This afternoon I was sitting at my desk and trying to figure out what I wanted to make for dinner, and I realized all I really wanted to eat was a sliced apple with almond butter (which is my favorite easy breakfast) and a nice glass of red wine.
Let me back up here and say that when one is first going vegan, there are some foods and drinks that unambiguously and identifiably come from animal sources. No question about an omelet, a steak, or a glass of milk—those are definitely not vegan. Apple and almond butter? Definitely vegan, delicious, and nutritious!
With wine, though, nothing about it announces that it might contain animal products. It’s just old grape juice, right?
Nope. Some wine is vegan and some is not. Sneaky! When I told Reese about this, his response was something along the lines of, “Why would wine not be vegan? That’s weird. What do they put in it?” Wine is often, but not always, filtered with animal products like gelatin, isinglass (I love this word but I think it means “powdered fish bones”), and egg whites. This can be confusing, but there are a couple of great websites (like this one) that make navigating “wine country” much easier and more enjoyable. For example, I found out today that while one of my favorite cheap wines is not vegan, another, Big House Red from Bonny Doon Wineries, pictured above, is!
OK, I’m going to tell you something that is going to make me sound like “one of those people who suddenly shaves their head and says they’ve always been punks.” Ready?
I knew from Day 1 that not all red wine was vegan, but I did not commit to eliminating non-vegan wines from my palate until today.
When I first went vegan, I was working part-time at a wine shop (the Wine Mine in Oakland, which I recommend without hesitation), and was talking with a coworker, Sean, who is much more knowledgeable about wine than I ever hope to be. Somehow the news of my transition came up in conversation, and Sean responded by asking, “You’re vegan?”
“Yeah,” I replied, nervously. As a new vegan, I was expecting a lecture or judgment, though Sean is hardly the type to dispense either. Instead, he offered friendly advice.
“You should be careful which wines you drink. Some are refined with egg whites.”
So, I had this information from an extremely reputable source and still decided not to act on it. Why? I’m not sure.
Is this perfect vegan behavior on my part? WHO CARES?
This brings me to my next point:
Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything, as vegan goddess Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says.
I was talking with a co-worker at lunch today, and she said she’d tried being vegan for awhile but quit because was making herself crazy by obsessing over whether everything she ate, drank, did, or thought, was perfectly “vegan.”
I totally understood—in my opinion, contemporary American society today encourages us to do something perfectly or not do it at all. But I felt sad that this cultural sense of orthodoxy had gotten in the way of her veganism, not because I’m a zealot out to convert everyone, but because she wanted to be vegan and was overwhelmed trying to take a lot of steps at once.
My own vegan process began two and a half years ago, but it continues today. I do not claim to be a perfect vegan, but a) imperfections are what make us who we are, and b) I’m proud of the impact—or lack thereof—I’ve had on my own health, the environment, and the lives of my human and animal friends with the changes I have been able to make.
Committing to veganism is often a lot like finding any body of important information: the more you learn, the more you want to learn. The more intelligence you gain, the more knowledge is accessible to you. We are all works in progress; none of us is complete.
I’m not suggesting we all aim low. I’m suggesting we all try to do our best. We get points for trying.
Sometimes, being a work in progress can be rough. On those days, I suggest you eat your favorite breakfast for dinner, chill out with the person(s) and animal(s) you love most, and have a glass of wine. If it isn’t vegan, I won’t tell.