This past Friday evening my yoga studio had a vegetarian cooking class. I looked at the thai-inspired menu – spring rolls, vegetable stir fry, vegetable dumplings, and vegan chocolate cupcakes for dessert – and realized that it was almost entirely vegan. So I signed up. I have never made spring rolls, am too lazy to make cupcakes, and I was interested to see who else would show up. Plus I’ve been extremely lazy about cooking at all lately, and so this was a pretty easy way to be social and have a real meal all at once.
The mix of students was about as expected. Mostly women, with a couple men, and mostly people who were not even vegetarian. One of the men is someone I’d have classified as a “committed omnivore”, but I thought it was fairly hopeful that he showed up to this cooking class.
Of course he is good friends with our yoga instructor, and he lives a 3 minute walk away.
It is hard to know other people’s motivation without asking them directly, something I didn’t do.
I thought that “vegetarianism and yoga” would come up, but it didn’t really. Nutrition was talked about, but I was disappointed that the yoga teacher (a vegetarian who seems to dabble in veganism) seemed like your typical protein-obsessed American. Are we brainwashed, or what?
She said at one point, when I asked her what stopped her from going vegan, that she “works out so much” and “builds muscle so fast” that she can feel sometimes that her body needs protein. She had a very closed expression, so I didn’t push it, but I found it strange that protein was her excuse. She’d actually explained earlier that someone at her activity level needs only 35g of protein/day, which is accurate in a non-protein-obsessed way, and she explained that at the same time she described a typical breakfast that she enjoys, which is vegan and itself contains 25g of protein.
So, clearly, she knows that she can get a lot of protein in one vegan meal. So what’s with the protein excuse for not going vegan?
Furthermore, that she would use activity level as part of this excuse to me, who she knows bikes 30 miles a day commuting to and from work…well, maybe that is why she had such a closed expression. She didn’t want to get into that conversation.
So I backed off.
Still, it was disappointing that she instilled a belief in a handful of people that protein can be difficult on a vegan diet. That if you want an excuse for not going vegan, you just have to mumble something about building muscle fast.
I don’t know how to break through these walls that people throw up. Maybe I keep too much on the outskirts of my social sphere, and thus have too few opportunities, and never quite the right ones, to bring up issues and have real conversations.
Regardless of my own ineptitude when it comes to opening mental doors, it was a fun night, and I learned how to make spring rolls. Everything other than the wonton wrappers were vegan, and since I was able to have the filling (there’s always extra) with rice, I don’t think anyone thought it was a big deal for me to not have the dumplings themselves.
And maybe the point is that everyone loved the food, and went home with detailed instructions on how to make this (almost entirely) vegan feast. Maybe that’s the door that was opened. As much as I wish some of the ethical issues had been discussed, or compassion in food choices emphasized at the very least given that it was through the yoga studio, I think it was awesome that my yoga studio did this. Maybe it was the right thing to not talk about the issues, and instead make it a fun and tasty social event.
I’m not a very social person. I spend my weekends recovering from the work week, from being around people all week. I don’t personally have or make these opportunities to expose people to other ideas.
Interestingly at work, just by being a bike commuting vegan environmentalist, I have influenced people around me in small ways. One coworker now uses his Klean Kanteen instead of water bottles. Another keeps asking for advice on eating healthier, and now brings in fruit instead of candy. She also is walking for an hour in the mornings before coming to work.
In her words, “if Deb can ride her bike for an hour before work and an hour after work, I can walk on my treadmill for an hour each day.”
Of course they all think I’m insane for riding my bike to work, and laugh when I try to convince them to ride their bike for some errands instead of getting in the car. Any discussion of ethical issues around animals produces a glazed look almost instantly.
Maybe I’m just too impatient, maybe these closed and glazed expressions aren’t the dead zones I feel like they are.