The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Vegetables! Are vegans really insufferable? Will a can of spinach produce Popeye-like strength? Let’s dig in.
Lie #1: “How Do You Spot A Vegan At A Party? Don’t Worry, He’ll Tell You!!!”
There might have been a point where this hilarious-in-2006 joke was fairly true — when being a vegan was enough of a pain in the ass that committing to it required so much passion and effort that you might go on about it a bit. Now, though, conservative estimates put the U.S. vegan population at 0.5 percent, or 1.64 million. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the population of Hawaii, or more than the amount of people born in the whole of the U.S. last year. Other estimates put the amount of vegans at double that, but either way, it’s not an insubstantial amount by any stretch of the imagination, and vegan-adjacent positions — standard vegetarianism, pescetarianism, flexitarianism — are all on the rise. It’s not really an, “Ooh, look at me, I’m great” thing anymore, it’s just a regular thing people do.
The other go-to for vegan joke was, of course, that they’re weak. Ha ha, silly vegans, not getting any protein! The thing is, in reality, there are three types of vegan men: 1) normal-ish dudes; 2) guys who think Natalie Portman is their girlfriend when she isn’t (there are only two people in this category but it’s such an astonishingly stoopid category that it can’t go unnoted); and 3) motherfuckers in extremely good shape. Joking about the weakness of vegans means being able to look at the torsos of Liam (and possibly Chris) Hemsworth; Travis Barker; RZA; Waka Flocka Flame; Steve-O; Anthony Keidis; Benedict Cumberbatch; Mike Tyson (who is the worst but is undeniably hard as nails); Jared Leto; MMA fighters Mac Danzig, Nate Diaz and Jake Shields; former Mr. Universe Barnabas du Plessis; world log-lift champion Patrik Baboumian; and loads of bodybuilders (plus, Andre 3000 was vegan for years but gave up because the lack of restaurant options “made him mean”, while bearded WWE legend Daniel Bryan only stopped due to the difficulty of consistently finding vegan options on the road) and muttering, “Yeah, they all look like shit, the stupid vegans.”
Also of note: 2020 presidential candidate Sexy Vegan. First name Sexy, last name Vegan.
Lie #2: Rabbits Love Carrots, Spinach Makes You Strong, Cartoons Educate You About Vegetables
That Bugs Bunny, man, he sure loves carrots! However, as much as Bugs might have a healthy disrespect for authority, odds are he also has really unhealthy gums. Carrots are extremely bad for rabbits’ teeth due to their high sugar content, which means Bugs Bunny’s breath would smell like ass and his gums would be bleeding all the time.
As for spinach, the story of Popeye’s love for it is as confusing as his anatomy. Creator E.C. Segar originally gave the one-eyed, weird-armed nautical pipe-smoker a magical chicken named Bernice the Whiffle Hen as the source of his superhuman strength and imperviousness to bullets in 1929, but by 1932, he was all about the spinach. Now, while spinach is very good for you (and is full of potassium, magnesium and calcium), it won’t make you strong by itself — that, annoyingly, takes exercise (although the nitrate content of spinach can help with that). There is a story about how Max Fleischer — who took Popeye from comic to animated form — saw an erroneous report in which a decimal point had been put in the wrong place, purporting spinach to contain ten times the iron it actually contains, but that probably isn’t true either. All in all, it’s just a healthy food that it’s good to persuade people to eat more of.
Lie #3: “Think I’ll Stick This Up My Butthole — Can’t Hurt”
Oh, no, don’t. There are loads of things vegetables are great for — here’s how to make a whistle out of a carrot! — but despite the many phallic vegetables out there, ass-sticking-up isn’t one of them (you don’t get any of the nutrition that way, for a start). The muscles surrounding your butthole are pretty strong and will contract at the point of arrival; vegetables, meanwhile, are pretty snappable. If the end were to accidentally break off and get stuck in your body, well now, that just wouldn’t be good news at all. Plus, there’s a reason most things designed to go up a butt look the way they do — a flared end makes getting stuck up there that bit less likely. Get a veggie (or anything else, really, but let’s try to stay on topic, please) wedged in there somehow and you could end up needing a colonoscopy, or die, or just have your doctors share your story on Reddit. Also, carrots taste really nice, and food waste is a real issue. All of which is to say that you’re probably better off just eating them.
Lie #4: Brain Death Makes You a ‘Vegetable’
The two are often confused, but there’s a big difference between being brain-dead and being in a persistent vegetative state. The notion of brain death first arrived when life-support technology became able to take a person who wasn’t breathing and whose heart wasn’t beating, and keep them going, sort of. Throughout the 1970s, doctors and lawyers worked on legally defining death as it related to someone hooked up to machines doing the breathing and pumping for them. 1981’s Uniform Determination of Death Act means someone can be declared legally dead even while certain bodily functions are running. Brain death is absolutely irreversible, and involves no cranial nerve reflexes (like pupils reacting to light, and the body responding to pain) whatsoever.
Someone in a persistent vegetative state, however, might occasionally groan, sweat, or react to pain, and even “wake up” and “go to sleep,” but show no signs of consciousness. It’s sometimes referred to as “chronic wakefulness without awareness,” and the legality around it is a fucking minefield. In the absence of a living will, it’s legally really difficult to declare that a person in a persistent vegetative state has no chance of recovery (i.e., therefore pulling the plug is the humane thing to do), because once in a while, people partially recover from it. There’s also a push to rename it “unresponsive wakefulness syndrome,” since referring to a patient as “vegetative” is clearly a pretty shitty thing to do.
Lie #5: “They’re Exactly The Same, Like Two Peas In A Pod”
Gregor Mendel — genetic pioneer and the only monk/beekeeper/biologist/physicist to get a shoutout in a Weezer song — is famous for using peas to ascertain how dominant and recessive genetic traits work. He identified seven ways in which two peas within one pod could differ. Also, sometimes you just get one pea that’s really little and crummy-looking, proving this expression is stupid. Same with “as cool as a cucumber”: an unrefrigerated cucumber is room temperature. A cool cucumber has been cooled by a fridge. We should say “as cool as a fridge.” The world is dumb.