The Vegan Mystique: Smashing Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes

The Vegan Mystique: Smashing Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes

Assumption 1: Veganism is inherently unhealthy

We’ve all heard it a thousand times before, from the nosy friend of a friend, the second cousin, the ex-co-worker, what have you. They’ve read some unfounded study somewhere in the wilds of the Internet and henceforth decided that vegans can’t possibly get all those juicy meat-based nutrients, or they lack protein, or vegans are at elevated risk for heart disease. Untrue, untrue, and double untrue.

A board certified cardiologist from New York City debunked it for me: “They are not lacking anything from their diet. Vegans and vegetarians are equally healthy, some argue healthier.” He also nipped the protein question in the bud: “Vegans just need to make sure they get protein from nuts and soy.” Problem solved.

Additionally, a new study called Vegan From the Inside found that vegan eating is healthy, enjoyable, and satisfying. Survey author Janice Stranger, Ph.D. wrote, “On balance, the rewards of a vegan diet far outweigh the challenges that respondents describe. A totally plant-based diet is an ideal that is easier than some might believe.”

Assumption 2: Vegans are humorless jerks.

It’s another dirty stereotype we’re always fighting against  — the humorless, angry, militant, animal rights activist. Perhaps you’ve heard of a comedian named Myq Kaplan? He made it to the top tier of Last Comic Standing as a finalist, has dropped by many a late night show including The Tonight Show, and last year released a seriously hilarious comedy album titled Vegan Mind Meld.

He often starts off a show with, “I’m a vegan, are there any other douche bags here?” Kaplan explained it to me as being aware of our perception and not taking it personally. “Being a comedian, and talking about being a vegan, having a sense of humor is one of the most important things.”

He also brought up the importance of showing our worldview, while being able to point out the idiosyncrasies within us. Basically, being able to laugh at yourself when you’re the annoying one out to dinner with friends asking, “is there meat stock in this?”

“I want to have as much of a positive effect on the world as possible, but being rigid puts people off,” Kaplan explained. “I don’t want to tell you that you’re living your life wrong — which you are — but I’m not going to get in your face and yell at you.”

The comedian does agree with some supposed vegans myths: “The myths that vegans are really good in bed and that people are sending them money all the time.”

Assumption 3: Vegans have limited and bland food choices. Salad fiends.

Butternut squash and caramelized onion quesadillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa at Gracias Madre in San Francisco. The Southern-fried tofu with a side of okra from Souley Vegan in Oakland. Walnut-lentil pate and the warm tempeh reuben with sauerkraut from Angelica Kitchen in New York City.

The outdated misconception that meat-free, dairy-free food is bland and tasteless should by now be long gone. Yes, we eat salads sometimes, but so do you. And ours often have creamy tahini dressing or a veritable rainbow of crunchy veggies.

No one fights for the rights of delicious and decadent, artisan and gourmet, deep fried and desserted vegan foods more than San Francisco writer Laura H. Beck, creator of the fantastically descriptive blog, Vegansaurus. “I wanted to create something that I would use to find out where to get vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and hear about activism opportunities,” she says of her wildly popular site.

To combat the boring food myth, Beck points to Papalote’s soyrizo burritos and Fat Bottom Bakery cupcakes. VegWeb’s cheesy lasagna is her favorite homemade meal to smash the blandness belief to pieces.

“It is the perfect food,” Beck declared. “I’ve recently decided that it’s the year of the vegan dinner party and I’ve had four already … and serve this every time. It’s possible that I love it too much.”

Assumption 4: Vegans fashion is a contradiction. Humans need leather, baby.

People often assume that if you’re not wearing clothes made with animal products, you’re only wearing untouched burlap or hemp  — though don’t get me wrong, hemp can be made quite lovely.

Melanie Pyves, the brains behind The Streets I Know blog, knows a thing or two about hip threads. She was in the fashion industry for a decade before starting the blog. Even she admits there was a time, many years back, when vegan clothing was indeed boring. But there have been some major advances in the past five years.

“Vegan fashion is really amazing right now,” Pyves said.

Some of her current favorites include Vaute Couture, Everyday Apparel, Pansy Maiden, Beyond Skin, Cri de Coeur, Keep Company, and Melissa Plastic Shoes. For haute couture, John Bartlett is currently working on making his fashion line 100-percent cruelty free and Stella McCartney’s shoe and handbag line is vegan.

Pyves encourages readers to contact her if they’re having trouble tracking down a particular fashion item void of animal. She’s helped readers track down vegan cowboy boots, vegan suits, and vegan wedding dresses, among other finds.

In addition to Pyves’ blog, she suggested The Ethical Man, The Discerning Brute, The Kind Life, and Vegan Kicks as good resources for cruelty-free clothing.

In San Francisco, Vegansaurus regular Vi Zahajszky recently created her own foray into fashion blogging. The site, plantmade, is described as “a blog that’s all about the ins and outs of being vegan and not looking like a scrub.”

In the end, you can look to the illustrious words of one, US magazine: Vegans, they’re just like us.