When you think of the word vegan what do you think of? California surfer dude who only drinks kombucha and east raw veggies all day long? What about vegetarian? A crunchy mom in New York or maybe some kind of health nut in Miami who only eats organic veggies and cashew cheese?
According to a recent article by OWYN, the state with the highest growth in Google searches for the word ‘vegetarian’ was West Virginia.
The state with the biggest increase in searches was the traditionally pepperoni-roll-loving West Virginia at 200 percent.
It seems there is a trend in central Appalachia, Tennessee (150%) and Kentucky (154%)both saw an increase in searches for “veganism” and most surprising to me Alabama had the most growth at 500%.
This growth in vegetarianism in some of the poorest states may be surprising to some. Especially those who hold the stereotypes of Appalachia as bearded mountain men eating possum and squirrels all the time. I will admit that a little bacon grease does make everything taste better, however, if you remove that little bit of bacon grease from most of my family recipes, you will see that many of the meals are actually vegetable-based.
Meat was often hard to come by for most families in Appalachia; if you couldn’t grow it or hunt it you just didn’t have it. In many places, there was no running down to the corner market as the nearest grocery store can be up to 100 miles away in some parts of the state. We have traditionally lived off the land, growing gardens, gathering wild foods, hunting, and fishing to supplement our diets.
An Appalachian staple is soup beans. Completely vegan except for the bacon grease or ham that is used for flavoring. Many families ate soup beans on a daily basis supplemented with what was in the garden that day and cornbread.
Let’s not forget fried potatoes with onions and of course bacon grease. As many of the settlers of West Virginia were Irish the potato is a staple in our diet. Many a morning breakfast consisted of biscuits or leftover cornbread, fried potatoes or fried apples and maybe some gravy. Take out the grease and you have a vegan breakfast. My grandmother’s favorite was cornbread or Ritz crackers crumbled up in buttermilk a kind of poor man’s cereal.
Spring and summer always brought lots of fruits and berries you could find. When we were out playing we loved to stumble onto a berry patch and feast. Peaches, apples, and pears hang from the trees as a ready-made lunch and when the pawpaws arrive it’s heaven.
So my answer to are there vegans in Appalachia? Of course! And it seems that the number is growing each year. We even have a community named Vegan located in Upshur County.
I have used the terms vegan and vegetarian almost interchangeably in this post but there is a difference in the terms. Here are the definitions from Oxford.
Vegan – a person who does not eat or use animal products.
Vegetarian – a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.
Did you know there were so many vegans in West Virginia?
Were you surprised by the numbers for your state?