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June 6-12, 2007

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Silicon Veggie - Elisa Camahort

Silicon Veggie

Meatless Little Lies

By Elisa Camahort

I'VE BEEN READING the book Vegan Freak and authors Bob and Jenna Torres bring up the issue of people who say one thing, but do another, when it comes to their food choices.

You know who I mean: the people who call themselves vegetarian, but eat fish. Or the ones who call themselves vegan, but occasionally eat cheese. It's not that the Torres are seeking perfection and purity from everyone who uses the veg*n moniker, but they want the words "vegan" and "vegetarian" to have meaning. And to have meaning they hope that people will be honest about how hard they're really trying to stick to their named dietary preference.

This led to some self-examination. Do I deserve to call myself a vegan, or am I a vegetarian in vegan's clothing?

At home I'm perfect—and I've been enjoying cooking with new ingredients like seitan. But then there are those times when we order food in, and I make a leap of faith that the items I've ordered that sound vegan are vegan. Most ethnic cuisines are really veg-friendly on the surface, but you can't count out hidden ingredients. Do I ask the probing questions that would uncover fish sauce in the Thai food, ghee in the Indian food or chicken broth in the pasta primavera? Honestly, I sometimes don't.

Then there are the times I travel or just eat out in my own hometown. If you're not at a vegetarian restaurant, there are likely hidden nonvegetarian ingredients everywhere. And waitstaff aren't always trained to understand what does and does not raise a red flag for vegetarians, let alone vegans. After repeated instances of ordering a vegetable platter at a local fast food Mexican place, I recently was told by one of the staff that the pre-packaged vegetable bundle that gets tossed into the platter includes a pat of butter. They proceeded to remove that for me, but I've eaten that platter many times unaware. (Despite always ordering everything with no queso and no crema this was the first guy who thought to mention the butter.)

I won't play innocent victim though. There are even times when I'm pretty sure I'm getting something of questionable vegan qualifications, and if I'm tired enough or hungry enough, I let it go.

So, I guess I'd call me a 90 percent vegan. And my question is: Is that good enough to use the name?

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