The chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide last week at 61, famously wrote in his 2000 memoir Kitchen Confidential: “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.” One can only imagine how Bourdain would have scoffed at pegan, an awkward new foodie word that’s meant to suggest a blend of paleo and vegan.
Pegan protein bars from Julian Bakery (Oceanside, California). A trademark for PEGAN THIN was registered to Julian Bakery on May 25, 2018.
Pegan appears to have been coined in 2014 by Mark Hyman, M.D., a prominent anti-vaccination activist who is also, confoundingly, the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. (“Functional medicine” was coined in 1991 by a nutritionist, Julian Bland, who was charged that year by the Federal Trade Commission with making false claims about how his products could alter metabolism and induce weight loss. Writing in the Science-Based Medicine blog in April 2016, the American surgical oncologist David Gorski called functional medicine “quackery,” “utter nonsense,” and “‘bait and switch’ designed to lower the standard of evidence required to justify a treatment.”)
Hyman also uses the term “paleo-vegan” to describe his diet plan, which is based on the Paleolithic fad diet, popularized by a 2002 book by Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet. Like paleo, pegan eating incorporates fruits, vegetables, seeds, and plenty of omega-3 fats; unlike paleo, and most definitely unlike vegan diets, it allows just a bit of meat “as a condiment.” No wheat, no dairy, very few beans and legumes, and almost no sugar (naturally – sanctimonious self-sacrifice is always a key element of fad diets).
My complaint about pegan is linguistic rather than dietetic. The “p” alone isn’t enough to communicate “paleo” – to do that we’d need something like palegan. (That coinage would still be a shitmanteau, though.) It’s also hard to know how to pronounce the word, because neither of the obvious choices is felicitous: Is it pee-gan or pagan? Is the stress on the second syllable, as with some pronunciations of pecan? Or is it pronounced like the third-person-plural conjugation of Spanish pegar (to paste, to stick together)?
Hey, it’s almost summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s just relax and have some ice cream, OK?