Thieving with a vengeance »
I generally like people to get along. I think it’s nice, and me feeling that way makes it easier for me to believe I’m an OK person. However, every once in a while, something happens that really pisses me off, and I have to talk about it to everyone, and this is happening right now, so I have to tell you about Vegetarian With A Vengeance! ARRRRRG!
We all know the seminal vegan cookbook Vegan With a Vengeance by the talented Isa Chandra Moskowitz, right? Well, it turns out that FIVE YEARS after it was published, Grub Street Publishing in the UK (the owner of the publishing rights to Vegan With a Vengeance in the UK) is releasing Vegetarian With a Vengeance on July 30. That’s right—a vegetarian cookbook with a disingenuously familiar name. What the hell?
Understandably annoyed by this apparent biting, Ms. Moskowitz recently posted about Vegetarian With a Vengeance on her Twitter feed, prompting an outpouring of vegan rage, which overflowed onto Vegetarian With a Vengeance’s Amazon page. How has Grub Street responded to the criticism/vegan shitstorm? Oh, only in the most mature and professional manner possible: by posting a poorly written, unclear screed in the discussion thread on the Amazon page. No press release, no post on the company site, no Facebook announcement—no communication of any kind save a few internally inconsistent comments buried within a thread on another company’s website. Clearly, this is a publisher that cares deeply about the vegan and vegetarian community.
It turns out that the book was originally written in Danish, and there’s some debate about whether the Danish title, Vegetarisk Vellyst, translates to Vegetarian With a Vengeance or not. My buddy Ditte, who is Danish (is from/lives in Denmark Danish, not Danish American, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s just say she speaks good Danish), swears up and down that the only really plausible translation is “Vegetarian Delight,” which Google seems to agree with. The publisher swears (in the Amazon thread) that it was the authors who came up with the scurrilous translation and that the publisher snapped it up because they thought it would do well because of its similarity to Ms. Moskowitz’s book’s name—not that they intended to ride her coattails or anything. In any event, it seems clear that Grub Street was attempting to capitalize on the association the creatively translated title would buy them with Vegan With a Vengeance, even if it’s unclear who did the actual creative translating (you all can wade through the Amazon discussion and draw your own conclusions—I’m not your mom!).
The whole thing is a confusing, frustrating, dumb mess, and it’s really sad to see. Not to be all starfucker or anything, but I know Isa. She’s a nice person who is a great cook and writes fucking awesome recipes. She’s generous with her time and her recipes, but more than that, she’s an example for all vegan cookbook authors out there when it comes to being a good member of the vegan community, giving credit where it’s due (example here), and dealing with conflict in a responsible way. Not to say that we should canonize Ms. Moskowitz, but I’m left wondering why it was too much to ask that the people looking to make a profit in vegan (or vegetarian) dollars treat the people in the community with a little respect.
I’m really happy to see all the vegan books coming down the pike. It’s awesome that there are so many great options out there, with more being released every day, and I’m really happy for the authors of these books. But I’m also worried, and incidents like this make me more so. It’s great that businesses are figuring out that vegan money spends just as green as, um, other money, but it’s not as great that businesses are figuring out how to exploit the vegan community to make a quick buck. Veg publishing is, apparently, a business worth getting into these days, and I’m worried that I’m going to start seeing other vegan authors taking hits from shady publishing houses, or unscrupulous vegan authors who “borrow” recipes unattributed and unchecked by their publishers. And don’t even get me started on authors who back out of their publishing contracts six days before printing, causing the only all-vegan publishing venture I was aware of to decide that maybe the book business isn’t the way to go, costing all future vegan authors the possibility of an all-vegan ethical-as-fuck publisher. All this is to say: ugh. Can we please just get some fucking unity in the fucking scene?
Because that’s really it, right? Being vegan (and vegetarian to an extent) means being a conscientious consumer. It means abstaining from the products that come from the death or suffering or stealing from another living thing. I guess we’ve been lucky that we could mostly take for granted that buying a veg cookbook was a pretty safe bet, ethically speaking—until now. Dig a little deeper when you’re putting down your hard-earned dollars, and let’s give our money to the people who are interested in doing the right thing, not making a quick buck. We have this amazing luxury in that we can pick and choose what vegan books we want to support, so let’s (non-dairy) milk it for all its worth! We may not all agree on which authors/publishers/books are the best choices, but the point is that the thinking about it and putting in the effort is a worthwhile thing to do. For the vegans, for the animals, let’s do this!