28 September 2010

Apropos of Nothing.

(Photograph copyright 2010, all rights reserved. This is an all-vegan, all the time image. See? Tomato. Vegan. I can't even see any bugs. Just sayin'.)

I've been seeing something in grocery stores - ok, pretty much Whole Foods - that's got me a little puzzled. I know that labels sell products. Heck, I even used to collect the wrappers that used to be on the occasional blood orange or mandarin. If there was an interesting label, that's all I was interested in when it came to choosing the fruit for the week. I admit it. I'm as big a sucker as anyone else. I still have a file with those labels in it.

(Disclaimer: This post is in no way a criticism of Whole Foods, their suppliers, or their employees. I just shop there, so that's where I see the odd stuff. It could be ANY grocery store.)

I know that "organic", for example is not only kinda nice to see in our grocery stores, it's also a marketing strategy that's a guaranteed money maker for the producer. Hell, I'd use it too, if I were in their position. Why go organic at all unless you want to make some money based on the label? Money is a good thing.

But, lately the label reading "Vegan" is what I'm seeing, and it's got me bemused. How, I wondered, could someone actually BE a vegan and not know what they can and can't eat? After all, being a vegan is hard work. Research is required to get the right amounts of protein and nutrients in their diets. Reading is required. Cookbooks must be bought, websites consulted, buzzwords memorized, sermons written, disapproving glares perfected.... This is Serious Stuff.

(I have to interject here. I'm not a vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian. I happen to think that the domestic swine should be the most exalted animal on this planet based on sheer tastiness and versatility. You can eat pretty much the whole pig except the squeal, and it's all delicious. I think this is a Good Thing. I have no interest in changing my ways, and I'm not going to argue about it. It just is.)

What led to this speculation? About a month ago, there were two ladies in the baking supplies aisle of Whole Foods earnestly debating the differences between two bags of sugar. One was labelled "Vegan", one was not. I admit I stopped to listen. I do that. Anyone who doesn't is fibbing. The younger of the two was determined that she was going to buy the vegan version. The older one asked, "What's in sugar that makes it NON-vegan to start with?"

The younger lady was really getting angry about this. That label was becoming crucial to her well-being. Then her friend pointed out that the sugar with the "Vegan" label was CHEAPER than the organic sugar from the same company and was in a virtually identical bag. In fact, they were side-by-side on the shelf. Why the price difference? I read the labels afterward. The sugar labelled "Vegan" wasn't organic.

I left, pondering the logic of this and knowing that since these thing aren't based on logic, I was unlikely to get any sort of answer. I told The Boy about it when he got home that week, and asked what he thought of the situation and he said, "You know these things aren't based on logic. I think you might have too much time on your hands. Did you remember to get the Humboldt Fog?"

Fine. I left it alone. I had stuff to do anyway..... like remembering to put the damned Humboldt Fog on the next week's grocery list. Then remembering the list.

The following week, I went back to Whole Foods (I DID remember the list, I just left it in the car. I got the cheese, but forgot the lamb shoulder. Sigh.) Naturally, just walking in the door got me thinking about the "Vegan" label again, so I started seeing the bloody thing everywhere I turned. A partial list, and yes, WTF? should be after every item.

1. Maple Syrup.
2. A spice mix for the barbecue.
3. Flour.
4. Bread. (Good bread has three ingredients. Flour, water, yeast. It ain't rocket science. Oh wait...how can yeast be vegan? It's alive. I'm confused.)
5. Pasta.
6. Ketchup.
7. Tomato Paste. (Which had salt and guar gum added. The kind I buy has one ingredient on the label. That would be "tomatoes".)

You see what I mean? It's everywhere. These are only a few things. I already knew that there was a product called "Vegan Worcestershire Sauce". For those that don't know, Worcestershire Sauce has as its main ingredient fermented fish. It's the fish sauce of the western world and it's a crucial product in most kitchens. I tried the vegan stuff once when they ran out of Lea and Perrin's. Big mistake. It was mostly MSG (a vegan product from the sea) and it STILL tasted sweetish and nasty. Altogether a waste of $4.99. I dumped it down the drain. Probably it killed a few fish.

Now, I can see the need for the label on, say, cookies. I make mine with butter, a vegan no-no. Baked goods are complicated, so fair enough. But MAPLE SYRUP?! Really? What could be more vegan? Or sacred to Canadians, wherever they live? You stick a tap in a tree and boil down what comes out until it's...syrup. Maple syrup in fact. Where are the animals in that? I guess some producers still use sleds with horses in Quebec, but the horses are all right with that. I asked one once, just to make sure.

On that trip, I left the store thinking I just had to write a post about this. Clearly Western Civilization needs to ponder this. Naturally, I procrastinated. Another week passed. Back I went to Whole Foods. I DID write a list, put it in my pocket and consulted it in the store. What was on it? Hmmm. Milk, eggs, yogurt (gotta get the kind with no pectin or the cat won't touch it), crunchy bits, snack items.....a couple of other things. And yes, I actually wrote "crunchy bits". Then when I got to the store, all smug about having the list in hand, I kicked myself for trying to write a list before I was fully caffeinated that morning. The basket was VERY full on my way out that week. That's what I get for being vague.

I was thinking about this and other, weirder things, as I walked the aisle, filling my cart with snack items and crunchy bits. I was still thinking about it when I ran into one of the store clerks. He's a nice kid and very helpful. He's hunted things down for me in the past. So I asked him, "What's with the vegan sugar? ALL sugar is vegan!"

"No it's not," he said, "Didn't you know that?"

"Um, dude, sugar is a plant. If it's not cane, it's usually beets. Or is there some special way to eliminate the bug parts?"

He got a very serious look on his face. "It's the way it's made. When they cut the sugar cane, they put it on a big floor and pound it with cow bones before they put it in the crusher."

I looked at him, "Are you serious? Really? Because I've BEEN to a couple of sugar plants and they're just big steel buildings with big steel machines."

No way. He wasn't buying that. He looked at me like I'd gone off my rocker and went to find brown rice pasta (yuck) for another customer (bet it had the "Vegan" label on it).

So here I have to cry bullshit and ask where in blazes THAT rumor started? Cow bones? What the hell is that all about? Who says something that moronic? Worse, is there something in the vegan diet that makes people believe stupid things? Is that a requirement or is it part of the buzzword memorization?

I had a friend when I was about five who sincerely believed that if she didn't cover her mouth when a dragonfly went past, it would sew her mouth shut. I knew a girl in high school (not the brightest penny in the till) who sincerely believed that not only could you GET pregnant from a toilet seat, it happened all the time. She believed that even AFTER she got pregnant in Grade 11. I still look for the occasional four leaf clover. Until she died, my great-grandmother firmly believed that if she used a curse word, then said part of the rosary, God would be all right with the bad language.

The sugar thing I don't get. I've always, based on the preaching I hear all the time, firmly believed that veganism was more a religion than a lifestyle choice. Many vegans, especially professional vegans, sound more like evangelists than health mavens to me. Having heard the twaddle about sugar, I have to wonder just how many other idiotic superstitions are out there.

I'm going to start some of my own.

1. Ooooh, did you hear? Every time someone butters their toast with real butter, a robin dies.

2. It's a scientific fact that if you eat pork, you'll get a little curly tail. Doctors cut them off all the time without telling their patients about it.

3. Did you know that regular gasoline has cow fat in it?

4. Refrigerator factories use live mice to test the seals. They put a mouse into each fridge and time how long it takes for it to die.

5.  Steel factories use baby pig and dolphin blood to make the steel stronger.


Can anyone out there come up with any more? I want to see how long it takes for someone to tell me one of these things that BELIEVES it!

(Ok, I just read online that some sugar processors, when sourcing the activated carbon that is used as a filter, buy it from companies that use bones to make the char. Fair enough. I guess that's not vegan. I STILL want to know where the hell that kid got the idea that beating cane with cow bones is something that any manufacturer would bother with. I also want to know why  it's a bad thing to use cow bones, a byproduct of the beef processing industry, to make char? Would the bones be better off in a landfill?)


  1. Why isn't that cow bone being ground up and used to make my Jell-o?

    I seriously don't get vegans, I can barely understand vegetarians let alone pescetarians (Make up your fucking hypocritical minds already).

    So crazy new theories...

    There is a chemical in coffee that prevents heart disease but causes cancer (in Type O+ people)

    Pork Rinds provide an excellent source of Zinc, a known Antioxidant

    Semen stops breast cancer (Yes its fake)


    Iran has Flying Boats with Machine guns (It might be real)


  2. Good ones! I don't get the whole vegan thing either, but The Boy is the absolute worst. His theory is that we should just EAT the vegans!

    He says, "They'd be nice and tender and soft with no muscle to mess up the cooking process - like veal."

    He does acknowledge that cannibalism should probably stay illegal, so he just wants a sign in the kitchen that says "Vegans will be spit roasted"

  3. None of this stupidity is particularly surprising because people believe that food comes from stores. It might be fun to tell them we eat plants and animals, we just kill them, cut them up, dry them, and cook them first.

    I have been told that Vegans do not come from Las Vegas, but some days I wonder. I think the lack of animal protein in their diet causes brain damage. They are really annoying when they get all wound up, and babble about their preposterous pseudoscientific food theories - like your store clerk's explanation of the non-vegan sugar that was processed with cow bones.

    I knew a woman who claimed to be a vegetarian. She ate chicken, eggs, and fish, and said that was ok because chickens and fish don't have a relationship with a mother.

    It could be they come from the planet Vega in some constellation an unimaginably large number of light years from earth, or maybe they are just the only life form that has been able to break through from one of the alternate dimensions that exist along with our very limited and somewhat boring reality.

  4. See Tonto? I think that we could come up with some very profitable bullshittery based on, well, us making shit up. People seem to believe anything they're told, so we could have a good long run before someone shuts us down.

    We could start with a rumor....let's see..... Goat cheese makes you fertile. How's that? Can we build on it?

  5. BS - I have a doctorate in that!

    I don't think the goat cheese will help me though. How bout one or two of these?

    Diet Coke makes you smarter.

    Washing your penis with kiwi juice once a day will make it grow an inch a month. Stop when the head starts to stick up over your belt.

    Coca-Cola still has cocaine in it; they paid the FDA it keep it quiet.

    Pepsi causes miscarriages.

    Orange juice causes hemorrhoids.

    McDonalds hamburgers cause man-boobs.

  6. Vegan barbecue sauce? To go on what, a vegetable cow? Or on just an ear of corn? "Vegan barbecue" is a contradiction in terms, since "a barbecue" (as an event) only provides potato salad and bread and onions so the ones there can pretend they are eating from more than one food group.

    This is not unlike the labels I've been noticing, which proclaim, "No saturated fats", on such animal-devoid items as apple juice and brown rice.

  7. No, no, Tonto. If you name a product by brand, you get sued, like when the two Amway distributors started the Proctor & Gamble rumor over the logo with the 13 stars.

    "Diet cola" makes you smarter.

    "There's an ingredient in fast-food hamburgers that causes man-boobs."

    See? Keep it generic. Then if someone ELSE specifies a brand name later on, it's not your fault!

  8. I like the orange juice/hemorrhoid connection. Same with the kiwi juice thing. We need to write a book...

  9. OK, OK, OK!

    Diet sodas make you smarter.

    Washing your penis with kiwi juice once a day will make it grow an inch a month. Stop when the head starts to stick up over your belt.

    Orange juice causes hemorrhoids.

    Fast food hamburgers cause man-boobs.

    Last but not least - obesity is a genetic adaptation to air pollution.

  10. I like the last one! What a great excuse to eat desserts with impunity!

  11. I'm so posting the last one on my FB status.

  12. The most important two things I learned from my in-laws:

    Getting old is no job for sisssies.
    Life is uncertain, so eat your dessert first.

  13. I think it's time for a "Life is too short" poll.

  14. OK, OK, the whole "pounded with cow bones" line is crazy, but I actually heard a variation on this years ago that sounds, on its face, fairly convincing. (Not that I've ever tried to verify it.) Someone told me once that the way white sugar is made--i.e., why it's refined white sugar instead of raw cane juice or whatnot--involves gelatin somewhere in the refining process. Gelatin, of course, from cow bones. Sounded convincing at the time because, well, they put seaweed in ice cream and soy in Doritos, why not gelatin somewhere in refined sugar? What do you think, Messy--nugget of truth, or complete B.S.?

  15. Beating sugar canes with cow bones is a crazy idea but, from Messy's post, people obviously believe in it. I guess they just imagining a million people beating a million tons of sugar cane with a million big cow bones......now that's not just crazy, it's downright terrifying.

    In this age of information (you can google sugar refining process and get 1 million responses in under 4 seconds) it's amazing that people still create these no less amazing stories and believe in them. This past Sunday I saw Sixty Minutes with the camera on the building that is now called "ground zero mosque".

    The camera showed the dilapidated old Burlington Factory building which has been vacant for ten years, and the interviewer and the developper who owns the building walked the two and a half long blocks to ground zero. The developper wants to build a community center modeled on the Jewish community center of which he is a member (he's a born and bread New Yorker, a Muslim, his wife is Catholic, he is a member of a Jewish community center, and by way of explanation he says: this is typical for New York City!).

    Like the Jewish Center, the Cordoba one will also be opened to everyone and will include a gym and a swimming pool (which explains why everyone in the neighborhood are for it).

    The building doesn't set on hallowed ground, unless you consider holy the striptease joint and the porn store next to it...

    So this woman who started this whole "ground zero mosque" scandal was interviewed. Behind her she had a drawing of a huge mosque, complete with many domes and minarets that seemed bigger than the mosque in Mecca. She claimed it was to be built right on ground zero. The interviewer pointed out that it was a community center to be build in the old Burlington Coat factory (a narrow building that of course shares its walls with its neighbors --no room for domes and minarets there!). She said she was speaking the truth but the media was telling lies, even though she is holding her rallies a couple of blocks from the old Burlington building and she could stroll there and take a look....

    So even the visual no longer counts as evidence. Actually the whole notion of evidence seems to have been flushed down the toilet --so we might as well believe that sugar is made by pounding cow bones on sugar canes.....

  16. Jackal, I don't think they put gelating in sugar, where would it be? Sea weed add body to ice cream (I usually refer to whatever vegetable stuff they add as "wood shavings"), and soy in Doritos is probably used to add body and flavor, or perhaps its cheaper than other stuff... but gelatin?

  17. Hey Jackal! Long time no see. I hope all is well. I agree, the cow bones thing is ridiculous. I AM willing to buy the charcoal idea - but clearly the vegan contingent isn't particularly interested in the environment if they think that using trees to make charcoal is better than using bones that would clutter the landfill for hundreds of years.

    Kati, I've always maintained that the fuss over that community center and the people who are complaining are full of shit and sour apples. Who bloody cares where the thing is? Do they prefer to have an abandoned building potentially full of squatters two blocks from Ground Zero?

    Another myth that I hear all the time is that white sugar is "poison" and that brown sugar is "healthier" for you. When I tell them that brown sugar IS white sugar with a little molasses added back to it for the sake of flavor, they seem shocked.

    Then I laugh.

  18. Oh Messy, I have known many, many lazy vegans. They're usually college kids at a liberal arts school that have been guilted or tricked into the lifestyle by other vegans. This is usually accomplished through forcing them to watch a horrid video of a slaughterhouse or animals being tortured to show how evil eating animals or enslaving them to produce food for us is.

    I personally love cows and feel they are delicious and wonderful. I also eat fish, chickens, occasional pigs and just about anything else that tastes good. I draw the line at sentient creatures and pure carnivores. (I deny myself octopus and wouldn't eats a cat or dog unless absolutely necessary.)

    However, it is depressing to see people be faced with the *gasp* truth that things die to sustain us. It sends some of them for such a loop that they just can't deal and then decide they can't eat ANYTHING that harms another animal. (The fact they're cool with killing plants and insist that plants aren't really 'alive' is an adorable hypocrisy I cherish.)

    Now, I don't have anything against vegans or vegetarians, but I do have something against simple followers of whatever gets forced into their pointy little heads. These people are usually vehement that their lifestyle is the one true way, and go on the conversion train full tilt. Oh, and make companies tons of money by just buying anything they can get their hot little hands on that is stamped "Vegan". (Oh, and then write letters to Dear Prudence that their family can't understand their dietary needs now, and HOW DARE THEY not provide an entire vegan meal for them?) Normal people make choices for themselves, recognize they are choices, and work to make their choices viable. They also tend to not proselytize regularly to their friends about how awesome they are.

    Hm, for my made up fact, I choose:

    Did you know? Almonds and cyanide smell similar because THEY ARE THE SAME THING. OMG THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO POISON US.

    Also, Tonto, you're almost right: http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/diabetes/2010-09-30-diabetes30_ST_N.htm

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  21. *shakes fist* Darn you Google! Triple posting my responses...