Do You Really Want to Go Back to 1995?

Marla Rose
7 min readMar 30, 2018

An Open Letter to a Vegan Who Dislikes “Processed” Vegan Food:

Hi! How are you?

So…now that the pleasantries are behind us, can we talk about something?

I know you will only eat the most noble and wholesome of healthful foods and that nary a speck of “unnatural” food shall ever pass your pristine lips, but I want you think of something. I want you to think of the numbers 1–9–9–5.

I picked those exact numbers because that was the year I went vegan. Nineteen ninety-five. It even sounds old-timey. It was the year of the Oklahoma City bombing and the year that Alanis Morrisette drove me to distraction with her kitchen sink approach to the meaning of irony. It was also the summer after I went vegan. The years have passed by quickly but I can clearly remember a time that there was very little by way of vegan convenience foods in 1995. It was a totally different, and much more barren, landscape. Before then, things were way worse in terms of accessibility. So when you disparage vegan convenience foods as “junk,” “processed” or “gross,” all I can think of is 1995.

Things are still not much better in many small or even medium-sized towns but depending on where one lives, today is a whole different ballpark for living as a vegan and it is so much better. I think I need to emphasize this with the magic of italicization: so much better. When you disparage vegan products, are you aware that in 1995, there would be no such variety to complain about? Are you really thinking you want to return to an age when vegan convenience foods were not available for the most part and if they were, they were awful? And because vegan convenience foods were so scarce and so bad, our numbers didn’t budge at all, which meant that we were in a holding pattern for years in terms of progress. I have to ask, how can we change the world if there are few food options anyone but the most diehard animal advocate is willing to try?

So the next time you want to say something negative about a vegan food product that isn’t up to your dietary standards, I want you to think of these numbers: 1–9–9–5.

Because here is what it looked like in 1995

You had to do much of your shopping at specialty health food stores, which were generally dusty hippie shops with limited options or faith-affiliated shops with limited options and it was much more expensive than today. Soymilk, tofu, you name it: you couldn’t get…