Looking for vegans in all the wrong places

Have I heard of this book? Oh yes, I've heard of it. And frankly, I hope to never hear about it again.

The misbegotten screed known as Skinny Bitch was erroneously filed under "Vegan/vegetarian" in a bookstore I accidentally wandered into a little while back. It should have had its own section: "Eating disorders: How to".

Imagine distilling all the self-righteous moralism of a yuppie eco-tourist who voted for Nader, twice, and only eats hemp. Now add all the hectoring nannyism of the nutritionists who write those "Liver and lima beans: your forgotten friends" pamphlets from the US Department of Agriculture. Toss in generous lashings of the exhibitionist ignorance of self-styled health food experts--the ones who promise that if you can just find the right combination of vitamin supplements, you will live forever, and also, marry Brad Pitt. Then find the three meanest girls from your local high school and extract multiple doses of the unprovoked venom they direct towards the fattest girl in the class. Combine all these ingredients in a large bowl, making sure that you haven't accidentally included any shreds of a soul.

Finally--and this is the tricky part--remove the shallow, glossy exterior of one fashion journalist or music publicist. You must be very careful, because as you probably know, this gossamer layer is only one atom thick. Pour the other ingredients into that casing and cook in a pressure cooker set on "high" for five to ten years. Then eat it. When your digestive system has finished processing that dyspeptic concoction, the final product will closely resemble this book.

I understand that it was probably not designed to appeal to me, since I tend to bristle about being called a, well you know. But I don't understand how it could appeal to anyone. It's vile. The first chapter repeatedly uses the word "fat pig". Towards the reader. Unironically. I spent enough time in high school listening to a shrill inner voice calling me names because I wasn't thin enough. I'm not going to pay someone else to do it.

The world does not need any book promoting the notion that being overweight is a disgusting moral lapse. It certainly doesn't need one selling this nastiness under the guise of idealism. Yes, that's right: the reason they're calling you a fat pig and referring to your "cankles"? They want you to become a vegan.

When you are way, way less than 1% of the population, bullying people into adopting your lifestyle is extremely poor strategy. Attempting to do so by harnessing the upper middle class' morbid fear of avoirdupois is not an improvement. Veganism is not the next Atkins, thank God. Persuade people to become vegan, if you can, for animal cruelty prevention, environmental benefit, or hell, health reasons. But don't try to make them do it by threatening to call them names if they eat a cheeseburger. Their commitment to veganism will probably be slightly briefer than previous commitments to NutriSystem or the Abdominizer.

Besides, vegan does not necessarily equal healthy. To be sure, one of the things I do like about veganism is that I rarely have to think about whether what I'm eating is bad for me (only whether it has protein, calcium, iron, or B12). But it's not like being a vegan suddenly prevents you from eating junk, or fattening food. As witness the breakfast I just finished: Diet Coke and a Tofutti Cutie with a Fritos chaser.

I hate the notion of veganism they promote: that it's really all about famishing asceticism. Every time I traveled over the last seven weeks, three or four restaurants proudly presented me with . . . steamed vegetables au nothing. No fat, no spices, not even a squeeze of lemon. I'm a vegan, not a geriatric rabbit.

But then, one can hardly blame them, the way some vegans act. The Amazon reviews of great vegan cookbooks like Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance are littered with people complaining that there's fat and sugar and--horrors no, what next!--white flour in some of the recipes. I have no objection to people who want to live on carrots and mulch, but I resent their assertion that that is veganism.

Obviously, I would like it if there were more vegans in the world: I think it's better for the environment, and also, network effects are great things. But I would cheerfully burn every copy of this book, and their equally dreadful cookbook, which is not only obnoxious, but also full of really terrible looking recipes.