Macho, macho vegan grilling men

John Schlimm's "Grilling Vegan Style" covers the basics of grilling and is stocked with animal-free burger and kebab recipes.
John Schlimm's "Grilling Vegan Style" covers the basics of grilling and is stocked with animal-free burger and kebab recipes.
Posted: May 31, 2012

YOU KNOW veganism has arrived when even newspaper comic-strip characters are taking the plunge. Last week in the Philly-set "Jump Start," Sunny, the precocious family daughter, proclaimed her intent to veganize, citing her aunt Charlene as already vegan.

But it’s also no surprise that both characters are female: To many people, vegan equals "girly," a notion borne out by a recent marketing study that found both men and women often ascribe manliness to meat and daintiness to tofu. It’s an age-old prejudice Carol Adams so deftly covered in The Sexual Politics of Meat more than 20 years ago.

But a new cookbook from John Schlimm, Grilling Vegan Style, throws stereotypes into the flames, fusing that icon of he-man tech, the outdoor grill, with meat-free foods — all slathered with Schlimm’s signature saucy style.

"Yes, it is cliché how grill and ‘macho’ are synonymous in some people’s minds," Schlimm said in an email interview, "much like grill and meat have always been synonymous … until now!"

This hard-partying author (remember last year’s The Tipsy Vegan?) always manages to sound like he’s leaning into your face and elbowing you in the ribs, though with good-natured zest: "Consider Grilling Vegan Style my SIZZLING dissertation on how the grill is now a place where barriers are torn down, whether we’re talking about gender / who is serving as grill master, or food / what fantastic plant-based ingredients are being tossed on the flames."

His new book covers the basics of grilling (with a comprehensive guide to grills) and is stocked with animal-free burger and kebab recipes. (Try one at philly.com/grillvegan.) It also encourages readers to be adventurous and grill just about everything — apples, peaches, salads, watermelons and even peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

If a male reader wants to be "manly" about it, Schlimm points to chapters 8 ("The Burgers Are Ready!") and 9 ("The New Tailgating Classics"). But, he added, "I would warn them, women will ROCK those recipes and chapters just as well!"

Schlimm’s philosophy "is that this is a party EVERYONE is invited to: vegans and carnivores, men and women, young and old, backyard dwellers and beach bums — the only requirement is that you have to want to have FUN."

Of course, Schlimm and his cruelty-free grill aren’t alone: The reality of "manly" vegan men is running roughshod over the clichés, with guys like hunky Texas firefighter/vegan advocate Rip Esselstyn on the front lines, and a posse of vegan jocks redefining "tough" as boxers, bodybuilders, ultramarathoners and ironman triathletes.

A recent study found women preferring men’s faces that had a "healthy" look (skin glowing from what the researchers cite as a diet high in fruits and vegetables) over those that looked "macho." And once a guy gets with his chosen partner … again, the documented reality of meat-eating shows the popular fantasy to be somewhat flaccid.

Victoria Moran’s new book, Main Street Vegan, puts it succinctly: "Meat is connected to virility, but it’s negatively connected. The more meat — and cheese, and eggs and fried foods — a guy eats, the less likely he is to enjoy a full and satisfying sex life for as long as he wants one."

So fellas, are you brave, strong and confident? Prove it by conquering the primordial fear of tofu on the grill.   

Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 10-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.

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