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Vegan at the Bend: Even something like enjoying a cupcake is a symbolic act

The Yummy Cupcakes franchise in downtown South Bend has been open since June 2014. When I wrote a previous blog about trying to find vegan desserts around town, some others in the know suggested I try Yummy Cupcakes, as they always have a vegan cupcake option or two. They also warned me to go early in the day because they sell out of those vegan cupcakes by the afternoon.

Cupcakes are not my favorite sweet treat. I prefer more complex textures (dare I say, adult food?) such as the crepes at The Creperie and the apple crisp at Purple Porch Co-op. I have been sneaking into Whole Foods to buy some of the vegan desserts made by the Chicago Diner. These are sumptuous sweet treats with creamy layers and spongy cake. But unfortunately, Chicago Diner makes liberal use of palm oil in its desserts and most palm oil is unethically sourced. Some vegans avoid palm oil for ethical reasons even though it is nominally a plant product. According to One Green Planet, standard sources of palm oil destroy rainforests while doing untold environmental damage and harm to the animals who live there. However, there are some products with ethically and sustainably-sourced palm oil.

I decided to give Yummy Cupcakes a try — nothing wrong with expanding my list of vegan sweet options around the Bend! My first visit was in the early afternoon Oct. 29, when the vegan cupcake flavors were red velvet and cookies and cream. The franchise makes use of frequent buyer incentives and mobile marketing techniques and soon, I had signed up for its Five Stars Reward Program and began to get text messages about a free cupcake for joining — well, that’s fun. So I pretty much had to go back before that coupon expired and the vegan flavors were snickerdoodle and chocolate espresso. Both times, I bought two of each flavor, which was perfect for the four-cupcake packaging.

The cupcakes were all delicious, sugary treats. To me, the flavors I tried were only subtly different and perhaps some of the other flavors (say, orange or coconut) might be more distinctive. Nevertheless, they hit the sweet spot, addressed that sugary craving, and my husband and I had no trouble finishing them off. If you love cupcakes, you will not be disappointed with Yummy Cupcakes.

As the conscientious vegan and the writer of this blog, I had the responsibility to inquire about ingredients. The women behind the counter assured me there was no dairy in it and when I asked, no eggs either. So I asked about palm oil. They said it has ‘vegetable oil,’ but doesn’t palm oil count as vegetable oil? They couldn’t tell me any more about the ingredients because they are a trade secret and I think that is fair. Then, one of the women said the founder of Yummy Cupcakes was a vegan herself, which is something I could not find any evidence for.

With all my repeated questioning about ingredients, the servers asked what I was specifically allergic to. I explained veganism is an ethical position and that I don’t want to kill animals for the sake of a sweet treat. 

Veganism is a social justice movement and as such, it is about reducing harm to other animals and is not a diet. As an indication of this, our  Liberation Pledge took the front page of Huffpost Green recently. By acknowledging veganism is a moral stance and not a personal choice, we are refusing to sit at tables where the bodies of animals are being served. For a vegan, even buying and eating a cupcake is a symbolic and political act, as much as it is about satisfying a sweet tooth. 

For more tips and tales of dining vegan in Michiana from Rama Ganesan and her fellow meatless maven Crystal Hallwood, sign up for the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.

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