Molly Watson Brings Vegan Diet Awareness to the Table
What is the impact of veganism on our health, the planet, and the economy at large? With so many conflicting views on the subject, it’s hard to know where to start with that question. Fortunately, our “Vegan Curious?” Explorer Event introduced us to award-winning food writer Molly Watson who took us through the history, rationale, and effects of a vegan diet, and gave us insight into how we can all work toward choosing a healthier, more sustainable, diet – one step at a time.
Do non-vegans worry that they will be judged if they engage with vegans in a conversation about a plant-based diet? How can you reassure them?
I totally understand the fear! Begin the discussion from a place of honest curiosity. Staying in the realm on how it works for them rather than why they chose it can keep the discussion more pragmatic and reduce the chances of either of you feeling judged.
As a non-vegan, why did you want to write Should We All Be Vegan?
I was asked to write this book by my publisher at Thames & Hudson as part of their Big Idea series. I said yes because I wanted to figure out the answer to the question: should we all be vegan? I’ve been vegetarian for long stretches and have had a plant-centric diet for ages, but I had no idea what the answer would be when I started the research. Can we get all the nutrition we need without meat and other animal products? What impact would it have if we all went vegan? It was fun to explore all the different avenues. And some things I hadn’t thought of—such as how some land that isn’t productive for growing food is perfectly serviceable for grazing animals to become food.
What’s the best argument for veganism?
Pretty much every study shows a vegan diet is better for our individual health and would be better for the planet. The good news there—not to spoil the ending or anything—is that we reap benefits with every inch closer we get to eating more plants and fewer animal products. It isn’t an all-or-nothing game. Baby steps count.
What’s the biggest misconception about it?
That it’s unhealthy. It’s true that just not eating animal products doesn’t make a diet healthful (soda and chips and vegan), but a vegan diet isn’t necessarily unhealthful any more than a non-vegan diet is necessarily unhealthful.
What has the reaction been to your book? Have vegans criticized you for not demanding everyone become vegan?
Vegans have tended to appreciate the balanced approach—likely because a balanced approach leans towards veganism! —and the dispelling of common myths. Non-vegans seem to appreciate the balanced approach as well likely because a balanced approach also leans towards “every little bit counts.” It really isn’t a black-and-white issue. Our diets are continuums, and everyone needs to find the mix that works for them. Being informed only helps you find the right mix that works for you.
How does culture factor into the conversation since so many cultures have meat as a central part of their cuisine?
Culture is often ignored and was one of the things I was excited to address in the book. What kind of adjustments might be required for Christmas dinner to feel like Christmas dinner without the roast for many people? What would it mean for cultures where the diets are almost entirely meat-based—such as Inuit or Masai—to become vegan? What role does cultural preference play in what we crave?
With fast food restaurants now offering vegan options, is veganism now mainstream?
It’s certainly becoming easier to be vegan. I hope we’ve come a long way from when I was a teenage vegetarian and my grandmother told me the casserole was vegetarian, and I asked why I smelled sausage and she said it was “just for flavor.”
Not relevant to your book, but I’m curious, what’s the best vegan meal you’ve ever had?
There’ve been plenty! If I had to name just one, it would be a masala dosa.
Molly Watson is an award-winning writer who has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cooking Light, Elle, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her most recent book Should We All Be Vegan? Presents the arguments for and against universal adoption of a vegan diet and lifestyle, revealing the truth about veganism’s impact from an individual, as well as a global, perspective.