I went on a road trip with a friend from Florida to North Carolina. The drive was excruciating. July heat rendered the A.C. useless. I wavered between fits of sleepiness and irritability.
And I was hungry.
At the nest rest-stop, I surveyed the restaurants’ the menu items in vain. There was nothing for me to eat. I finally settled on a small cup of hummus and chips in the fridge aisle.
My friend and I returned to the car, and I dove into my hummus and chips. I watched my friend wolf down her burger and fries with a tinge of annoyance. Why couldn’t I have as many options as her? And why did it seem like I was always eating snacks and sides?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m the farthest thing from a restaurant queen. Ninety percent of the food I eat I cook myself. It’s so much easier to control what’s in your food that way. But, being social and eating on the go is more of a challenge–even as an experienced vegan. Sometimes I want the luxury of just picking something up.
When Pizza Hut and McDonald’s released vegan options on their menus this week, I felt smug annoyance. What took so long? Unsurprisingly, many plant-based dieters did not share my same sentiments.
Many decried the move as just another corporate-greed fueled money-grab. McDonald’s, considered the slaughterhouse of all restaurants, was especially mocked for its foray into vegan foods.
Much of the criticism is warranted. Traditional restaurants cashing in on the trend of veganism raises specific moral questions. Veganism is more than a food option; it’s about making healthier choices that support all animal life—including your own, which makes the idea of vegan junk food paradoxical. Moreover, the general stance of these restaurants is counter much of what veganism espouses. Of course, the long-term answer would be opening and supporting restaurants that are entirely vegan, but those options are few and far between. For a person stuck in the middle of the grease and bacon South, what options do they have in the meantime?
Pizza Hut and McDonald’s are far from perfect, but the same could be said of many of the restaurants we frequent. Offering new vegan additions is a step in the right direction in a long history of wrongs. Plus, these quick-serve vegan meals are attractive to struggling new vegans and those who are curious.
People have opined for years about how veganism is the luxury for the upper-middle class, so offering cheap, filling vegan meals can combat this notion. Newer vegans trying to wean themselves off of meat may find more accessible vegan options helpful. And older vegans, like myself, may just like the luxury of picking up a warm meal for my next road trip. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if these small steps can help encourage someone on the fence, I’m all for it.