Natalie Slater: Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions About Veganism

They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but chances are, they are not vegan. For if they were vegan, they would know that there are plenty of people in this world who delight in asking vegans the same questions over and over again – not to learn – but rather, to antagonize. Never before has your protein intake or the iron levels in your blood been so fascinating to other people! And so, for my fellow cranky vegans, I have developed this list of snappy answers to the top 5 stupid questions we deal with.


Stupid question: Where do you get your protein?

Snappy Answer: The same place elephants, rhinoceroses and cows get their protein – from plants!

This is a question I never encountered as a teenager who lived off of candy bars and truck stop coffee. I make the decision to only eat plants, and all of the sudden the whole world is freaking out about my protein intake! The truth is, most nutritional organizations recommend that 2.5% – 6% of your daily calories come from protein, but most Americans take in about 20% of their calories from protein. Excess protein can cause liver and kidney damage, and can also lead to calcium deficiency as animal protein is acidic, and your body will leech calcium from your bones to neutralize the acid. So how much protein do you really need? The World Health Organization recommends 22.5 grams for the average 150-pound male eating a 2,000 calorie a day diet (4.5 percent of those calories are from protein). When you consider that spinach is 51% protein, oatmeal is 16% protein, and beans are 26% protein, you soon realize that it will not only be easy to get ample amounts of protein from plant-based foods, but it will also be delicious.

Stupid question: Where do you get your calcium?

Snappy Answer: Do you find it odd that humans are the only animals that nurse from another animal well into adulthood?

Ok so that’s a snappy answer, but I’ve found it to be effective. Take a moment to explain to your harasser that milk is breast milk from a cow and then sit back and enjoy the look of confusion and disgust on his or her face. It’s gross, and it’s true. Milk is for baby cows, not for humans, and that’s why so many of us have trouble digesting it, and all of the products made with it. In fact, the countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis (weak bones). Know why? Remember that thing I said earlier about animal products being acidic? Yep, that’s why. Leafy greens, nuts, beans, whole grains, tofu, and lots of other plant-based foods are rich in calcium so you can leave the milk for the cows.

Stupid question: What do you eat?

Snappy Answer: Salads and people who ask me stupid questions.

I assure you that 99% of the time this is not an earnest question, but rather an attempt to get you to admit that all you eat is salad. And hey, maybe all you do eat is salad, salad is good if you do it right! But don’t let them corner you into making your eating habits sound boring and rabbit-like. You know they aren’t! Most vegans will tell you that veganism has opened their minds and palates to a world of delicious options they never knew as omnivores. Get into specifics if you like, I personally talk about my first experience with vegan Indian food at a Krishna temple, and then later trying my first falafel at The Taste of Lebanon with all my friends. My son is growing up on Thai dishes, Middle Eastern food, Vietnamese sandwiches and our own homegrown specialties like Anarchist Tacos and Bowl of Stuff. In your face, chicken nuggets! So what do you eat? Food, food, glorious food!

Stupid question: What about humanely raised meat? Would you eat that?

Snappy Answer: How about I humanely slaughter you?

You know what would be truly humane? To raise a cow, feed her, pet her, give her lots of land to roam, and then to leave her alone. Slit her throat, pull off her skin, hack her bones apart and eat her flesh? Not so much. I’ve ruffled many feathers in the past by proclaiming “humane meat” to be yuppy b.s. and I stand by that claim. If you eat meat, fine, do whatever you want. I certainly do whatever I want. But don’t try and bypass your guilt by pretending like the animals you eat don’t suffer. They absolutely do. If that doesn’t bother you, then chow down – but if it bothers you enough to buy into to the b.s. of “humane meat” then I implore you to consider veganism.

Stupid question: How do you afford to be vegan? All that stuff is so expensive!

Snappy Answer: I cook. Oh, and I steal.

This is actually not such a stupid question if you’re the kind of vegan who buys lots of pre-packaged food, or eats out a lot. And if you are, more power to you! I suggest you answer this question by showing the person your bank statement and saying, “I’m rich, don’t you see? Filthy, stinking rich! And I owe it all to veganism!” If you are not rich, however, you can give your friend a quick lesson in grocery economics. Shop the perimeter of the store, buying fresh produce and bulk foods and plan ahead! Flavorful dishes like roasted veggies with garlic, pasta with basil and pine nuts, and Bowl of Stuff are cheap and fast. Make a batch of Chee-Zee Sauce (see bottom of taco recipe) on Sunday night and use it all week for baked potatoes, casseroles and more! Take advantage of a little thing called the Internet for  budget-friendly recipe ideas.

Have you been asked other stupid questions about veganism? I know I have! Join my Google Hangout with Stephanie and Emma on Thursday, January 9th from 5:30-6 pm PST/8:30-9 pm EST or post them here in the Cookbook Club and I’ll do my best to supply you with snappy answers sure to leave them scratching their heads!

Natalie SlaterNatalie Slater is the creator and writer of popular food blog Bake and Destroy. Her first cookbook, “Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans” was named one of VegNews Magazine’s “15 Most-Anticipated Vegan Cookbooks of 2013” & nominated for a PETA 2 Libby Award.

As a recurring Threadcakes celebrity judge, guest judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, and creator of SugarSlam (an online, pro-wrestling-themed bake off) Natalie puts her cooking expertise and sassy opinions to work in finding underground culinary talent.

She has written for Baking and Pastry International, and her recipes have appeared in Bust Magazine, Time Out Chicago and several online publications.

Natalie lives in Chicago, IL with her husband Tony, and their son Teno.

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