Every little bit counts. It is a simple fact that, for some people, reducing or eliminating the intake of highly inefficient foods such as meat and dairy can contribute more toward reducing global warming than switching from a car to a bicycle. Practices such as switching to being a “weekday vegetarian” or always having a vegetarian breakfast or eating vegan one day per week can make a big difference if the idea spreads and many people are willing to join in.
Let’s face it, eating is personal.
If only that were the case. But, as you have observed, eating is cultural, and the way each of us eats has an effect on other people, animals, and the entire ecosystem. In a sense, especially in the realm of Western privilege, both food production and food consumption are political. It may not be a privilege for an impoverished family to have a meal at McDonald’s, but it is a privilege for many.
Sean would not, under any circumstances, eat tofu.
I find this attitude toward tofu to be an idiosyncratic example of white provincialism. I think the issue is historical, that many American people got exposed to tofu after it had been filtered through a system of white-dominated commercialism. If you learn about tofu in context, it is a wildly different experience than the bizarre shoehorning it receives in Western vegan cooking.
American vegan cuisine has come a long way in the last two decades, but tofu was an early standout as a protein source for vegans when the cuisine was still undeveloped, and came to serve as a synecdoche for bland vegan food. It was, unfortunately, being prepared and distributed by unskilled hands, unfamiliar with the history of tofu dishes throughout Asia. Had the same so-called foodies and everyday Americans who came to reject tofu as this flavorless, weird-textured soy substance been exposed to it in the context of things like Korean sundubu-jjigae, Japanese zaru tofu, Thai golden tofu, or about ten-thousand different traditional preparations of tofu from all over Asia, they almost certainly wouldn’t have had the same reaction to it as they did in its out-of-context, American vegan preparations. In other words, Americans and other Westerners rejecting tofu is tantamount to someone rejecting pizza as awful based on his or her initial exposure to it being a burnt piece of Red Baron.
The history of tofu in America is a strange, yet concrete, example of what appears to be mild cultural appropriation and misrepresentation by well-meaning vegans having potentially dire consequences decades later, when people on the other side of the world from tofu’s origin will not eat it because of a bad reputation it picked up from being so poorly prepared for so long by their local peers, leading them to cling to destructive methods of consumption.