The road to musical stardom is undoubtedly littered with fast food wrappers and dreams. So what do you do when you’re aiming to go more vegan than freegan? Guitarist/songstress Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz has some ideas.
Ever the musical hotbed, Northhampton, Massachusetts, (Body/Head avant-noise visionary Kim Gordon has called it home for years) is spewing out a holy crop of indie rockers with its roots ingrained in the DIY ethos of late. Speedy Ortiz, along with Potty Mouth, are leading the proverbial pack.
Speedy dropped their first proper record back in July, hitting the road soon after to bring Major Arcana‘s sassy wordage to the masses — a record teeming with deliciously gnarly and coiled riff crunchiness that recalls the golden era of 1990s underground rock when Pavement, Liz Phair and Helium ruled the roost. And, over those ensuing months, Dupuis has learned a thing or two about survival of the fittest — without going all Darwin on a roadside burger.
Below, Dupuis gives a glorious lowdown on the rules of the vegan road.
Sadie Dupuis: Anyone who chooses to become vegan knows that it’s a diet with challenges. Defending your moral, political, economic, and health convictions to folks who wonder how you could ever give up cheese can be soul-wearying. At least when you’re at home you have your own kitchen in which to prepare vegan-friendly food, and local restaurants with whose menus you’re familiar enough to make informed, diet-appropriate decisions. But when you lose those domestic comforts, it’s you against the world, man, and the world wants you, as a vegan, to be hungry.
Touring in a band for weeks or months at a time also has its challenges. Doing so as a vegan can be a downright pain. I’ve seen more than a few dedicated vegans who’ve succumbed to McNuggets a scant week into a national tour. Don’t let the milk-slurpin’ heathens get you down. Here are five tips for staying vegan on the road, and also staying sane.
1. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Despite the accelerated up-cropping of vegan establishments across the country in the past few years, those joints are often restricted to big cities and college towns, and a lot of bars and restaurants may not even know what a vaygen means. If a music venue offers you free food, sometimes it’s in your best interest to avoid dropping the v-word altogether.
For example: If the band’s performance deal includes one compensated large pizza, I recommend feigning lactose intolerance. No clearly thinking server wants to risk triggering a food allergy, and you’ll be far more likely to wind up with an extra cheeseless veggie pie of your own than if you try to explain the moral reasoning behind veganism (synonymous in non-vegans’ eyes to hating America, fun, Miley, etc). That little white fib will be a helluva lot easier than dealing with someone who doesn’t realize veganism precludes dairy, or (even worse) being told to “just pull the cheese off your slices.” Ew. Heck no. Lie through your teeth.
2. You can go corporate if you get creative.
Unless you are seriously disturbed or extensively reefered, fast food is probably not your first choice for every meal (and if you are supporting the fast food workers’ strike, it should probably be your last choice for every meal). But on 10-hour drive days through the Midwest, you’re not gonna see much more than Arby’s after Arby’s after Arby’s. Meat eaters can suck it up and suck down a Ribwich, but most corporate chains leave something to be desired for their vegan patrons.
Taco Bell is probably the vegan-friendliest of the rest stop set. It’s easy enough to toy with their menu in a way that accommodates a meat-free, dairy-free diet just by making a couple substitutions and subtractions. A personal favorite is something our band refers to as “The Crunchwrap Mod.” Sub beans for beef, nix the sour cream and nacho cheese, then add potatoes and guacamole. It’s decently filling, cheap, and tasty enough that my three (non-vegan, non-vegetarian) bandmates opt for it over the regular Crunchwrap.
3. Vet every tofu scramble.
The road is unfamiliar and your chances of finding foods that fit your dietary restrictions may be few. But when you do wind up at an eatery better versed in the finer points of animal product abstention, be careful not to go (ahem) hog wild with your order. It’s easy to succumb to the first tofu scramble you encounter, because it’ll make you feel like you’re at home living a normal life and not bummin’ out in Middle-Of-Nothingness, Montana. But beware: You may wind up spending more than you intended on what essentially amounts to an uncooked block of ‘fu, tossed with semi-defrosted broccoli and triple-salty soy sauce. More often than not, you won’t get the nutritional yeast-encrusted, Daiya-drizzled scramble you envisioned. It’ll be a waste of money and a waste of taste.
A couple mistakes like this a week, usually costing around eight bucks each, can really detract from (see: entirely deplete) your gas (and beer) supplies, not to mention your morale. Yelp is a decent resource for figuring out whether or not, as Millard Fillmore would put it, “the nourishment is palatable,” as is the website Happy Cow, a database of vegetarian and healthy restaurants around the world. Knowledge is power, y’all.
4. Ask questions—unless you don’t want to know the answers.
Does that luscious-looking side of guacamole seem a little pale and smooth to be wholly comprised of avocados au naturel? Is that store-bought baba ghanouj a bit tangier than you were expecting? Hidden animal products—like mayonnaise, sour cream, casein or egg—pop up in all kinds of foods you might expect to be vegan, added as a binder or a flavor enhancer. It’s easy to check labels when nutritional info is provided—milk and eggs are highlighted at the bottom of any ingredients list, since they’re common allergens.
Prepared foods are a little trickier. It’s worth asking whether or not your garden burger is actually vegan, or whether or not the grilled vegetables are cooked in butter, as you may save yourself an incidental foray into lactose-snacking. Unless of course you want that veggie burger so badly you’re willing to blind yourself to the hard facts. In which case: Don’t ask, don’t tell.
5. DIY or diet.
If you’ve got a house to crash at and a kitchen to abuse, you can have all the beans and ramen your little cholesterol-free heart desires. Remember how good it feels to cook at home? You can do it on the road, too, and it can bring you such delights as: Bhindi methi! Drunken noodles! Steamed kale! Quinoa! Steel-cut oatmeal! Your options are only as limited as your grocers’ selection—which can occasionally be limiting, so you might want to seek out a co-op or a Whole Foods before you hit the nearest Harris Teeter.
If you don’t feel like hitting a stovetop, or don’t have access, produce — like bananas, apples, grapes, corn, or carrots — makes for easy van snacking. Plus, the fiber from eating these kinds of foods raw will be a huge boon for your travel-weakened digestive system (you know what I’m talking about). You can also stock up on gallon jugs of water, which you can refill along the way. Try to drink one a day; hydration’s important for all of us, yo, herbivores and omnivores alike.
Major Arcana is out now via Carpark Records.