Editor’s comment: I hope Homerton’s vegan pub The Spread Eagle can break stereotypes
PUBLISHED: 15:31 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:13 25 January 2019
When I gave up meat as a first-year student, I did so not just because of nascent first-world guilt about the environment and factory farming, but because it was cheaper.
And when I became vegan four years later, I thought I was entering a world of bulk-bought lentils and Vitalite, not exclusive menus and social capital.
I lived in Manchester, and was lucky enough to be surrounded by budget cafes that catered well for people who didn’t eat animals. I remember with mouthwatering affection Glossop’s Globe Inn, where a largely vegan menu was dished up at £3 for a main course and where I first heard the word “seitan” (swiftly followed by “and ale pie and chips”).
The point I’m making is that while I’m delighted to see a self-avowedly vegan pub opening to a degree of fanfare it’s more important than ever that it makes an effort to welcome the people who might have drunk there 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Like many places in Hackney, Homerton is a mix of old and new communities. Veganism is no longer a hairshirt-y cult, but what it has lost in one stereotype it has gained in another: vegan shops and restaurants are too often now a sign of gentrification.
So I’m encouraged by the pub’s talk of breaking stereotypes. Not, obviously, that I think there’s anything wrong with being vegan – but with places like Dalston becoming increasingly polarised between upmarket meat-free pizza restaurants and older, more affordable cafes and takeaways, veganism is gaining a reputation for being exclusive when it should be the opposite: everyone can eat meat-free food but not everyone can eat meat.
Ridley Road’s fruit and veg stalls were vegan long before cashew cheese was invented. Veganism isn’t just for judgemental elites: it’s for everyone.