What Vegans Actually Eat

(But never put on their Instagrams)

Are you really even vegan if you don’t eat your 15-ingredient smoothie bowl with a wooden spoon?

Instagram can make veganism seem like a never-ending, multicolored bevy of smoothie bowls, avocado toasts with 8,000 different toppings, and jackfruit tacos draped with pea tendrils. But what you see on a screen isn’t real life — smoothie bowls are WEIRD, I’m too LAZY to add toppings to my avo toast, and pea tendrils are SUPER uptight!

Instagram would also have you believe that every day as a vegan means perfectly-yeasty donuts, mozzarella sticks, and chili cheese tater tots. But a breakfast this amazing only happens IN BROOKLYN, people! (I’m serious — you can drool over the Instagrams of Champs Diner and Dun-Well Doughnuts, or you can look at how close they are on Google maps and tell your landlord you’re breaking your lease.)

The truth is, there are millions of vegan grazing occasions that don’t make it to Instagram. Mostly because they’re unappealing, like the cereal from a dispenser at a continental breakfast. Or the already-sticky jelly packets at a continental breakfast.

Such Instagram un-worthy occasions in the life of a vegan include:

  1. A family reunion in rural Ohio where “potluck” actually means “pack a sandwich ya freak!”
  2. Any event where “appetizers will be served” — code for “welcome to the cult of charcuterie and cheese!”
  3. A late-night YouTube dive that ends in repeated viewings of a montage of Maverick and Goose high-fiving. All that shirtless joy makes you hungry but your pantry is sparse, so it’s time to get your Chopped on! The mystery ingredients in this basket are: miso paste, bulk sesame seeds, half a Cliff bar, and Bragg liquid aminos.
  4. Whenever there’s free food at work. The frugal gremlin in your brain needs you to eat anything it can, so long as it won’t cause your vegan gremlin a moral dilemma. If you can satisfy both gremlins, they’ll form a bond so special it would be cruel to tear them apart, like baby cows and their moms, or baby pigs and their moms, or Maverick and Goose RIP!

The point is, veganism might seem less daunting to non-vegans (and vegans who can’t keep up with the cold-pressed juices) if we took fewer pictures of our kale and more pictures of our romaine. And by “romaine” I mean the crunchy water we call “iceberg lettuce.” To that end and in the interests of full transparency, here are some less-than-ideal things that I, a vegan, have eaten:

  • Free almonds that touched some cheese.
  • Free veggies that touched some cheese.
  • Free sandwiches that canoodled with some cheese.
  • Free cornichons that sexted some cheese.
  • A salad with no croutons.
  • A plain bagel from Terminal 7.
  • The hummus plate.
  • A tofu dog my aunt placed on the grill directly under a dripping hamburger.
  • Vegan cake my mom made that had an eggshell in it.
  • Vegetables from Subway.
  • “Breakfast couscous.”
  • “Savory oatmeal.”
  • Sorbet. Or as I call it, Satan’s ice cream.
  • Tofu and guacamole for breakfast.
  • Lettuce and guacamole for lunch.
  • Chips and guacamole for dinner.
  • An entire can, so roughly one day’s worth of farts, of refried beans.
  • And entire bag, so roughly one week’s worth of farts, of Brussels sprouts.
  • A fig bar that had been in hiding at an Indiana gas station since 2005.
  • A container of Whole Foods 18-pack cookies someone at work put in the trash. (I have never recovered.)
  • The bread from the bread basket that seems most likely to be vegan. You know the one: so dry it hurts your mouth.
  • The crackers from the cheese platter that seem most likely to be vegan. You know the ones: bland, unsalted, unholy.
  • Pasta without meat that I gave a cater waiter $20 for.
  • Fruit as dessert. (Seriously, weddings, what did vegans ever do to you?)
  • Whole Foods pizza that was supposed to be vegan but wasn’t labeled “vegan.” After an exhaustive interrogation of cheese consistency, color, and melt, plus a taste investigation performed by three non-vegans, I deemed the pizza a PIZZA OF INTEREST, although I could never confirm nor deny its involvement in THE GREAT BUTTSPLOSION of May 5, 2018. Some say it’s a cold case, but I have my theories.
  • Half a bag of Grandma Lucy’s dog treats.

So vegans, I challenge you: grab your phone and get your plain baked potato to the ’gram! Showcase your white-edged melon at an Iowa Denny’s! Release your freezer-burned Boca burger as a grid! And hashtag all manner of tacos with nary a pea tendril in sight!

Actual lunch I posted to Instagram: chickpeas with hummus, microwaved potato, ketchup for a pop of color.

Holly Amos is a humor writer and poet in Chicago. More at @amoshmarie and hollyamos.net.

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