“For a start, most animals who kill for food would not be able to survive if they did not, whereas we have no need to eat animal flesh. Next, it is odd that humans, who normally think of the behavior of animals as ‘beastly’ should, when it suits them, use an argument that implies that we ought to look to animals for moral guidance.” – Peter Singer, “Equality for Animals?”
Singer’s arrogance in his article “Equality for Animals?” is among the multitude of reasons why many omnivorous people despise vegans. Often, their vigilance against all animal products, including eggs, dairy, and honey, comes across as preachy or self-righteous. Many vegans are just as offended at someone delighting in a crispy fried chicken thigh as I am when I see someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat or tee. Politics aside, vegans can be a finicky bunch.
For instance, Singer calls eating meat “a luxury, rather than a necessity.” He argues that since eating animals isn’t imperative, we shouldn’t take take animals’ lives simply because we enjoy the way they taste. Though Singer seems less hateful toward people who opt to eat sustainable meat, he writes that the real problem with eating meat is the killing.
Singer’s beliefs are fine and good. I’m a liberal-minded person, and as long as one person’s decisions don’t directly impair another person, I think they should feel free to do as they please. However, when people bestow their beliefs upon another person, degrading them for how they live — how they eat — that’s when I draw the line.
My vexation with veganism is likely rooted in my culinary background. I’ve worked in commercial kitchens. There, the disdain for veganism runs deeper than a 100-quart stock pot. Even in a restaurant that caters to all sorts of dietary restrictions, vegans are considered to be abnormally fussy. I’ve discriminated on occasion, as well. Call me square, but on a busy night with a packed house, constructing a special-order buffet for a vegan customer is the last thing I want to do.
Despite my annoyance with the vegan rhetoric, I happen to really enjoy the foods they eat. When I consider a vegan diet, my mind races and fills with vibrant, delicious dishes brimming with produce: roasted carrots tossed in a pesto of their own greens, baked sweet potatoes drizzled with maple syrup, deep purple plum sorbet, caramelized candy stripe beets, tomatoes macerated in balsamic vinegar, sliced salt-and-peppered avocado, salads chock-full of in-season vegetables.
But my frustration with the vegan diet isn’t in what they can eat, but rather, in what they cannot. Life, for me, is about balance. Though sometimes that means eating meatless for a while, I always come back to a diet that includes chicken and bacon. A life without coq au vin is not a life worth living. My beef with vegans is their insistence that the vegan way is the only way, and that the rest of us sin against the world with every bite we take of animal product. Singer, along with most vegans I have met, radiates this idea. I know we all have our vices. I happen to be a proponent of local, sustainable eating, and in that, I endorse eating local, sustainable (healthy) animal products.
Now, I am certainly not trying to knock vegans’ lifestyle choices. It’s fine to eat cheese-less pizza or dairy-free ice cream for the rest of your life, if that’s your prerogative. It’s fine, even admirable, to advocate for animal rights; we could all probably learn a thing or two from those efforts. Turn your nose up at your hostess’s offering of meatloaf and butter-laden mashed potatoes, but don’t mind me as I feast on a breakfast of pan-fried bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast with cream cheese and jam.
Fortunately for vegans, I’m always willing to try new foods, and the emergence of fall is a perfect time to do so. As the leaves exchange their green outerwear for striking yellow and red coats, and the weather is now nearly sweater-appropriate, I’m coerced to create new, autumn-inspired recipes. I find fall cooking just as wonderful as I find the season itself, partially because I can make and eat all of the soup I want. One of my favorite soups to prepare this time of year just happens to be vegan.
I’ve made several versions of butternut squash soup throughout the years, and this Thai version suffused with red curry paste, ginger, and coconut milk remains one of my favorites. It’s cozy and comforting, and it’s best enjoyed on a chilly fall evening, sipped from a mug. Best of all, omnivores and the meat-apprehensive can indulge in this soup together, ensuring equality for all eaters.
Thai Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock, plus more if you desire a thinner soup
1 14-oz. can coconut milk, light or full-fat
Pinch of ground cumin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt (more if the vegetable stock has low or no sodium)
Extra coconut milk and cilantro for serving, if desired
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Add onion and saute until browned. Then add ginger and garlic, stirring constantly to ensure they don’t burn.
- Add curry paste and butternut squash. Stir until curry paste coats all vegetables. Then pour in stock. Place lid on pot and simmer until squash is tender.
- Pour in coconut milk and add cumin, brown sugar, and salt. With an immersion or regular blender, puree until smooth. Drizzle with extra coconut milk and top with cilantro, if desired.