I was foraging for morels this morning, and I got so fucking angry.
About the internet. Of course.
My online life is split in two: I follow a ton of chefs and pastry chefs on Facebook and Instagram but most of my actual friends (who I also follow, as one does) are vegans. This sometimes creates weird things like the photo I saw this morning. Seeing a photo of cute animals, I naturally assume it’s from a sanctuary a friend is volunteering at. Then I read the caption:
It hurts the heart, but I get so many plating ideas from this chef! So I didn’t unfollow them.
I do a lot of eye-averting on the internet.
Walking in the woods is a good way to heal from being a split self.
You’d think being a vegan who’s into foraged food would be a natural fit. Vegans eat vegetables and foragers forage almost exclusively for vegetables. Easy. But vegans don’t always eat vegetables, and foragers aren’t always vegan-friendly. I know of almost no vegan foragers, except Wildman Steve Brill. Most of my forager friends extoll the benefits of churning their own fucking butter to accompany their ramps or something.
Walking with my morel-eyes on—scanning the ground while focusing on my breath, mentally noting the location of what I think is woodruff I want to watch for blooms in order to make May Wine, smelling the sweet foresty air, all that good shit—I suddenly got an actual heart-pang about the whole thing. Foraging takes time, that’s for sure. But I worked weeks of 12+ hour days and managed to fit in six morel walks, until the seventh one finally paid off:
You become what you do not resist.
You also become what you spend your time doing.
I spend too much time looking at the computer on breaks from work.
I want to make sure I become, too, a person who spends time grocery shopping in the woods.
Why have we let the pleasures of local food become associated with annoying nose-to-tail locavores, while vegans are associated with chik-o-stick and Oreos and processed fake ice cream and Boca burgers?
Most vegans are political, why aren’t we more concerned with corporate food?
Is it really just the thing of craving what you can’t have? We need to grow up, in that case.
Is it because we’re all extremely class-conscious and foraging seems like this Brooklyny fancy thing to do?
To me, foraging is the most anarchist act possible: finding your food for free, instead of buying it from The Man. Foraging people are a covert, underground mycelium of Facebook groups and list serves—I have foragers I buy things from for the shop with whom I only have texting relationships once or twice a year: that kid who texts me when the ramps come in, that other kid who texts me when he finds woodears. Before I had the shop I’d buy my ramps in the parking lot of a health food store, from a plastic bag in an ice chest in the trunk of a car. Talk about underground. Talk about anti-corporate.
Meanwhile, the vegan internet is today going crazy for a recipe with Bacon Bits as the star ingredient.
Are we really this short-sided? This unimaginative?
Yes, I’m not a Latina single mother raising my kids while working three jobs in a food desert with no woods nearby. (And neither are most vegans. And that’s pretty damn fucked-up too.) Yes, it’s easy to say that anyone can make the time when I was 15 minutes late to work because I was Instagramming my morels photo, so I just texted L and E and said I’d be in soon and by the time I got to work the shop was almost ready to open.
Don’t most of us reading this blog live lives of ridiculous luxury?
I bet you do. By luxury I mean: enough food. A house. Not being scared about being hungry or homeless in a week or a month. If you’ve got that stuff taken care of, you have the time to forage. Dandelions and garlic mustard and dock and Japanese knotweed and field garlic and wild chives: I guarantee that most of these are in an abandoned lot or field near you right now, no matter where you live. It’s shocking, how much food goes to waste in this starving country because we don’t see it.
But vegans are going insane over something called Beyond Meat and that Earth Balance makes a Tings-like product now. Before I realized Tings were genetically modified I’d eat Tings now and then, too, but…how do I put this without seeming like I’m lecturing more than I already seem like I’m lecturing? I was ashamed of my Tings. A corporate product, not a whole food—processed junk. Sometimes you do it, but it’s nothing to be proud of. Not because it’s bad for your body, because it’s bad for everything. The earth and the vegan movement and the reputation of veganism.
I believe in being a good soldier. Sigh. I do. An ambassador. I’ve been vegan 20 years this year, so I think that allows me to speak with some shoutiness on the topic of what is needed to improve in this little movement of ours.
Do you think vegans think that being vegan is enough?
I think we do, all too often.
I think I do, all too often.
Am I wrong about all this? I do know a ton of CSA-obsessed, gardening, fermenting, foraging, dumpster-diving wildcrafting vegans. But I know we’re in the minority of a minority.
Let me know what you think, OK? I want to know how things look from your end of the produce aisle.
Here are two good comments to start you off from my Facebook pals:
I think you are really, really wrong. New, teenage, vegans are still learning, like all teenagers, to understand their impact on the larger world. Folks that have been vegan for a while, like you, me, Maresa & Jacob, are obsessed with plant-based local food. Foraging is mostly a fantasy in the leaden soil of Chicago, but I still dumpster dive & trash pick, for food, clothes & furniture, plenty. Urban foraging! Still CSA obsessed though.
I couldn’t agree more. We need to leave single issue veganism behind and embarrass food justice, complete foods, urban farming etc… I think we’re really missing an opportunity letting omnivores dominate the locavore, food accessibility and clean foods movements…
Tomorrow I have a post ready to go about capitalism + classism + veganism. So many -isms, can you even stand it?