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07.02.08

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Silicon Veggie - Elisa Camahort

Silicon Veggie

Vegan Is the New Black

By Elisa Camahort


YOU MAY not be aware of it, but in the last couple of months veganism caught the imagination of two women who together speak to millions of Americans. In some cases, they don't just tap the cultural zeitgeist, they create it.That's right: Oprah and Ellen both flirted with the big V, right there on national TV.

Ellen DeGeneres had both of the Skinny Bitch authors and vegan guru Kathy Freston on her show, while Oprah Winfrey went so far as to try a 21-day cleanse diet, based on Freston's book. That would have to be called vegan—plus. (Vegan—plus no gluten, no sugar, no alcohol, etc.)

And still I say they only flirted, because I've never seen so much conversation about veganism with so little conversation about animals.

Apparently the code word now is to talk about "conscious" eating. I noted that their discussions of said "consciousness" tended to center more around safer topics, like chemicals, sustainable farming practices, local production, world food shortages—all worthy subject—but only teeny tiny mentions of factory farms or, heaven forbid, cruelty.

I'm all for consciousness. As I've written here before, I'm all for taking baby steps toward a more thoughtful, humane way of living over taking no steps at all because it seems hard or overwhelming. It's a potentially powerful thing what Oprah and Ellen have done and are doing. Between them they have the power to encourage many people to give veganism a look and maybe a try. If even some small percentage stick with it, that's a big deal. But the pussyfooting around the animal rights that are at the heart of the vegan philosophy seems weak, dare I say, even disingenuous. And the association of veganism with the even more extreme "quantum wellness" cleanse that Freston promotes doesn't do any favors for those of us modeling veganism as a livable, day-to-day way to eat. That 21-day cleanse is no baby step—it's the extreme sports of dietary choices.

By the end of the 21 days, Oprah was craving a glass of wine and had visions of pizza dancing in her head. I'm not surprised, are you? Meanwhile, last weekend I went out for Peruvian food and, in addition to a healthy heart of palm salad and quinoa entree, had a beer, some fried yuca and a fruity shaved ice dessert. I left with no cravings whatsoever!

Now, where's my mass audience of millions of people?


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