The Great Accidental Office Experiment (in Veganism)

I didn’t mean to undergo this office experiment.  I certainly didn’t mean to set off a brouhaha over eating habits.  It’s funny how a simple gesture can spiral into something else entirely.  Here’s what happened.

For work, I travel about town quite a bit.  One day, I was heading back to the office from a meeting and realized that the bus I was going to be taking stopped very near one of my favorite vegan bakeries.  This set off a series of thoughts in my head that went something like this:

“I’ll be passing right by Sweetpea Baking Company.”  →  “I love their cookies.” → “A cookie would be really good right now.  I should get one.” → “Maybe I should get several for my co-workers.  My office environment has been stressful lately.  It might be a nice treat.” → “Oh, and it’s World Vegan Day!  How great to treat everyone and support a local vegan business that I love on today of all days!  I will do it!”

So I did.

photo credit: nettsu via photopin cc

photo credit: nettsu via photopin cc

I used my afternoon break to hop off the bus and buy a box full of cookies and treats which I then took with me back to the office, delivered to the general office kitchen area, and promptly sent out an email to my co-workers that informed everyone:  “Vegan cookies are here.  Please enjoy.  Happy World Vegan Day!”

I fully expected that to be that.  I hoped people would enjoy them; I felt good about sharing something nice with everyone, and went about eating my own cookie (oatmeal raisin) while getting back to work.

What I didn’t expect was controversy, judgment, resentment, scorn, entitlement, or an inquisition.

But I got a bunch of all of that anyway.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some people that were just appreciative and lovely.  They said thanks and enjoyed an afternoon snack.  Others . . . not so much. There were, in fact, a few categories of other responses that I’d like to discuss a bit. Here they are.  The quotes included are ACTUAL statements that were made in response to vegan items being gifted/shared.

Confusing Response #1: Judgment/Scorn

  •  “Oh! I thought someone said there was bacon treats – not vegan treats!  I don’t want THAT.  Ugh.
  •  “I didn’t see any chocolate chip.  It looks like they have raisins.  They’re vegan with raisins, so they’re probably healthy. (Healthy was said with disgust.  Also, there actually WERE some chocolate chip ones, along with oatmeal raisin, pumpkin chocolate chip, and peanut butter.)

Confusing Response #2:  Resentment

“I had to go tell him [another co-worker] that there is holiday candy here, also, because he wants a treat, too, but sure doesn’t want to eat any of THOSE (please imagine derisive emphasis on this last word)”

Confusing Response #3:  The Inquisition & Disbelief

  •  “I really can’t believe this actually tastes good.”
  •   “Are you vegetarian? Vegan?  Where do you possibly find food to eat??  You must have a hard time eating!  It must be so expensive!  I don’t understand it.  No!  You’re wrong!  You can’t find vegetarian food cheaply!” (head shaking)

Confusing Response #4:  The Conspiracy Theory

Lots of whispering with bits and pieces overheard about why people have to bring their beliefs into the workplace, pushing vegan ideas onto others, and how annoying it all was to them in their day.

Yes.  This all really happened.

In an attempt to make a kind gesture, that had nothing to do with my politics, converting people to any particular type of lifestyle, or even discussing eating habits, all of this happened.

It was fascinating.  Fascinating is my polite word for it.

I’ll admit that I was hurt by these responses.  The fact that at least a few of my co-workers seemed to be so judgmental of what I brought, as well as seemed to have some sort of resentment over the fact that I didn’t bring non-vegan items for them (because meat-eaters can’t eat vegan foods, apparently?), was quite an unexpected surprise to me.

I have many thoughts about why this occurred, which I’m actually not going to delve into too deeply, so as not to ramble on with this too long.  But, I will say that it was truly an enlightening accidental experiment to see what assumptions people make about a person with such a singular piece of information given to them.  For instance, I like vegan baked goods so this must mean [insert a million assumptions here] about me.  It was also intriguing to see people’s defenses go up immediately when they felt their habits or ways of eating/living were somehow being questioned or challenged.  Finally, it was a loud reminder of the misconceptions of plant-based eating and permissible shunning of those who engage in it.

And yet, I just wanted to share some goodwill and delicious cookies.


Disclaimer:  I am, in fact, not a vegan.  I am a vegetarian who eats very limited amounts of foods such as dairy and honey, which are generally off a vegan menu.  I happen to particularly like eating vegan baked goods and love the treats at Sweetpea Baking Company. 

68 comments on “The Great Accidental Office Experiment (in Veganism)

  1. Mary says:

    Sweetie, you don’t have co-workers you have co-irkers. So sorry that such a simple and lovely gesture was so poorly received. You deserved better.

  2. SeitansMinion says:

    Ugh. That kind of response is why I don’t tell people that they’re eating something vegan until they’ve eaten it. And even then, the response is usually shock that something that was vegan actually tasted good/normal. It feels a tad insulting, but also good because you’re winning people over. 🙂

    I’m sorry your generosity wasn’t appreciated, and that some of your coworkers were rude to you. I hope they realize what jerks they were being.

    • Thank you! And, for the record, we are having our holiday office meal/party next week. I’m bringing a quinoa cranberry salad that just happens to be vegan. I may be the only one who eats it – but at last I know it will be good! 🙂

  3. veggiereader says:

    ugh! people can be ruuude. I get that a lot sometimes and I just think that vegetarians and vegans get scorn or resentment because the lifestyle is seen as an ethical/moral or whatever you wanna call it stand on something that majority of the people do. And to them, it seems as if you have passed a moral judgment on them for eating meat. I think thats where the resentment comes in. it doesn’t matter that everyone has their own reason for not eating meat.

  4. Joanne says:

    Ugh I”m so annoyed and disgusted by your coworkers. If it weren’t for you there would have been no treats at all, and no one was forcing them to eat anything! If you don’t have anything nice to say…

  5. lifewithpepper says:

    I can totally relate! As a matter of fact, I brought a tray of gorgeous chocolate cupcakes to work last week. I told everyone they were vegan. Not one cupcake was eaten. We moved them to the coffee area and didn’t say a word that they were vegan. They were gone in 10 minutes….

  6. A simple ‘no, thank you’ would have sufficed.

  7. drgiddy says:


    It has amazed me this year the responses I have gotten…

    You definitely describe the typical responses.

    I can only recall 2 other decisions in my life that have caused other people (whom I care about deeply) to react with such negative feelings – 1. My decision to live for God & 2. My in-laws reaction when they learned I wanted to marry their daughter.

  8. […] Eat Create for reminding me we’re all on different journies with her story about  vegan cookies at […]

  9. More Than Greens says:

    I took home-made vegan cookies to my office a little while back and didn’t tell anyone until after they’d eaten them. One response was “How does THAT work?” I don’t know if it was really an insult but I thought it funny that it was such a bizarre concept to someone. You mean there’s no eggs, butter or milk in that and it still tastes good?!

    Like you, I am a vegetarian that really loves vegan baked goods. =)

  10. Lauren B says:

    Wow, I wish I was stunned by how rude your coworkers are.

    I do follow a vegan diet, and I’m the only vegan at my work. I only have one coworker who will completely refuse anything I make for work events because it is vegan. Apparently nothing she eats is vegan.

  11. Author says:

    People like that are just mad cuz they don’t get it.
    They all need to check themselves cuz vegan or not, you brought in goodies for the office and how the responded was crazy disrespectful.
    I would have gladly eaten all your vegan cookies and not given you shit 🙂

  12. TuesdaySue says:

    So true! I get so sick of the question, “So why are you vegetarian?” because no matter what I say it ends in the questioner giving a long justification of their own meat-eating!

  13. Mileage Mama says:

    I wish I worked with you … more vegan cookies for me! I’m not even a vegan OR vegetarian, but I do believe in the benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet. Plus my son has a dairy allergy, so we love vegan baked goods at our house.

    I agree with the other posters, it’s a lot of fun to share treats WITHOUT telling people what is, or isn’t, in them. I have an awesome cookie bar recipe that has spinach in it. I’ve taken them to parties … people love them and have no idea they are eating a green vegetable. (Insert evil laugh here.)

  14. Jennifer Szescula Flanagan says:

    It is so odd how people get all worked up, angry, in a tizzy and defensive if you tell them you eat differently than they do. All you did was share yourself and what you love – I’m so sorry they were all so ridiculous about it. Then again, I do know some of the responses having gone vegan and now somewhat vegetarian. I still eat anything YET still get the comments and “we are just thinking about your health – concerns.” Rock your vegan cookies and your way of eating! Know you have the support of many others who think about what they do before they do it and aren’t afraid to think outside the “norm!”

  15. Cam says:

    Wow. As a fellow Portlander, I’m rather shocked at the vitriol for freely given treats. We live in SE PDX (Hawthorne/Belmont area) and while we eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals, we’re actually some of the only omnivores as most of our neighbors are either vegetarian or vegan or pescetarian so I’ve come to think that vegetarianism/veganism are fairly understood if not accepted… but I guess not. Thank you for being a kind person who wants to share and maybe your intolerant co-irkers (loved that!) will learn respect for others if not tolerance 🙂

  16. I am an accidental vegan on the reg! But, I really like butter. And cheese. And sometimes, there’s just no replacing those! However, vegan baking can be really great. I think people eat vegan sometimes and don’t even know it.

  17. karin says:

    I have brought in some delicious vegan cupcakes to share at work. A co-worker said-“I thought they were going to be dry but they weren’t..they were really good.” Compliment? I’ll take it as one. Then goes the conversation as to what all the icing and cake are made from.

  18. Maurie says:

    Great post! I just smiled and nodded my head. This has happened to me over several different things, not just sharing food. Great observations, I hope you’ll just keep sharing things no matter what the response…it can be hard after an experience like that! By the way, thanks for the like on my recent food post.

  19. writeknit says:

    It was rude of them to dis your treats. I also love dropping bits of info about my self to people that don’t really know me and see the reaction ( I once mentioned running a 5K to my boss who responded in a shocked voice, ” You RUN??” . Yup and I’m not skinny. LOL)

  20. SAdly people are put off by the idea of Vegan food. I generally don’t tell them until after they have eaten it and loved it 🙂

  21. lebrian c says:

    I was vegan for almost two years, and in the course of my experiment, my entire family “converted”. I recently started eating dairy/meat again and I’m getting responses similar to the ones you received from my family! “Why are you eating meat? That’s so sad! Don’t eggs have a lot of cholesterol? Chicken has more fat than chicken substitutes, etc.” The funny thing is, I remember getting a lot of flack for being vegan, too! Diet is a personal choice and I don’t understand why it matters so much to other people, considering that what I put in my own mouth has no affect on them. Also, I love sweet pea! I used to live in Portland. Love this post.

    • Thank you! And, I certainly wish you a flack free eating experience, whatever your food choices may be! Plus, I’m always glad to meet someone who loves Sweetpea. It makes me want a cookie!

  22. dawnontheville says:

    keep fighting the good fight! 🙂 in the end, you will be the healthier, less absent, happier worker while they are all out ill, with the flu, and mounting health problems. good for you for trying to promote a healthier lifestyle! if you are ever in louisville, we should go for a jog! lots in common.

  23. They are pigs and don’t deserve your cookies. Here’s an idea. Bring regular cookies and announce that there are “Atheist Cookies” available in the break room. See which brings about more scorn: Vegan vs. Atheist. I’ll look forward to the results of your experiment.

  24. berealyoga says:

    Oh my gosh, we’ve all been there! I have had the exact same thing happen at my office — and now I say NOTHING about what is in (or is NOT in them cookies! 🙂 You’re a great writer and I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks!

  25. Thank you for stopping by my blog. Some people need to learn to be appreciative of what is given to them or not say anything.

  26. Hey! I’m vegan and I loved this post. I transitioned to a plant-based diet a year ago, and I can absolutely relate to what happened to you with those cookies. Anyway, you liked a post on my blog and I just stopped by your blog to thank you and say, “Hi.” I liked your blog so much, however; that I’ve decided to follow you.

  27. Reblogged this on Honk If You're Vegan and commented:
    I can so relate to this!

  28. Siddhartha says:

    Thats the sort of complicated world we live in.. people here are so busy judging situations that they’ve forgotten how to enjoy even the simple things..

    But people like you sure give hope..!! I’d any day LOVE to be your co-worker.. 😀 (Oh and by the way i love all sorts of cookies.. raisins, choco chip.. love em all ) 😛

  29. Kristen says:

    Awwww… sorry to hear your lovely gesture was not well received. I mentioned to one of my girlfriends at work that I’ve been making a lot of vegan dishes and she actually wrinkled her nose. It seemed like an instinctual reaction and we laughed about it. But then, later that week, I secretly brought in some vegan cookies and guess who LOVED them… my nose-wrinkling friend 😉
    Just goes to show that people’s notions about vegan food are often so wrong… I love to show people how yummy vegan food can be (even if they never know it) 😉

  30. PM says:

    You can stop by my office with your lovely baked treats any day! 🙂

    P.S. I feel really lucky. My co-workers have either been very supportive or respectfully inquisitive or just not made a big deal about it. One even said he is eating less meat now. And another coworker made some homemade vegan soup (he’s not even vegetarian!) and brought it as a treat for me. I just wanted to pass along that there are some amazing and positive people out there. Sorry more of them don’t work with you. Great post. 🙂

    • Ha, ha, thank you so much! It is good to hear from others with kind stories to tell about this type of thing! I’m moving to a different position in a few weeks, so I’m hoping my new office mates will be more open about it. 🙂

  31. […] The Great Accidental Office Experiment (in Veganism) :  Good intentions in the office apparently don’t always pay off! […]

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