Does "Vegan" Have to Be Code for "Crap"?

This morning I had an errand to run in Union Square, and knowing that the Farmer’s Market is there on Mondays I didn’t eat breakfast before I left the house (I lu-u-u-urvs me some breakfast, so this was a pretty big decision).

First I stopped at Bread Alone‘s stand, my favorite place for multi-grain breads and the like. And their breakfast goodies looked awe-inspiring: pecan buns with creamy white icing, fluffy muffins with sugar-crusted tops sparkling in the morning sun, scones that looked so crumbly they’d melt away before making it to your mouth. But I’ve gained some weight recently and I’m trying to at least start out the day without doing further damage, so I made myself walk away.

Across the way another table laden with baked goods caught my eye. There, I found a delicious-looking snack labeled “Vegan Granola Cookie.” Golden brown, about three inches wide, with whole oats and raisins visible through the plastic wrap, they looked spicy and filling–and two for $1.50 seemed like a good deal. The word “vegan” gave me pause, though–in the past I’ve been burned by the uber-virtuous rules. Naturally, there was a tag listing the ingredients, and they seemed harmless enough: oats, raisins, some flax, some vegetable oil, spices, flour, that kind of stuff. Nothing weird or substitute-sounding, and all very healthy and fiberiffic. I paid my $1.50 and walked away.

In between selecting baby eggplants at the next stand, I unwrapped the cookies and pulled off a piece. One bite was all it took to know I’d been suckered again. It tasted like I’d bit into a piece of cardboard box that’s been out in the rain, mushy and tough and gritty and tasteless, all at once. Why, oh Great Vegan God, can’t your people eat anything with flavor? Why must it all be so good-for-you that it’s bad? Does being a vegan mean you don’t care about food at all? I don’t understand how adding a little cinnamon, maybe some nutmeg, could’ve hurt anybody. Spices come from plants, too, after all…

I wrapped those little disks of bark back up and stuffed them in my bag. In a combination of good neighborliness and heartless evil, I figured I’d give them to a homeless person rather than throwing them away. They are still food, after all.

There still remained the matter of my growling stomach. I thought the baked goods deserved one more try–yes, there were apples galore all around me, but I always find I’m hungry again in a half-hour if I have fruit for breakfast. I like a little heft to start the day. Still hoping to find something both yummy and relatively healthy, I stopped at a stand that bills itself as an all-natural gourmet bakery. Sure enough, the goods did look quite professional and polished, much more so than the rough-hewn Saran-wrapped stuff at the last stand. Their item descriptions were actually designed, in color, and laminated, as opposed to the hand-scribbled cards elsewhere. It seemed to me that they couldn’t have gotten that far if their stuff was ass. (Naive, I know–and I’ve worked in marketing for over fifteen years!) One Fat-Free Sweet Potato Muffin, please.

Clutching the bun in its little paper sac, I headed for the subway. It felt a little heavy for its size, which while a fine indication of, say, an eggplant’s worth, is not necessarily a good sign for baked products. Reaching my hand into the bag, I tore off a piece and knew I’d be disappointed a second time that morning. The crust was tough, so tough that I really did have to tear, as opposed to pull, that first piece off. It tasted pretty good, though, spicy and not too sweet, and it was nicely moist. Verrry dense. If there was a Great Fat-Free God, here is where I’d be asking Him why all his baked goods must be tough.

I ate the whole muffin, and left the Vegan Granola Cookies on the subway platform for some “lucky” homeless person to find.

I’m still hungry.