a polite, calm, civil discussion with vegans when I argue against the premises that veganism is beneficial to the environment, sustainable, or doesn’t involve extinction/extirpation.

  • Sayward

    I’m loving all this discussion! Staying out of it, but wanted to let you guys know I’m definitely reading and appreciating all these comments. =)

  • Gretchen Keller

    HAHAHAHA- I just flipped through the site and almost died laughing!
    As *the former girlfriend, I just gotta say, “I told ya so, Damian… tofu rules!” Although, as I’ve become more adventurous in my culinary acts, I actually cook way less tofu than I used to. I’ve found soooo many other veg-options in the last few years… Still, nothing takes up the flavors quite like fresh tofu, blotted on a towel, marinaded overnight… except maybe minutes-old-authentic-fresh-tofu in Japan- which totally changed my life 2 years ago!

  • Sayward

    @ Gretchen Keller – Ha! I shall pass the message along to D – “Told ya so!” =D

    And omg I am so jealous of your Japanese tofu experience. That must have been so melt-in-your-mouth amazing!

  • Courtney

    Thank you for writing this! It’s giving me hope for my husband. Recently the doctor has told him he needs to cut back on his salt intake and work on lowering his blood pressure. This is my opportunity to further try to work healthier options into meals. Luckily he is working on reducing his portions which will help the most. But if I can personally get myself to the point where I don’t like much sugar, I think he can slowly get to the point where he’s eating less salt and less in general.

  • Dan from Southampton (UK)

    I was talking to a vegan friend of mine the other day and the stock responses we had to the question “What do you eat?!” came up… I really liked her response, which was “Whatever I want to.” :-)

    Really, some omnivores really think that there is nothing for vegans to eat other than salad and hummus but I ask you, who really has the limited diet if one can’t imagine eating anything that is not made from animals?

    Thanks Sayward, keep up the good work!