I've been vegan for 15 years, and I've been eating meat the entire time. I've also been drinking milk and baking with butter.
Not mock meat. Not fake butter. Not imitation milk.
I eat real food based on real ingredients. I don't consume substitutes, alternatives, analogs or replacements.
I grew up conditioned to believe that animal-based meat, dairy and eggs are the barometers by which all other comestibles should be measured. Thus, we're told, anything that doesn't come off of or out of an animal is considered an alternative.
The marketing arms of the meat, dairy and egg industries have no doubt shaped our thinking in this area. The National Milk Producers Federation has been trying for years to forbid plant-based milk companies from using the word "milk" claiming they have proprietary ownership of that word. Try telling a lactating mother she has to say breast beverage.
Hence, I drink milk. Although water is the only beverage for which we have a physiological need, beyond our own human milk when we're young, it is certainly convenient and tasty to be able to make creamy, nutrient-rich milk from nuts, grains, legumes and seeds.
No cholesterol, no lactose, no casein, no harmful saturated fat, no pregnant female who will subsequently lose her offspring, as well as her life.
I also eat butter, which has more to do with fat than animal fluids – as in "peanut butter" or "cocoa butter." The butter I eat is simply made from the fat of plants rather than animals.
I even eat meat, which comes from the Old English word "mete," which originally referred to solid food rather than a beverage. This history is still evident in our language when we say "coconut meat" or the "meat of a nut," and it is in that vein that I embrace and consume meat made from plants.
Far from fake, these foods reside in the major plant kingdoms from which we derive much of our pleasure and most of our nutrition. In using words that celebrate the plant foods of the world, we normalize the healthful, humane way of eating called "vegan."
With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an Oakland-based vegan author and educator.