In Seattle, a mysterious underground culture of extreme para-veganism operates with an unclear agenda.
We met with its ‘homegrown’ acolytes to learn more.
In the cold drifts of the Seattle valley,
millennials are sprouting up like cabbage in springtime. And as they prosper in that northwestern hotspot for knowledge and power, these young upstart citizens have mindfulness on the mind. They adorn their heads with flowers and use the nectar to tame their wild, free, flowing locks of hair. However, when it comes to feeding these spirited energies, these neo-Seattleites are leading the world in being environmentally conscious.
A group of young twenty-somethings in the deep heart of Seattle are calling themselves ‘ven,” a further reduction of “vegan,” as “vegan” was in turn a reduction of “vegetarian.” They believe it is the next evolution of humanity’s care for the environment while keeping themselves healthily nourished.
So, what is ven? I took to the streets to find out.
I came upon a young woman - later identified as Gnarla Bettingston - who claimed to be twenty-three years of age. She described herself as a ven quite readily, so I asked her a few questions.
ELEUTHERIOS: I heard from the shopkeep down the street that you are a ven.
BETTINGSTON: Yeah, true.
What sets a ven apart from a vegan, or a vegetarian?
Being ven means you are, like, totally in tune with not eating nature. Dude, plants can feel pain just as much as dogs can. It’s crazy. But true.
So you don’t eat plants NOR animals?
Yeah, dude. It’s all about eating food made by humans for humans. We’re real humanist.
What does not believing in a higher power’s importance have to do with this?
We don’t eat gods either.
After that, she abruptly slid down the escarpment she was perched upon. I still did not have my answers. From Ms. Bettingston, I learned the ven do not eat plant nor animals, but still hadn’t answered the burning question: what do they eat?Surely, they must subsist on something, I thought to myself as I crawled deeper into the trenches of Seattle. Dusk was settling. I needed to seek shelter.
Behind a limousine service (so in-vogue these days,) I moved through a doorway into a back alley, where I happened upon what I was searching for. As my eyes adjusted to the dim, serene atmosphere, I found myself in a happening restaurant of sorts, but it was nothing like any other restaurant I had been in before.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of food odors - conventional food odors, at least. There was a slight chemical smell in the air like that which you’d catch in a chemist’s laboratory or a small-town police station from your childhood. There were a good number of millennials occupying the seats, arranged in a triangular pattern across the establishment’s long and narrow space. On their plates were piles of something that looked awfully like pills.
I was in. It was time for questions.
After several hours of dialog too extensive to publish here, my companions Trarsh McGuggle, Monk II, and Flavorite Limpson (which I gathered were their “moonlight personas”) had given me the “low deets” on the ven movement.
Truly, they do not eat plants nor animals, for their food source is entirely composed of artificial lab-made edible products, like those pills we consumed together with distilled water. According to them, these pills have been created in facilities that guarantee absolutely no plant nor animal use in their process. They are certified ven food. When I asked where these factories are and what brands exist, they just shook their heads and smiled. Obviously, I had a lot to learn. This was no corporate venture - this was homegrown–no, homemade. Home-engineered by engineers of an engineering age.
Conversation did touch on a hot issue amongst vegans and vegetarians: GMOs. Trarsh argued that GMOs - or Genetically Modified Organisms - are dangerous because those looking for an easy way into the ven lifestyle may start consuming GMO vegetables. However, GMO vegetables are still vegetables, and they still feel pain. Flavorite then chimed in with the suggestion that perhaps removing the vegetable part, not the GMO part, is the true answer, in direct opposition to hardline vegans, who are currently being driven out of the city by a series of assassinations. “If we could get the GM without the O,” Flavorite stated, “we would have a new renaissance of environmental caring and stuff, man.”
Eventually, the number of pills on my plate increased as they were dispensed from chutes above our heads. Knowing I could not bring those pills out of the restaurant without being tailed by Monk II’s older brother, Monk III, I chewed and nodded in silence. I had to eat as many as possible. It was their way, and I was not about to back out. Soon, my mouth was full of them, and I had trouble keeping up. I looked to my new friends - they did not seem to have a bit of trouble. Oh, to be a millennial in Seattle.
I managed to get out in one piece, and upon trying to return the next day, the door I entered was missing, with a brick wall in its place. Clearly, the ven community prefers to be underground, on the cutting edge, without reporters like this one sniffing them out a second time.
As I stood in the sunlight peeking out from the darkly contrasting clouds on my peripheral, I remembered a mantra from the night before, which was scrawled onto my arm in an unknown ink-like substance:
NEVERTOWORRYABOUTWHOMYOUMAYKILL IFALLYOUCONSUMEISCONTAINEDIN A PILL
For now, being ven is still quite a niche life decision, but who knows?