Here's a common conversation I have about my @noshtopia tweet stream:
Reader: I'm confused.
Me: What are you confused about?
Me: Well, you don't have to be vegan to eat vegan foods.
(Reader gives me silence and look of perplextion.)
Me: I eat a lot of vegan foods particularly baked goods because I have cow milk and chicken egg allergies. I could say dairy-free and egg-free, but the word vegan uses less letters for Twitter, it's easier to write, and lots of people do searches for the term vegan. I care about this kind of stuff because I'm a blogger who needs web traffic. Plus, believe it or not, I've been to restaurants where waiters thought butter was dairy-free - not kidding. If I ask for a vegan dish, it is more clear, that there is to be no animal ingredient in it at all.
I also eat lots of vegan foods because the vegetable dishes are way more tasty and interesting as I cannot stand plain old steamed spinach or broccoli. I used to dislike Brussels sprouts but here's a way to make shaved sprouts tasty and interesting. The recipe calls for pecorino but you could easily take it out. Plus, there are many vegan options that I just like better than a dairy or egg version. For example, I'm not a fan of mayonnaise, so I use Brianna's Poppyseed dressing in place of mayo in things like this chicken, mandarin orange, walnut salad or simple tuna salad.
I also mix vegan foods with meats. I call it "carnegan" - a carnivorous chowing vegan eater. I do mean it respectfully. It's my way of bridging the two worlds together. I have to eat this way because again I have allergies to dairy and eggs, but I think it's also an interesting way to introduce vegan foods to those who predominately eat animal products.
Here are some of my carnegan dish examples, in the picture at the top of the post is a vegan pizza with pineapple, olives, Daiya vegan cheese, and Italian sausage. I've made Tofu Scramble with chicken apple sausage, and here's a Baked Macaroni with turkey sauce and rice-milk based cheddar cheese. I want to show people options on ways to cut down on animal based foods without making huge leaps outside of their eating comfort zone.
It's also important to me to show people who have food allergies, especially to foods that are dominant in our culture like dairy and eggs, that you are not doomed to a life of bland, restrictive eating. We too have a plethora of choices and can eat in ways that are fun and flavorful.
There is living vegan which is a lifestyle built around personal values involving the use of no animal based products whether it be food, clothing, shoes, furniture, or anything utilizing an animal product.
Vegan can also be used as a dietary description of eating where one eats nothing from an animal whether it be the meat, milk, or eggs. I know people who say they are vegan but really they are just vegan eaters and not living the vegan lifestyle because while they are eating their vegan burgers, they are wearing leather shoes, carrying a leather purse, and wearing a leather jacket.
There is also a growing trend of people who are eating more vegan foods in their overall diet simply for health reasons. I have a few friends who went vegan to lower their cholesterol instead of taking purple pills. NY Times Food writer Mark Bittman has this strategy he calls "Vegan before dinnertime" where he eats vegan foods all day, but after 6pm he can eat whatever he wants.
He adopted this food approach as a way to help him heal from high cholesterol, borderline high blood sugar, sleep apnea, and gaining 35 pounds. As a food writer, it was not realistic or desirable to go 100% vegan. Mark cut down on the animal products for his health and enjoys all kinds of new foods.
So, you see, there are many other reasons to eat vegan foods other than values about animals. For me, I have cut down the amount of meat I eat simply because it helps me feel lighter with less meat, and eating more grains, fruits, and veggies keeps me more regular (in a fiber kind of way.)
I tried going 100% vegan once but my body can't sustain without some animal proteins as I also have allergies to some common beans, some nuts, and soy/tofu affects my metabolism. Plus, I like meat. I do my best to eat meats I know were humanely treated. I also buy kosher meats quite a bit. I will have days where I eat no meat at all just to help give my digestive system a break because eating meat all the time especially heavy meats like beef can be taxing on the body.
Reader: Oh, okay, I get it now. That makes sense.
Me: But I totally get your point because I get asked that question all the time. My tweets can look contradictory, but I kinda like that it gets people to notice because then it's an opportunity to share what I'm doing at Noshtopia with eating wellness. I like to experiment with all kinds of foods and ways of eating, and I enjoy opening people up to seeing food in new ways!