21 Dead Giveaways That You’re an Old-School Vegan

But I don’t WANT my veggie burger to “taste just like meat”!

Marla Rose
Published in
4 min readJul 22, 2019


Illustration: Zoe Burnett

It’s not that hard to tell if you’re an Old-School Vegan. In fact, it’s hard to ignore. Being an Old-School Vegan (OSV) is a state of mind. Just kidding. It’s not a state of mind at all: Being an OSV is earned, developed over long, annoying periods of time and, like a diamond or a chunk of coal, the OSV gains depth, quirkiness and character.

To be a true OSV, you will have needed to start on this adventure when things were not so hospitable for us, a time when you couldn’t just waltz into any coffee shop and find a soy milk option, let alone seven million others. In short, we have earned our stripes. We’re determined and we’re a little weird. We’re also not afraid to break out a nutrition bar if we’re hungry at a wedding.

We’re Old-School Vegans. Here are the sure signs you might be one too:

  1. You still automatically look for lard when skimming ingredient panels. Yes, this was a thing. It probably is still a thing but I don’t see it as much. I can tell you this because I still scan for it.
  2. No matter how much you are mocked, you still have a nostalgic and persistent fondness for mushy veggie burgers that will never bleed and rubbery hotdogs. Besides, it’s all about the condiments and veggies, right? Right.
  3. You have a light patina of nutritional yeast that is always coating your clothes, your kitchen, and your tongue.
  4. You can’t look at Converse sneakers and not feel a little tug in your heart. Converse are the main reason you weren’t barefoot in the 1990s.
  5. When someone complains about the lack of good vegan cheeses today, it takes a lot of self-discipline to not laugh and laugh.
  6. Vegan milk being anything other than a beige-ish grey, chalky substance is still a bit of a shock to your system. A welcome shock to your system but a shock nonetheless.
  7. You have an internal GPS for locating vegan food anywhere, kind of like the Terminator but not scary. Well, not too scary.
  8. But even if the previous point fails, you can still hack a meal from a menu like a vegan MacGyver: Baked potatoes + salsa + steamed vegetables is not half bad in a pinch. By the way, Old-School Vegans make servers everywhere break out in hives trying to figure out how to ring up our improvised meals and handle our strange questions, so true OSVs always tip at least 20 percent.
  9. You are very particular about your tofu scrambles and tofu in cubed form is never an acceptable scramble. I mean, WTF? We need some standards. This isn’t anarchy quite yet.
  10. You were one of the OGs who spent at least half of your advocacy time patiently explaining to people how to pronounce the word “vegan” correctly. There are a few we missed but we took one for the team. You’re welcome.
  11. You still always keep some vegan educational leaflets in your bag/car/office desk/hand just in case. Some have seen better days…
  12. You still sometimes instinctively remove cheese, sour cream, etc. from recipes when you’re skimming them before you remember, “Hey, I can find vegan versions of those!”
  13. You have a very precise stacking method for pressing your tofu that has been honed for years and you rarely stray from using the same cutting boards and cans for it. Those newfangled contraptions are an insult to your structural engineering skills.
  14. You’re still a little pleasantly surprised and creepily smiley despite yourself when someone else is in the tofu section of the grocery store.
  15. Speaking of tofu, OSVs came of age during the era of silken tofu in aseptic boxes that are allllllways kept on the top shelf in grocery stores, so we know the precise pain of one of those sharp edges of the box hitting us on the face as it would fall. Or at least the shorter of us do. Also: we have a knife that we may use only for the purpose of cutting open that package. Related: You can’t tell us that silken tofu chocolate pie isn’t the best kind kind of chocolate pie.
  16. Speaking of chocolate, you remember a time when the only vegan “chocolate” you could find was carob and even that sometimes had dairy in it.
  17. You think of anyone who’s been vegan since 2010 or later as a baby vegan.
  18. You remember when trail mix was dessert. Just leave us alone already. You’d be grouchy, too.
  19. The local Thai place recognizes your voice and says, “Pad see ew with tofu, no egg, no fish sauce, no oyster sauce?” as soon as you start your order. (Okay, you don’t need to be an Old-School Vegan for this to start happening pretty quickly. We are rather intense.)
  20. You know what TVP is, what those initials stand for, and still use the stuff, damn it. (Best thing to use in a veggie chili and a mock-meatloaf, by the way.) Related: You still happily eat food in loaf form. F*ck off, already!
  21. Look in your glove box or purse. Is there a nutrition bar? Congrats, you’re an Old-School Vegan!