Fear and Loathing with Lost Vegans

For those of you that don’t know, I have taken a position at Las Vegas CityLife, doing basically what I do here. Part and parcel to the difference of “dead trees and ink” style journalism is a word limit, but this fella has got an engine in him that knows no word limits. Here is the unabridged 900-word version of my account on a small vegan food fest. The 600-ish word version is linked below on the CityLife page. Enjoy!

Your pal,
Mitchell Wilburn


When I rolled in to the red stone brutalist Clark County Library and passed the various
gaggles of early readers and free WiFi abusers, I considered the great possibility of harm
that would come to me if I was found out. The particular face of a political cartoon style
vegan – OWS-issue homemade riot gear, canteen of “50 serving a day” kale smoothie,
gender studies degree from U.C. Santa Cruz – is a character I would think memorizes
the face of anyone extolling the virtues of corn vs. grain govage foie gras. My beef
gravy flavored can of mace still hadn’t come from www.vegan-defence.co.uk, so I went
relatively unarmed.

An event that originally was going to take place behind the Arts Factory downtown, a
spot where I have witnessed a free-form drum circle, expanded into a week-long tour of
public library show room seminars. I knew I was in the right place when I followed a
young man with cartoon characters printed onto his spandex leggings. In many ways, a
vegan food festival can be near-indistinguishable from something like a MENSA meeting
or a model train hobbyist group, in that it can be assumed everyone has a sandwich bag of
raisins on their person at all times. Let that image sink in.

There was a competition for attention amongst booths. “Save the Black Bears!” I hear
from one corner. “Tell wal-mart ‘NO’!” the litany continues from the other. Buy less
puppies, eat more flax, we’re all dying, the sky is falling, it’s the end of the world as
we know it, etc. Young guys with dyed hair made mushroom wraps, older ladies with
undyed hair made charm bracelets. People, who I imagine, were bitten by a duck at one
point in their life. A real schizophrenic scene. This was as good a time as any to change
the narrative.

“Trophy hunting, gosh, what a crime. And now with the demand for Chinese traditional
medicine from wealthy tourists, we’ve got poachers cutting them up for their gall-
bladder! While Sandoval mulls over deregulating hunting permits, we’ve got criminals
trafficking organs on Las Vegas Boulevard!” I had just thought this up on the way there,
but it wouldn’t be the first time I had predicted the next social decline in a bid to flip a
wig. We can call the slippery slope a ‘fallacy’ if it’s ever wrong.

“Oh yeah, and if you thought GMO labeling was a problem, most vegans don’t even
know terms like ‘enriched flour’ or ‘corn meal’ can include powdered bone and sinew!”

“US Foods owns a foie gras farm, it makes the pods in the Matrix look like a nursery. A
surgical stoma for each duck!”

Don’t know how many of my half-baked ideas took root, but we’ll see if someone
makes a facebook page for any of these. As far as food goes, there was the ever-present
problem in vegan cooking, obvious to anyone that’s eaten it. Are things like garam
masala, cumin, chilies – hell SALT – suddenly not vegan? I’m beginning to feel like the
outdated notion of bodily humors getting all riled up at anything more interesting than
a cracker are more accurate than we think; these were a people who react adversely to
flavor. Thai, Indian, most Chinese to an extent can get along just fine with big flavor
minus meat, but I suppose western food hasn’t worked with the handicap for long enough
to get the tricks down.

I was far, FAR too sober to deal with speakers and seminars, and a guy from “GMO Free
Vegas” speaking on – and I shit you not – the VIBRATIONAL ASPECTS OF FOOD
would have got me to hang myself with a gluten-free sprouted quinoa flour tagliatelle
noodle. You see, apparently meat vibrates in the spirit realm in a way that allows Obama
(Chairman and CEO of Monsanto AKA America) to engineer consent with the power of
subconscious mind. I’m not making any of this up. Time to leave the planet, folks. It’s

These choppy few days of talks, demos, and ten dollar homemade CDs would have
made a compelling one big day of vegan pride. Spread it thin over a week like so much
hummus, and we’re left with an unsalted footnote in the culinary calendar.

A secret I’ll let you guys in on: I was a vegan for about a year as a youngster. I fell in
with a rough crowd (Shaolin Kung Fu students), someone passed me a “chick-ain’t”
brand taquito at a party, and I ate poorly for quite some time. Facts are facts, the food
just don’t hang. I’ll admit, things like that mushroom wrap (by Home Grown Catering)
are good, and being vegan is totally an ethical/health decision. Who’s going to tease
someone with good intentions? The only problems anyone can truly have with them are
the terrorist style ones (Yes, they do exist. Ask Sonoma Foie Gras why their storefront
had to be leveled.), or the world-style heroes that just KNOW their “objective” views are
worth arguing over to complete strangers. Thankfully, vegans are one group that does
not regularly make excuses for their extremists.

Veganism may not be for everyone, may not even have all that great of food, and words
like “just as good” can rarely be said with a straight face. It’s an oft-unused color in the
culinary palate, but it’s a necessary leg of any city’s culinary scene. As our scene grows,
we’ll continue to see the offshoots of our mass. By hook or by crook, vegan will be one
of them.

6 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing with Lost Vegans

  1. I really, really disliked the vegans but then the downtown movement started and suddenly I’ve found a new pack of kids to role my eyes at. Vegans are now a little less threatening.

    And I don’t mind eating “vegan” at all, as long as the dish is not cooked by a vegan!

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