Blocked / Not Vegan

Is it still a cliche to write about writers block? Or was that something I created in my head? I haven't been able to write anything I cared about in months. I have slivers of things I like, but can't seem to make it a full bodied feeling. It always comes down to me over analyzing its purpose, which is a trap for sure I mean nothing means anything if you chip away at it long enough.

I am having trouble identifying my authentic self. He has hidden himself and I’m looking around for him.

In the meantime I am writing as much as I can, I thought Id plop down some thoughts on why I’m not vegan anymore and how it doesn't really matter.

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I am no longer Vegan. I was a vegan for 17 years of my life, that’s already more than half of the life I've lived. I was never a vocal advocate for animal rights although I do have a strong moral compass and I like to reduce my harm as much as possible. My reasons for initially becoming vegan were rather embarrassing if I was being 100 with y’all. I was a highly impressionable 15 year old kid searching for belonging. Also, had some big time body dysmorphic issues, there was a period after I lost some initial baby weight where I would just stop eating past 4pm. If I didn't get food in time then I just didn't eat, the rumbling in my stomach was like a siren sounding my victory over the world, I felt very in control and was loving the compliments. Anyway, before all that I had met some older cats in San Jose who were starting up a collective and were doing things I had not been introduced to yet. They were nice to me and they were all vegan and I wanted nothing more than to be in there conversations and in there social group so I jumped right in! I went from eating microwaved bologna to eating raw tofu overnight. A funny thing is the day I went vegan I had to go out to breakfast with my dad and he offered me $50 to eat a pancake to prove I had no true commitment to anything. He was wrong and that was messed up, but fifty bucks is fifty bucks so I ate it and started again the next day. As incredibly low of self esteem I had I guess I was lucky that these new friends weren’t members of a doomsday cult or some shit my life would have went in a whole other direction. I clung to it all tightly and aligned myself with all their morals and politics without question which in hindsight depresses me because in that process of ‘growth’ I let go a lot of myself and where I came from. That would manifest strangely later in life when in my late 20’s I was still not self actualized and just as confused realizing my antennae was tuned into a culture not of my own.

Okay so, I was 15 and decided I was going vegan my Grandma Helen, bless her surly ass heart made fun of me for like a week. She had this nagging need to flame people in a way that was meant to be endearing (but often missed) all the while she was listening. Back when she could drive she would go get food from Wings in Japantown next to SJ TOFU, a San Jose institution that recently closed its doors after 77 years! One day she came back with a clear baggy, inside had a block of tofu wading in a small pool of liquid imitating brackish water. The block was what she dubbed ‘tofood’ I had no idea what to make of it or how to make it so I cut a piece and put it on some generic crackers she had and took a hesitant bite. It was nasty as hell and I spit it out She laughed so hard at me and I was mad/embarrassed, because her tactics for comfort and care were not so blatant but tucked in smirks and gestures, this is something I had to learn later in life when I noticed myself being cautious with how I sliced up my heart to people and how my own acts of care came to be misread. Now I think about how much a thoughtful gesture it was for her to do that and she always grabbed any soy related items from the food bank for me because she didn’t necessarily know what I could eat but she thought of me every time she was making bags for folks. I am happy every time I pass SJ TOFU because it reminds me of how much physical places in San Jose are interwoven with my swelling or sometimes deflating heart. Sad to see it go, but happy I knew it. The fact that she could grab me vegan stuff from the food bank as a person who was more confused about veganism than me made me realize this was doable.

There is an argument that food is such an important part of culture for folks, it is. When we lose our native language somewhere along the assimilation line sometimes the only things we have to tie us to our cultural roots is the cuisine. This cultural disconnect isn't just allocated to black and brown folks even currently white formerly european folks have cultural cuisines that are passed down. I guess this was something I felt strong conflicting feelings about when I was vegan, I definitely felt wildly separate from my family because of my lifestyle choice, which I think was a major point at the time. I wanted to be so different than them, in every way not knowing that there are some things that are unconsciously inherited. Anyway, this argument of it being a white thing separating from our culture is well, true and not true. Claiming vegetarian/veganism is a white thing is just a poor argument and actually aids in the erasure of some P.O.C folks culture that is now or has always been Vegetarian or Vegan. I mean my personal cultural dishes growing up were cornbread and meats fried in bacon fat or enchiladas and spaghetti so count me out of that. I did feel out of the loop with my fam but in hindsight I was all over the place and actively trying to be different from them. I can see how modern day veganism can feel like its linked to ‘colombusing’ traditions, renaming poc traditions as new agey shit or advertising ‘street food’ as trendy new foods. The mainstream vegan culture is very pasty and plays out more like a food trend, less focused on actual moderation of resources. Purely abstaining from veganism because white people like it is really a troubling thing. Boycotting somethings hastily instead of reclaiming them and fighting for them is not my style. This is not my reason for no longer being vegan though. I felt a distance from my culture because of veganism, but I think a lot of the health choices especially surrounding the food in my culture or family could use some serious restructuring. I want to see my folks doing well and that’s tough when food and health education is a stubborn auntie cooking everything with bacon fat and swearing diabetes and heart disease is just natural causes.

The direction of vegan food has gone into a creepy science direction asking, ‘can we’? instead of ‘should we’? Thinking ecologically veganism has changed a lot and the packaging and sourcing of products kills me. I just can't deal with the fake egg that drop a couple years back I am obsessing and am also demonizing this product which is probably not that bad, but it's just a symptom of what people are supporting so a lot of vegan stuff goes in this direction. Its made up of so many isolated ingredients whipped up by a food scientist and overly packaged. The idea of the now vegan is being able to be vegan without even eating vegetables. A tactic of how veganism is sold is sometimes through a guilt method telling people how they eat, how there family has eaten is bad and is inherently also unhealthy. We know this but, I don't believe people's diets should be dictated through shame and scare tactics it should be through real nutrition education especially for marginalized communities. The idea of telling marginalized folks they are wrong for wanting the way they know how is just, well, white as hell. I use the term white as the idea of the assimilated and affluent idea of white being the basis in which everyone else is measured from. I learned a lot through veganism and love to show people what I know of nutrition now, but I also know you have to meet people where they are and actual listen to what their concerns are. Wellness culture is a profitable idea that imposes arbitrary values on people. People don't need to live forever I do want to see my friends, family and community thrive, but I try to teach choice and moderation and look at reasons why they be how they be. The factory farming industry is atrocious and for that reason ecologically veganism or vegetarianism is a good choice. That was not my reason initially to go vegan but through veganism I learned a lot more about this and it was a large reason for me staying vegan for so long. I realized how much we don't know about our food! I get sickened by the way that big companies prey upon marginalized communities, they attack them because health education is lacking and people live in food deserts disallowing for good food choices being readily available. My dads go to dinner item is a dish me and my siblings speak of often. It's a dish of fried potatoes, possible bacon, cut hot dogs and fried together topped with melted cheddar cheese.  My heart hurts just thinking about how delicious it was as a kid to eat this with a tall glass of over sugared kool-aid. My early childhood idea of what healthy foods were came in cans and most dinner ingredients could be bought at a liquor store. Later in life when I was struggling to eat well I realized it wasn't so much that I didn't know how to be vegan It was that I simply didn't know where to start with ‘healthy foods’. It's easier on my mind and my wallet to grab something bad from a fast food spot over planning a full course dinner with vegetables, because I cant pair shit. I am thankful for being vegan for showing me options and helping me educate myself.

I guess the reason is much more anticlimactic then even I had hoped it to be. I was scared for years to step away from it I defined myself by it for many years. I guess ultimately I just didn't feel like it anymore, as much as I over analyze every part of my life it boiled down mostly socio-economic ease, certain social pressures surrounding this part of my life died down and it's just cheaper for me to eat a couple of eggs in the morning and I have the knowledge to moderate my overall health and nutrition by being vegetarian.



I am no longer vegan, though I eat mostly vegan and it doesn't really matter.








Richard Gutierrez