A vegan by any other name...

When Mitch's grandfather came to this country, he and his brothers opened a grocery and private-labeled certain canned goods, such as the strawberries pictured above. Even during the Great Depression these immigrant entrepreneurs thrived by providing city dwellers with a taste of spring.

Today, of course, in some markets we can get fresh strawberries year round, making it easier to make pronouncements like, "I don't eat meat," without starving to death. During the 1930s, it would have been challenging in the extreme to forgo animal products, when families were happy for a ham hock with which to season their bean soup.

To abstain from meat is a privilege. Not only do we know more about nutrition (though, given the complexity of the human body and how it interacts with the foods we consume remains largely a mystery), we also have greater access, depending on our resources and where we live, to greater varieties of foods. Bill Clinton can afford to be vegan. I can afford to be vegan. Could my nephews, who are just starting out and surviving on PB&J and pizza? Maybe. If they paid close attention and shopped sales...and *gasp* cooked. Like that will happen.

In the five months I've been playing with veganism, I've discovered new foods, read a lot and had some fun. I've also eaten meat or fish on a handful of occasions to celebrate or ease things at social gatherings. The hardcore vegans will be blowing poison darts this way, but the fact of the matter is this: Human beings aren't herbivores. But we're also not carnivores; even the most carnivorous members of our household are given to knoshing on the occasional potato chip or blade of grass.

Can human beings flourish on a vegan diet? Apparently, if we watch our peas and cues. Can human beings flourish on the Standard American Diet (SAD)? Apparently, but not well.

Vegans need to be mindful of their B12 intake, a tough draw from plants alone, but easily come by with fortified products like soy milk or supplements. SAD eaters need to watch their fat intake; the way most Americans eat is a prescription for heart disease, diabetes and, probably, cancer.

I don't call myself a "vegan," beause I'm hedging my omnivorism by eating meat now and again. I tell people that I'm eating a largely vegan diet. This isn't about politics, though it aligns with ideals Mitch and I share about conservation. It's not about ethics, though it jives with how I feel about animals. (Look for the middle-aged lady baby talking the cows at the neighboring ranch, that'll be me.) Like Bill Clinton, my choice is health-related. It's a selfish, privileged choice. But if more of us, who could afford to do so, made that choice (cue rainbows and bird's singing), well, you know, there'd be less pollution, climate change, lower health care costs, blah, blah.

Maybe increased demand would make the choice to eat a plant-based diet a more egalitarian one, too.

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