Vegan Maven

Hezbollah Vegans, What Do You Eat?

by Simon on November 8, 2009

hezbollah_veganWhen a “Top TV Chef” likens vegans to Hezbollah, how was I to know that it would lead me to a new level of self-awareness?

But that’s exactly what happened, and it might do the same for you. Let me explain…

Anti-Vegan Prejudices

I was reading a blog post by Jason Das on the subject of Jonathan Safran Foer‘s new book Eating Animals and came across a comment by Veganne at Supervegan . This comment lead me to the anti-vegan comments by “celebrity chef” Anthony Bourdain.

In his book, Bourdain apparently stated:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.
- Anthony Bourdain, โ€œKitchen Confidential,โ€ p. 70

[Side note: Check out the original article here and another on the same subject at Vegan Bits]

What Do Vegans Eat?

Apart from the obvious blind prejudice of Bourdain’s statement, it got me thinking about that perennial question that non-vegans ask us, namely:

What do vegans eat?

My answer varies, depending on the time available and the mood I’m in… that is, the level of irritation I might have at being asked the question. However, I have to admit that I generally respond by going through a list of some of the staple ingredients in my diet.

But I am also often left with the feeling that my answer failed to really deliver anything meaningful… a sense of lost opportunity to make a connection with the questioner.

Asking A Better Question

And then I came across a great blog post on this subject by Philip over at Vegan Sanctuary which provides a very different response to the “What do you vegans eat?” question. Philip totally reframes this question by posing a deeper and more important question:

Why are we vegans never asked what we feel?

The post got me to further examine my own feelings as a vegan. But, more tellingly, it got me to feel my feelings and that opened up new ideas about how I can use that understanding to connect with non-vegans. I’m sure that going beyond just providing a list of vegan ingredients and recipes has got to be more rewarding to both myself and the person asking the question.

As Philip concludes:

Explaining to others we are vegan because of what we feel rather than what we don’t eat allows us to bring the reality of our motivations out into the open and to the rest of the world.

Check out the post for yourself. What feelings come up for you?

Also, what answers do you give to that tired old question, “What do vegans eat?”

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  • Jenny

    Typically I when I asked that question I always tell people that it’s easier to list the things I DON’T eat: meat/milk/eggs/cheese/honey. Everything else is up for grabs!

  • Philip


    I’m glad you were able to find some value in the post at my blog.
    Science and research on the human brain is now showing that a person cannot think rationally without emotions. (See Antonio Damasio) This leads us to realize that all of the respect that we give ourselves for being logical and rational and that is supposedly been the story about what separates us from the other animals. We are now finding that we live in an emotional world of feelings and our rational lives are tangled up within it. Wolves, elephants, crows,chimps, dolphins, pigs and many other animals live complex emotional lives just like we humans and we….are just like them.
    The conscious subjective experience of emotions is what feelings are and I don’t believe they are at all very prevalent when someone is a vegan for health reasons. However, when a person makes the decision to live vegan for ethical reasons it is much more profound and deeper than choosing veganism to lower cholesterol or to protect the environment. Becoming vegan because you are feeling something ethical…about whats right or wrong or having compassion or empathy for animals is much more meaningful. When we can connect with what that actually means..we can further explain our reasons for becoming ethical vegans. Explaining it after understanding what we are feeling opens the door to much better communication between the omnivores of the world and the ethical vegans. People like Anthony Bourdain are never going to connect with feeling anything but their own selfish wants. He is a waste of time.

    Thank you for the comment on my blog and for reading my post.

    Cheers and….

    Veganly yours,


  • Simon

    You’re right, Jenny, there’s so much we vegans eat that it would take an eternity (well not quite, but you know what I mean) to list them all. Most non-vegans seem to be really surprised at how varied a vegan diet can be. Probably because most people were “taught” that all meals have to have either meat, fish or eggs in them. Thanks Jenny.

  • Simon

    A well-thought out vegan diet is undoubtedly far superior from a health point of view than a “typical meat and two veg” style of eating so it’s not surprising that more people are taking up a veganism for health reasons. However, I agree with you that if that’s the only reason for the switch to veganism then the meaning and feelings attached to becoming will not run as deep. Having said, I also know people who took up a vegan diet primarily for health reasons at first and then got the ethical side after. Without the ethical aspect of veganism in place, a person would be missing the key element that significantly contributes to the life-affirming power of being vegan. Cheers Philip.

  • treaclemine

    “Anything I choose – chocolate, cake, curry – just vegan versions.”

    But I like the ‘what do vegans feel’ turn around!

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