Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vegan in my town? It’s okay.

So, I live in Cincinnati. I’ve been here for two and a half years, and before that, I lived in Philadelphia. There aren’t as many food and entertainment options here as there were in Philly, but there are still some pretty awesome ones. I’m enjoying my time in the ’Nati, but that’s not to say I’ll stay forever. Sometimes it feels like a big small town. Sometimes it seems like everyone is talking about the same thing. And not just Terrell Owens.

Recently, it’s been veganism. Yes, this has been a city-wide topic for discussion and ridicule.

I can’t decide whether to start with the good or the bad. I’ll start with the bad, and maybe then the good will show you why it’s even in the town’s vocabulary. This caught my eye on Twitter on Saturday:


I guess it’s joke, but I can’t figure out why this would be a good advertisement for waffles. Taste of Belgium waffles are popular; you can buy them all over the city in grocery stores and coffeehouses that stock goods from local bakeries, plus you can get them hot from the waffle iron at various farmers’ markets and at Findlay Market. I’ve had one before, and they are really, really good. I spent some time in Belgium as a student, and I these waffles are the most like the waffles I had in Belgium and haven’t found anywhere else in the U.S. (Think of a heavy cake donut rather than a fluffy waffle you’d put syrup on.) I never would have guessed I’d find them in Cincinnati, of all places. That’s pretty cool by itself.

The way I figure it, this is a funny idea for a t-shirt because veganism is more and more visible in town. In writing about Melt, I mentioned the vegan awareness in that restaurant, but there are many other exciting examples I’ve noticed recently, too. I went to a pizza pub over the weekend (more on that soon), and they mentioned that the vegan pizza is more popular than they ever expected it to be. Hooray!

This is Daisy Mae’s Market at Findlay, just a few steps away from Taste of Belgium. I didn’t get a close photo, but one of those hand-written construction paper signs along the top of tent reads, “the best vegan vegetables in town.” Now that’s funny. And a good and clever advertisement.

Cincinnati really is a big small town – one of the hot places to be and be seen, SENATE Restaurant, recently had a poll on their facebook page to select a new menu item. This restaurant is known for their selection of craft beers, duck fat fries, and gourmet topped hot dogs. The poll was to choose a new hot dog. The wiener that won the popular vote was the vegetarian dog, a “sausage” made from red cannellini beans and Turkish lentils, topped with sundried tomatoes, fennel, Boucheron (optional), and greens. What’s even more awesome is that SENATE names their dogs after celebrities, and this one is called the Dan Korman, named for the local proprietor of Park + Vine, a neighbor to the restaurant. He beat out the Lindsay Lohan and the Betty White to make it on to the menu. I can’t wait to try it – I never figured I would get more than a drink at SENATE.

I’ve mentioned Park + Vine before. I took a vegan cooking class there last fall, and I love to shop there to pick up Sweet & Sara marshmallows, Upton’s seitan, and whatever else catches my eye. It’s a green general store, selling food plus eco-friendly personal care items, household goods, some clothes, books, bicycle stuff, and kid stuff. The store is actually moving to a larger space and promises to expand their vegan grocery options. The proprietor is pretty high-profile in the community, too. He was recently featured in City Beat’s Look Who’s Eating feature and proclaimed his love for Daiya, which you can purchase in his store. And now he has a hot dog named after him.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with popularity comes both praise and ridicule. Maybe the waffle t-shirts would be a good idea just to continue promoting awareness. By the way, and you can even buy Taste of Belgium waffles at SENATE, topped with ice cream and fruit. See what I mean about the small town of Cincinnati?

What’s is like in your town for vegans and vegetarians?


  1. In a weird way, it sounds like a good sign that the waffle company finds veganism prevalent enough to have to "fight" it. I agree though, kind of a dumb campaign slogan.

    I do think veganism is on the up and up...slowly but surely. Here in Seattle, there are quite a few restaurant options...but it's no where near as hip in the vegan sense as Portland OR, San Francisco, or LA. People still generally find it incredible that when they learn that you are vegan.

  2. Not to sure about that waffle slogan. I would have chosen something different that's for sure. :o)

    Here in the small town of Jackson, TN, people look at you like you have a third head when you tell them you are vegan. They always question and drill me as to why I am vegan. Sometimes it really gets to me, because the people here love to argue with you no matter what you tell them. By the end of the conversation, they still think I am crazy...ugh There are no vegan or vegetarian places to eat. The closest Whole foods store is a hour or so away in Memphis. :-( I still make do though. :o)

  3. I agree with Rose -- just making the word 'vegan' more common can help.

  4. Michelle, I thought I remembered you being from Jackson. I rarely shop at Whole Foods, anyway. You must have tons of great local produce, though. I was north of Memphis last month and there were produce stands everywhere!

    Yes, I agree, it's almost they say - there's no such thing as bad press. But it feels more like when the little boy hits the little girl and her teacher tells her it's because he likes her.

  5. This is an interesting post and discussion. While I do find that the word is used more often, I still feel like most people don't know what it means. People are always thinking I am vegan when I'm not (I am vegetarian).

    I live in Orlando, FL and I am fairly pleased with the amount of vegetarian and vegan options. We have a few completely vegan restaurants that are quite good. I do most of my grocery shopping at a very large Whole Foods that luckily opened close to my apartment a few months after I moved here.

  6. Hi Stephen, thanks for stopping by. Everyone has their own limits to what is and isn't to be eaten, and I guess it's necessary that we have some labels for the distinctions. Even so, I don't find them particularly useful because people assume vegetarians will eat chicken, or people are vegan flirts (thanks, Alicia Siverstone!).

    I think that what got me going with this was just how willing people are to differentiate themselves by putting themselves above someone else. I don't need a lot of options - I can take care of myself. But there's no reason for this guy who's so popular in town to make a statement like that.