Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

propping open the door…

I don’t spend a lot of time advocating to my coworkers. Though in many ways the amount of time we spend at work creates a huge opportunity, it doesn’t generally work out that way for me. Partially because of the atmosphere at work, which isn’t worth getting into other than to say it is highly restrictive.

And so I hope sometimes that simply being the veganbikecommutingenvironmentalist of the office, I’ll give people ideas by what I do. It usually seems an impossible hope.

Last week a coworker awkwardly started a conversation, by asking if there were vegetarian frozen dinners. I’ve never been much into these types of meals, and didn’t pick up on the cue right away. He was surprised and pleased when I said there were. Eventually he mentioned that he had recently seen “Meet Your Meat” on youtube, and he now felt that he had to reduce his meat consumption. Obviously I greatly encouraged this.

He has two young children, and so one of his worries is that he doesn’t have a lot of extra time. He wants easy options. I don’t know how on board his wife is either. As it happens, I was put in charge of the vegetarian options for a company picnic in August. I asked him if he’d be interested in the vegetarian option, and he was really pleased, and said he was. He also mentioned that when he saw the announcement about the picnic, he couldn’t help but to think about all the cows who would be killed.

That sounds like someone who is leaning towards giving up meat, for all that he insisted he wasn’t going to give it up entirely. (yet?)

As many issues as I have with PeTA, and as wary as I am about shocking footage that gets people riled up specifically about the “factory farming”, it does seem to open a door for people. Part of why I’m wary of shock tactics is that people get numb, and I think it can happen quickly. I hear too often of people who insist they’ll never eat meat again after watching some video, and a month later they’re back to their old habits because “it was too hard” or they were at a family bbq and didn’t like the social implications of what it meant to stand by your ethics.

But I’m focusing on that open door. I am going to specifically focus on helping him go meat-free for his lunches. It is a place to start, and it is a starting point that will almost always impact only himself, so it seems like low hanging fruit to me. He mostly shops at Wegman’s, but seemed willing to go to Whole Foods if needed for some vegetarian conveniece foods.

The interesting thing to me is that part of our conversation was regarding organic food, processed food, and local food. I’m not a fan of processed / convenience food for many reasons. It is nice to have it available, no doubt, but it is too expensive, environmentally, for an everyday option. That’s what he eats now, though, and so it will be a step in the right direction to get him onto vegetarian convenience foods. Maybe he’ll start making a vegetarian meal and eat off the leftovers soon. That’s what most of us do, I think.

And of course though he says “vegetarian”, I am only pointing him towards vegan resources and options. It is my tactic, when people bring up vegetarianism to act like veganism is the obvious end goal. Because it IS, even if they don’t know that yet. Acting like it is common knowledge makes them think and wonder – I can actually see it happening sometimes. Maybe I’ll get somewhere, eventually.

In the meantime, I have this coworker. I am trying to think of good resources to point him towards. Given his interest in the bigger issue of our food, I thought “Diet for a Dead Planet” would be a good choice, but I have a feeling he only reads books on code. He got to this point by watching a video, so maybe “Home” would help him along. I’ve heard great things about it, at least.

I need to get some good ideas for easy vegan lunches. He’s used to the frozen meals at the moment, so I’ll point him towards the vegan options, the ones that are widely available. Ideally, since I believe he will want to move away from these processed packaged foods if he continues to let himself consider the issue, I’d like to have some resources to point him towards. And though it might sound odd, I have a feeling that cookbooks aren’t what he needs, or at least aren’t what he’d be interested in at the moment.

Any suggestions would be welcome!


8 responses to “propping open the door…

  1. 4lilpups June 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I frequently lead people toward Amy’s frozen meals. I’ve found that they don’t require an acquired taste at all, and the packages are clearly labeled (at the top of the ingredients list). Plus, they are SO FREAKING YUMMY.

  2. Kelvin Kao June 15, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I am wondering what’s a bigger step: moving from meat to vegan, or moving from pre-packaged food to cooking? (Both for a person, and for the environment)

  3. b June 16, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I second Amy’s and if he’s really hesitant to make a big leap, there are some vegetarian frozen meals by Weight Watchers that are surprisingly yums. I know that sounds awful and gross, but one step at a time & I used to have a roommate – one who couldn’t get enough of her meat – who swore by them.

  4. kelly g. June 16, 2009 at 11:58 am

    or they were at a family bbq and didn’t like the social implications of what it meant to stand by your ethics.

    I think this statement speaks volumes about the society in which we live – none of it good.

    BTW, many of the Wegmans stores have a natural foods section called “Nature’s Marketplace” – not exclusively vegan or vegetarian, but w/a ton of meat- and cruelty-free options.

    And yeah, I hate to be promoting Wegmans ( , but I worked there through college (in the natural foods section, to boot!), so there ya go.

  5. mmg June 16, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Yay – I love when someone unexpectedly becomes open to vegetarianism – keep up your gentle guidance and maybe he’ll be vegan someday!

  6. Shana June 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    My “fast lunch” standbys to keep at work are veggie burgers or Boca Chicken (which all of my coworkers think is real chicken when they smell it) and buns in the freezer. That way I can just microwave and eat.

    I also keep Progresso Lentil soup at my desk or other vegan soups.

    One “make at home and bring” lunch that is easy and freezes well is burritos. All he’d need are tortillas, black or vegetarian refried beans, salsa etc. and you basically microwave everything to heated and assemble, then freeze in Glad containers and to reheat just nuke for 3 or 4 minutes. I even had one today that was black bean and spinach. It’s whatever you want to throw in the tortilla and freeze.

    Anyway, hope that helps!

  7. Deb June 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    @4lilpups – thanks for the Amys rec!

    @Kelvin – I don’t think there’s one answer for that. Everyone is different, when it comes to what they find easy vs not. As for the environment, I still think going vegan is a bigger step than going packaged food free, though that’s based on the inefficiency (resource-wise) of feeding the animals plants, etc. I’ve never seen any convincing data either way — too many variables, maybe.

    @b – I’ll definitely mention it to him. I don’t think he’s hesitant in the way so many people are. When I talked to him, we had a vague conversation about tofu, and how it is an ancient traditional food, and that meat used to be rarely eaten. He’s originally from China, I think I remember him saying, and I’m hoping that when he got thoughtful about the tofu, it was with ideas on simply substituting tofu for the meat in the meals he and his wife routinely cook. A lot of assumptions there, but he definitely was interested in tofu, so it isn’t as big of a stretch as it could be, I think!

    @kelly – thanks for the wegmans tip! I get a funny feeling when I hear people talk about wegmans. I have never been in one; this is the first place I’ve lived that has any at all. It is where he shops, though, so it is what it is. Being able to point him to a section of the store that has a lot of vegan options is great!

    @mmg – thanks! I hope he does go vegan someday!

    @Shana – thanks for those ideas! Keeping buns in the freezer is a great idea, to go with the frozen veggie burgers. And of course the veggie burgers could be a good way for him to start with convenience food and eventually move to home made varieties. I am not much of a veggie burger maker myself (I swear, most of what I make can be eaten with a spoon!) but I’ve heard people say that they’re pretty easy.

  8. greentangle June 20, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    They’re not great, but with kids and looking for easy, there are also quite a few veggie cold cut type options.

    And when a non-cooker non-veggie might be ready for a cookbook, “Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook” might be a good first choice. It has a lot of basic college student type foods, as well as some favorites of mine–Split Pea Soup with Seitan and Garlic Croutons–Yum!

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