Thomas Allen, an attorney with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, talks about why he became vegan, favorite restaurants and how to answer pesky questions from well-meaning friends and relatives.
Why I’m vegan
There was never a specific reason. I was never a big fan of meat, so it just suited my preferences to begin with. Then it transformed into something more environmentally conscious — the amount of water it takes to consume a pound of ground beef compared to the amount to grow some sort of vegetable. I watched documentaries on Netflix that highlighted animal cruelty. [Allen became vegan in 2012.]
It wasn’t easy at first because I lived in rural California. Unlike Portland, there are not many options in Redding, California. Eating out was tough. Chipotle was the only restaurant that advertised as vegan in Redding. [Allen moved to Portland in June 2016.]
It’s not very difficult in Portland. Even restaurants that don’t cater to vegans always have options that are vegan or they are willing to accommodate. The biggest issue is get-togethers with friends or family at someone’s house. Every year I go to Thanksgiving in Santa Cruz. My family still asks me: “Do you eat butter? Do you eat fish?” I definitely receive quite a bit of flack. Even when I go to conference things here, people look at my food. But it’s not mean-spirited; it’s all in good fun.
Where I eat
I eat out more than I eat in. It’s easier with my 7-year-old son. He is not vegan. His mom — [we’re divorced]— isn’t vegan or vegetarian. I don’t want to push my dietary preferences. He does ask me sometimes: “Why don’t we eat meat at Daddy’s house?” I tell him: “This is not my lifestyle.” He doesn’t get meat when we go out to Por Qué No?, and I don’t tell him he can’t.
In my refrigerator
I usually don’t have much in my fridge. You would find hummus; broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts; almond milk; vegetable broth; Thai curry paste; apples and kiwis; cucumber. I do make tofu scrambles with sweet potatoes and nutritional yeast and other seasonings.
I try to steer clear of processed stuff. Tofu is about as processed as it gets. I try to steer clear of fake meat, like Tofurky. A place in Portland recently started offering vegan hamburger that actually bleeds. At that point, it’s so chemically engineered — the more you mess with something, the scarier it gets.
I’m not vegan beyond food, but I don’t seek out buying leather clothes. That’s a whole other realm in my mind. It makes sense. You’re going to do one; why not do the other. At first it was hard to find vegan restaurants. And I imagine it’s harder to find vegan men’s dress shoes and boots. I could see myself doing that in the future.
This article is part of a feature package on the vegan economy published in our May 2018 issue. Read more vegan coverage here.