The new vegans: Thomas Allen

Jason E. Kaplan
Thomas Allen, brunching at the Back to Eden bakery in Portland

Thomas Allen, an attorney with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, talks about why he became vegan, favorite restaurants and how to answer pesky questions from well-meaning friends and relatives.

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Why I’m vegan

There was never a specific reason. I was never a big fan of meat, so it just suited my preferences to begin with. Then it transformed into something more environmentally conscious — the amount of water it takes to consume a pound of ground beef compared to the amount to grow some sort of vegetable. I watched documentaries on Netflix that highlighted animal cruelty. [Allen became vegan in 2012.]


It wasn’t easy at first because I lived in rural California. Unlike Portland, there are not many options in Redding, California. Eating out was tough. Chipotle was the only restaurant that advertised as vegan in Redding. [Allen moved to Portland in June 2016.


It’s not very difficult in Portland. Even restaurants that don’t cater to vegans always have options that are vegan or they are willing to accommodate. The biggest issue is get-togethers with friends or family at someone’s house.  Every year I go to Thanksgiving in Santa Cruz. My family still asks me: “Do you eat butter?  Do you eat fish?”  I definitely receive quite a bit of flack. Even when I go to conference things here, people look at my food.  But it’s not mean-spirited; it’s all in good fun. 


Where I eat

I eat out more than I eat in. It’s easier with my 7-year-old son.  He is not vegan. His mom — [we’re divorced]— isn’t vegan or vegetarian. I don’t want to push my dietary preferences.  He does ask me sometimes: “Why don’t we eat meat at Daddy’s house?”  I tell him: “This is not my lifestyle.” He doesn’t get meat when we go out to Por Qué No?, and I don’t tell him he can’t.  

In my refrigerator

I usually don’t have much in my fridge. You would find hummus; broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts; almond milk; vegetable broth; Thai curry paste; apples and kiwis; cucumber.  I do make tofu scrambles with sweet potatoes and nutritional yeast and other seasonings.

No processing

I try to steer clear of processed stuff. Tofu is about as processed as it gets. I try to steer clear of fake meat, like Tofurky. A place in Portland recently started offering vegan hamburger that actually bleeds. At that point, it’s so chemically engineered — the more you mess with something, the scarier it gets. 

Beyond food

I’m not vegan beyond food, but I don’t seek out buying leather clothes. That’s a whole other realm in my mind. It makes sense. You’re going to do one; why not do the other. At first it was hard to find vegan restaurants. And I imagine it’s harder to find vegan men’s dress shoes and boots. I could see myself doing that in the future.  

 This article is part of a feature package on the vegan economy published in our May 2018 issue.  Read more vegan coverage here.