It was a downpourish Sunday and I was with a friend: we popped into one location of a favorite cafe: this vegan cafe had been making gluten free concoctions before any of us could ever find gluten free bread -- let alone entire gluten free aisles -- in the supermarket!
In a case at the counter, scrumptious-looking desserts were displayed: most gluten free. So, in addition to the quinoa-kale-red lentil, etc., soup that I was about to enjoy, my friend chose a pumpkin muffin as the perfect dessert. I always love accompaniments to pastry and baked goodies: - and, forgetting that I was in a vegan establishment, I first asked for a little bit of butter.
The sweet young woman at the counter didn't flinch at the word "butter" (I, myself, was feeling a little guilty because I'm generally trying to avoid dairy), but explained that she could provide a little Smart Balance (non-dairy) for an extra fee.
And what fee would that be? The young woman behind the counter was engaging with a new computer system: hence, the quest to answer this simple question was drawn out to a comical degree; whereupon finally my friend offered an extra 25 cents to simply call it good. Surely 25 cents would suffice for a pat of vegan butter-like substance?
Whereupon somehow, even without the assistance of the recalcitrant computer, the nice young woman behind the counter responded that the vegan butter-like substance would actually be $1.25 (or was it $1.50?).
As this amount was nearly half the cost of the muffin, I was a bit taken aback. But my brain lept ahead quickly and efficiently; after all, the afternoon was wearing on.
"How about jam?" I asked. The same cost, apparently. "Honey?" I tried. (Honey is not my favorite thing on a muffin, but it beats a potentially borderline-dry alternative plain-old muffin).
"We do have agave nectar," the woman suggested helpfully.
"But not honey?" I asked. I didn't quite understand. Although I use agave nectar often when cooking, I find that alone it tends to be really sweet — but not very good. Kind of a contradiction, but those who know their agave will probably agree with me.
"Honey isn't vegan," the woman explained.
I was, I have to admit, floored. I thought of the adorable little honey bees houses situated throughout an organic community garden in the area; I'd written a story about it. Surely if honey bees are munching on clover and wildflower and barley (I know they don't "munch," but you get the idea) they aren't making detours into wheels of parmesan cheese or bunches of salami?
"The labor of bees," the woman explained airily.
Whereupon, I cut to the chase and asked if there was any condiment whatsoever that would enhance the taste of the muffin while also not costing half of what the muffin cost.
The woman acquiesced (I noted before that she was sweet) and said that she would provide a "wee bit" (my emphasis) of jam without the onerous "jam tax."
And she was true to her word! The pumpkin muffin was moist and divine -- and even better with the jam!
But, I was left with a distinct curiosity about this new wrinkle of the vegan dietary lifestyle.
A bit of Internet research showed me that, indeed, controversy does rage about this very subject; and, from the most cursory of readings, it appears that “true” vegans will, assuredly, avoid honey. More later. Feel free to respond!