I have fond childhood memories of walking into a local bakery with my mother, greeted by the comforting aroma of sugary dough, and leaving with our favorite treat: a generously sized, dense yet flaky walnut scone with lip-smackingly sweet maple glaze. This scone was not vegan, and I – but a wee child who had not yet learned of animal suffering or intersecting oppressions – didn’t call myself one either.
But should I now? Label myself as “vegan,” that is. The use of the word “vegan” comes up as a rather hotly debated topic in animal rights circles, from those who prefer to employ “vegetarian” in their advocacy – assuming that non-vegans feel less threatened by the word – to James McWilliams who just published a blog post on “The Vegan Identity,” to the Hens of Our Hen House who often discuss vegan diction on their podcast.
Recently, as I read bell hooks’ Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center – recommended on my latest edition of “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” (#NewsandChews) – I came upon a passage that spoke directly to the issue of labeling oneself with a certain identity. Here, I’d like to quote the passage at length:
“Focusing on feminism as political commitment, we resist the emphasis on individual identity and lifestyle…Such resistance engages us in revolutionary praxis. The ethics of Western society informed by imperialism and capitalism are personal rather than social. They teach us that the individual good is more important than the collective good and consequently that individual change is of greater significance than collective change…To emphasize that engagement with feminist struggle as political commitment we could avoid using the phrase “I am a feminist” (a linguistic structure designed to refer to some personal aspect of identity and self-definition) and could state “I advocate feminism.” Because there has been undue emphasis placed on feminism as an identity or lifestyle, people usually resort to stereotyped perspectives on feminism. Deflecting attention away from stereotypes is necessary if we are to revise our strategy and direction. I have found that saying “I am a feminist” usually means I am plugged into preconceived notions of identity, role, or behavior. When I say “I advocate feminism” the response is usually “what is feminism?” A phrase like “I advocate” does not imply the kind of absolutism that is suggested by “I am.” It does not engage us in the either/or dualistic thinking that is the central ideological component of all systems of domination in Western society. It implies that a choice has been made, that commitment to feminism is an act of will. It does not suggest that by committing oneself to feminism, the possibility of supporting other political movements is negated.”
In the interest of our discussion, we can replace hooks’ use of “feminist” and “feminism” with “vegan” and “veganism” (though revolutionary feminism is also something in which all of us should be involved). For now, I find myself persuaded by hooks’ argument, and intend to begin discussing my veganism as a practice rather than as an identity. This linguistic shift in no way signals a wavering of my commitment to veganism (nor do I think that hooks’ implies that such a shift would do so), but a new mode of discussing the lifestyle in the hopes of reaching more people and furthering the movement in a revolutionary direction.
I find this discussion absolutely fascinating, and would love to hear any and all of your thoughts.
In return for your shared views on the topic, I give you a veganized recipe for those walnut scones of my childhood, dedicated to my mother.
Walnut Scones with Maple Glaze
Makes 16 mini scones or 8 large scones.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup cold coconut oil, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
(or use 1 cup of maple sugar in the place of both of these ingredients)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt. Stir well to combine.
Add the pieces of cold coconut oil to the flour mixture and use the tips of your fingers to “cut” (integrate wholly) the solid oil into the flour. You should end up with a mixture of grainy texture that almost resembles sand.
Add the maple syrup, cold water, and vanilla to the dry mixture and stir well to combine. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to wet the dough, but have faith and keep mixing until you have thoroughly incorporated the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in 3/4 of the chopped walnuts.
Flour a flat surface like your kitchen counter and drop the entire bowl of dough onto the surface. Form the dough into a disc that’s about 1 inch thick all the way around. Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 16/8 (depending on if you want mini or large scones) even wedges. Separate the wedges and place them onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes for mini scones, and 15-17 minutes for larger scones, or until lightly golden brown.
While the scones bake, prepare the glaze. If using the coconut sugar-starch mixture, whir the coconut sugar and arrowroot or cornstarch together in a food processor until a fine powder forms. Whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. You may need to warm the glaze in the microwave for a couple of seconds to render it pourable. Once the scones have cooled for a few minutes, spoon the glaze into the middle of each scone and let it drizzle down the sides. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle each scone with the remaining 1/4 of the chopped walnuts.
These scones will keep for 3-5 days in an air-tight container at room temperature, or for a couple of months in the freezer.
You can make these scones gluten-free by replacing the flours with 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup almond meal.
Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.
In solidarity, Ali.