Home » Finding sisterhood, and good food, in plant-based eating

Finding sisterhood, and good food, in plant-based eating

CHICO — This column has studied the ways being vegan can affect social life, particularly when you consider how social stereotyping impacts perceptions of this way of eating. This time I wanted to look at specifically standing by other vegan women, because there’s a definite set of stereotypes out there we deal with already.

More often that not it tends to rub people the wrong way when you start talking about being vegan, and to be fair there are lots of ways to handle the subject so you can’t be accused of coming off as pretentious. It particularly rubs some people the wrong way if you also mention you’re a feminist — and as a woman, it can become a different conversation entirely because you’re dealing with a range of preset judgements based on that person’s philosophies and perceptions of the world.

There’s been a lot written about how being vegan has been feminized or treated as just another women’s diet fad, and you see a lot of hostile stereotyping as a result of that in both the in-person and virtual social realms. That’s why I think it helps that we first acknowledge it and know how to stand by other women facing the same range of stereotypes.

It’s important to acknowledge that being feminist and being vegan do not by any means go hand in hand, although people often seem to assume the two philosophies are connected. Being feminist does not necessarily mean you are making other lifestyle choices based on the knowledge of how historically dominant societies have functioned using the labor of other societies or disproportionately distributing labor on women or people of color.

However, I have found that often, once you begin to understand how tightly interwoven these systems are, intersectional feminists may consider how individual choices play out and might choose to participate less. They might avoid things that aren’t fair trade or mass produced items, which may extend to boycotting animal products.

I’m also not suggesting all vegans may become feminist, either. It’s simply important to understand why social stereotypes play a part in why female vegans often have a tough time being accepted in more traditional circles, which if you’re already feminist, you may be familiar with. I have written before about how traditional gender roles are sold to us in advertising all the time and that often plays out with meat being marketed to overtly masculine viewpoints, with commercials aimed at men dripping with wings, bacon, grease-soaked sausages and so many burgers.

After enough time studying how popular culture and associated media refine these images and ideas, you see more intersections between how traditional associations with femininity, and being vegetarian or vegan, involve being weak or emotional, whereas the meat consuming male is usually portrayed as powerful, reasonable and determined. Seeing more male vegan chefs and influencers helps bust the ridiculous nature of these stereotypes, but it’s just as important that we celebrate the multi-faceted complexity of women, of cultural and ethnic differences and why some might or might not be vegan, and work to support each other in those differences. In that work is where being feminist can overlap with the issues of this lifestyle, with intersectional feminism and feminist theory.

All that being said, over time I have met more and more women from various walks and stages in life who have discussed various ways these debates have affected their daily life or their own perceptions of themselves. Here is hoping that a sisterhood found in both understanding how social gender roles influence us, and social pressures around what we eat, can lead to a stronger support network for each other as we navigate an incredibly confusing post-third wave landscape.

Make tapas vegan

After over a year in a pandemic, I am missing Spain after two years since first traveling there and have thought fondly of days enjoying tapas in the Barcelona sun. Since finding eats that are entirely vegan can be hard there, I have tried my hand making my own at home to satisfy the cravings. Here are three ideas for Catalan tomato bread, “sausage” and veggie skewers and stuffed baked peppers.

Start with vegan sourdough, spread with vegan cream cheese or olive oil spread and sun dried tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh or dried basil and warm in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, or in an oiled pan for at least two minutes.

For a dish of fried skewers, alternate sliced vegan sausage, sweet peppers and sliced mushrooms on skewers. Place several skewers at a time in a frying pan with heated olive oil and turn frequently while cooking for about 4-6 minutes until peppers soften and sausage is browning. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For Spanish-style stuffed peppers, prepare long grain white rice ahead of time, then combine with onions, parsley, fresh garlic and olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish in your oven, adding tomato paste. Add garbanzo beans or pine nuts if desired. Simmer well for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Place rice inside hollowed bell peppers, coat the peppers in oil and return to the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Restaurants

Please check out the new pop up delicatessen in Chico, inspired by northern Italy cuisine which offers vegan meal items, Cucina Merculina. The merchant can be found on Instagram at @cucinamerculina for details on where they will appear next.

Natalie Hanson was inspired to write this biweekly column after meeting more vegans in Chico and seeing the need for representation in the north valley. Send vegan-friendly restaurant or business recommendations her way to [email protected] or visit @northvalleyvegan on Instagram for more recipes.