Seaweed & Edamame Salad | Thoughts on Vegan Privilege

Before introducing today’s recipe, I’m thrilled to announce the three winners of my most recent giveaway for two free pints of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream. Congratulations to Becca FergusonRosie Riccio DeRensis, and Megan Digeon! Enjoy the creamy, decadent, coconutty goodness.

I got myself into a Facebook skirmish the other day. I don’t often do so, nor do I know that I can even call this incident a “skirmish,” so much as an instance of me replying to a post I found problematic, and never hearing back from the poster or commentators. The post in question—entitled “Dear White Vegans: This is Your Collection Agency Calling“—elicited enthusiastic responses from two individuals who referred to themselves as “former white, privileged vegans.”

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I responded as such:

“I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this article. The current vegan movement contains an onslaught of classist, racist, sexist, and ableist elements. Equating the mass slaughter of animals with genocide and slavery co-opts the unknowable suffering of marginalized peoples in an effort to further another movement.

However, I feel that the arguments expressed in this article are a bit ad-hominem. Yes, the way veganism at large is being executed right now is hugely problematic. But at its core, veganism, for me, is simply an extension of an effort to combat the multiplicities of oppression in this world. The exploitation of people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, non-human animals, etc. are not the same, but they share a similar component: an unequal relationship between oppressor and oppressed. I would argue that if this relationship exists anywhere, the possibility for a liberated society becomes greatly hindered.

Consider the powerful activists in history who were also vegan: Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hanh, Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, and so on. They recognized that while different instances of oppression are not at all the same and each need to be understood in their own right, they are also intimately connected by their being perpetuated by a capitalistic, patriarchal, colonial mindset. To fight against these marginalizing power relations, I feel that we must engage in a multiplicity of social struggles in order to empower habitually silenced groups. And I would argue that these struggles should include non-human animals.”

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In essence, I don’t want to throw out the idea of veganism simply because its current execution involves a multiplicity of problematic aspects. Instead, since I’m currently privileged enough to enjoy access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle, I’ve passionately added animal exploitation to the list of oppressions I’m actively seeking to combat by leading a vegan lifestyle.

Equally important, however, is that in such a privileged position, I must also engage in actively combating the problematic aspects of the vegan movement, in part by constantly reminding myself that the privilege enabling my vegan lifestyle exists among the phenomena that I actively seek to combat. The actions I’m taking against such privilege don’t involve giving up veganism, since that would actively enforce another very real oppression. Instead, the actions involve supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

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These efforts don’t stop my occupation of a privileged position, of course. I’m still able to take myself out for expensive dinners at upscale restaurants in Manhattan; I’m still able to host giveaways on the ol’ blog for free products while the vivacious homeless man, who hangs out most days on the bench in front of my apartment building, asks for donations; I’m still able to shell out $12.99 for a 6-oz bag of arame seaweed at Whole Foods.

But these privileges don’t exist because I’m vegan, and they’ll still exist even if I were to throw up my hands and give up veganism tomorrow (which I absolutely will not). They exist because I’m a white, straight, cisgender individual with an upper-middle-class background. And veganism is only the first way in which I hope to engage in a challenge to the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive with such identity factors.

Now, before I recommence all this challenging, please excuse me while I enjoy the following salad that I made with a $12.99-bag of arame seaweed that I bought at Whole Foods after being inspired to make such a salad by a dish I enjoyed at a not-inexpensive restaurant in perhaps the most well-off neighborhood in Brooklyn. Don’t we all love a good contradiction?

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Seaweed & Edamame SaladNut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

3 oz arame or hiziki seaweed (or a blend of the two)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp finely sliced scallions
2 tbsp sesame seeds (both white & black are fine)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Place the seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the seaweed soak for 15-60 minutes, or until it has expanded significantly. Drain.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled edamame and boil for 4-6 minutes. Drain.

When the seaweed has finished soaking, heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the drained seaweed and saute for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the seaweed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the toasted sesame oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and relocate the seaweed mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the toasted sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

Until next time, Ali.

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5 thoughts on “Seaweed & Edamame Salad | Thoughts on Vegan Privilege

  1. Great topic; I often struggle with the idea of food privilege. I’m a vegetarian that eats mainly vegan diet, and the food I eat that isn’t vegan (mainly pasture raised eggs) is pricey.But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here that your privilege doesn’t come from being vegan; my privilege also comes from being a cis white owning class female and eating cheaper, mass produced food wouldn’t make me less privileged and it would hurt far more people and animals. That said, it can feel like a challenge living in SF among many neighbors without homes and friends whose incomes are not the same. I love the way you articulated that it doesn’t make sense to throw out the entire idea of veganism (or eating more sustainable/higher quality food even if you aren’t vegan), just because there are problematic aspects. Working to change those aspects rather than disengaging is much more powerful.

    I was wondering if you had a reading list of both books and progressive news sources that you’d be willing to share – feel free to email me if that works better!

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Pingback: Links Worth Sharing: Confidence, Vegan Privilege, The Inner Lives of Zoo Animals, and more! | The Sixth Letter

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