It ain't easy being vegan.
Oh sure: Defenders of the lifestyle who are trying to win over new converts insist it's easy. But it really isn't. It literally boggles the mind when you consider how many types of food contain animal products of one sort or another.
I'll give you a frinstance. Amy's-brand soy cheese pizza, on sale in the frozen-foods section of our supermarket. Soy cheese pizza!?!? Right? How can you go wrong?
Check the ingredients. What? You're kidding me. Amy's frozen soy cheese pizza contains milk ingredients. Huh?? A soy cheese pizza, sans meat, that contains milk ingredients? Why? Why? WHY?
Oh, Amy's. You got my hopes up there for a moment.
Frinstance Number Two: Earlier tonight I ordered a tofu dish at a newly opened Chinese food joint down the street. I just assumed that a tofu and vegetable dish would be safe.
Turns out this was mapo tofu and I had no idea that the dish is made with minced meat, often pork or beef. I got it home and before I even tried it, I noticed those little teeny, tiny bumps in the sauce didn't look right.
I Googled mapo tofu and discovered the bad news. I called the Chinese food joint. They confirmed the bad news.
I feel ghastly. My stomach is still twisted up in knots. The moral of the story: Always check the ingredients. Don't be afraid to ask someone in the restaurant if their dishes contain meat. When in doubt, do not buy it.
I've even taken to bringing a magnifying glass with me to the supermarket. Yeah, I look like a dork checking ingredients. But who the hell cares?
I really beat myself up over that mapo tofu. I won't keep beating myself up, though. We learn from our mistakes. We try our hardest not to repeat them. In my past life, I never checked the ingredients lists. The fact that I do it nearly all of the time - but occasionally I slip up and forget - means that I should probably call it a night with the self-flagellation.
But it does mean we vegans have to be ever vigilant. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," said Thomas Jefferson. We vegans know the meaning of those words firsthand.
We understand that eternal vigilance is the price we pay for our own liberty, for severing ties with a lifetime of denial and reckless consumption.
Oh yeah. One more thing. "God damn you, mapo tofu! God damn you to hell!" Seriously. Who the hell puts minced meat in a tofu dish?
There. I feel slightly better.