Soul Food

*The Dutch translation for this story in Vegan Magazine can be found here


I was writing this column about veganism in the workplace and it just wasn’t working.

When I started, I wrote about the difficult transition from freelancing, which afforded a good deal of freedom in control over what I ate, to eating at an office that provided lunch. This in itself wasn’t special, because many of you encounter the same problems. And the office was accommodating enough: there was a food wish list on the refrigerator, and the office manager would, unasked, buy more hummus than I could ever eat, or that the whole office ate, for that matter.

There was something missing from my story, something that lies behind the ordinary, just like there was in the office’s food stocks which lacked food stuffs outside the normal. What I kept coming back to was control, and the normalizing power that had in my pre-office daily life as a freelancer, where veganism was just something that simply was and my home was its space. There, both it and myself were safe.

In contrast, at work I’d open the refrigerator or look in the cupboards and there weren’t many things I could eat. As I looked into this void what stared back was this sentiment: as much as a liked being a vegan, I didn’t like the struggle of being the only one in this place I was, to some extent, expected to make mine, to make my home. Being in an environment where my choice for veganism wasn’t the center made that choice seem like a burden because it wasn’t a given. But then again veganism and myself were the center, because as it was singled out it was a center unto itself, occupying a space outside the periphery of the circle. Either way, it was a lonely existence.

And the thing about that loneliness in such a space was that it negated the positive energy I associate with choosing not to consume animal products. Veganism is a way for me to dial in to what’s both important and matters, because eating in itself is important, but what really matters is that we’re conscious of how and what we eat.

Veganism, thusly construed, is a life force wrapped in a diet. Here, it directly connects to the vitality of the spirit, and is a part of the thread that runs through everything I do. It’s the embodiment of the possibility for change, and that gives me the motivation to constantly challenge myself to grow and create.

In my first column on veganism and clothing, I mentioned veganism was a part of my effort to try and bring the world to a better place. For my last piece on race and veganism, I wrote about oppression and privilege. The red thread through all of these things is the possibility for positive change and the energy in those movements that motivates what we do with our lives. Just as we need food to fuel our bodies, we need something to fuel our spirit—veganism can do both.

Trying to wrestle with the reasons why my column about veganism at work wasn’t working made me reflect on my attraction to veganism and the associations I make to it. As soon as I began to think about my impasse and talk with others, I realized it was less about the situation at work in itself and more about the way that I felt about that situation. The loneliness related to food at work and the transition from being in my own, familiar all-vegan environment was a bit of a shock, but in the end it did me a favor: it made me dig deeper into my reasons for being vegan and I discovered that one of these reasons was veganism’s positive, soul-nourishing force. And for that I am grateful.