As all reporters know (but, hey, it never hurts to be reminded), sometimes good stories — including today’s story about Vegans Going Glam — are hiding in plain sight.
I have written about veganism in the past. I’m interested in the different culinary belief systems that people passionately convert to, these days. But in recent weeks I noticed new vegan cookbooks and lifestyle guides piling up in our cubicles here at the Food section. Including (most prominently) “The Plantpower Way,” by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt.
“Look at these people!” I blurted out one day to my brilliant comrade Julia Moskin. “These vegans look so glamorous that it’s freaking me out.” ( My own dietary regimen, as a New York Times food writer, is anything but puritanical, and my fashion sense calls out for guidance from Vanessa Friedman.) I automatically trust Julia Moskin’s instincts, so when she said “you should write about that,” I listened.
I made a bunch of calls and it didn’t take long before I realized that the vegan-glamming of America is more widespread than I’d realized. I mean, at Crossroads, an upscale vegan restaurant in Los Angeles, they built a special garage in the back so that celebrities can zip in without being spotted.
There is a perception that these restaurants are serving tofu balls and brown-rice bowls. They’re not. Vegan cooking (as encountered at upscale spots like Crossroads in Los Angeles or casual places like By Chloe in downtown Manhattan) has become sophisticated and delicious in ways that I think would surprise people who haven’t given it a try. Nut butters and avocados and various oils are often used to deliver the sort of fatty, creamy pleasure that we’re conditioned to expect from other sources.
I genuinely liked the quinoa taco bowl at By Chloe, and might even go get another one for lunch tomorrow; I loved the vegan version of pasta Bolognese at Crossroads. Maybe it’s the Californian in me, but I’m open to eating this way more often.
These days in Southern California you can eat well at a different vegan restaurant each night and not repeat yourself for weeks, and the lunch scene at By Chloe, where there’s usually a line of young people out the door, provides plenty of evidence that veganism should no longer be gastronomically marginalized.
I suspect it’s only going to get bigger in the years ahead. So if vegans and their occasional diatribes annoy you now, go buy some earplugs. Because this vegan thing is not going away.