Archive | December, 2011

Coming Out to Your Family

16 Dec

Admitting any truth about yourself to your parents is difficult. They raised you a certain way, and how you turn out could either work with or against their intentions. Did my parents raise a vegan? Hardly. I remember the first time I went vegetarian, in 5th grade. I read in a teen mag about Alicia Silverstone’s love for animals and her commitment to not eating them, and I was inspired. I was obsessed with dogs, because they always seemed to love me when all the kids at school thought I was weird, so I totally related to Alicia’s point of view – animals are friends, not food. I went veggie, and my poor parents tried their best to support me. My mom sautéed slabs of unpressed tofu in light Caesar dressing (which probably had fish in it) and microwaved veggie burgers for me, but we both got tired of the charade. The food was nasty and mom didn’t want to cook me a separate meal. Plus, I was still a picky kid who turned her nose up to most veggies. The intention was there, it just wasn’t my time yet.

My next flirtation with vegetarianism came during Lent of my junior year of high school. I’ll emphasize flirt because I only gave up land animals at the time, and gave them up for the requisite 40 days. This worked, because my mother mostly made chicken, fish, and pasta. If she made chicken, I could have leftovers from the night before, no problem. I got through the weeks feeling pretty good, but Easter was a disaster. I dug into the festive ham and soon became violently ill. My insides were rioting against me!!! Given the much needed break, my body could finally tell me how it felt about meat, and it was nothing good. Since then, I’ve been able to keep land animals out of my diet, without much fuss from my parents. We’re mostly a fish family, anyway, so it worked.

Over a year ago, my father started complaining about lactose-intolerance, and how dairy made him feel. I couldn’t relate, because (TMI!!!) I’ve always had difficulty going to the bathroom, but then a light went off. Even though he was reacting one way, maybe 24 years of dairy had actually constipated me. I found a non-dairy milk I could stand (almondmilk, I love you) and took it from there. I went a month dairy-free and a hundred problems I didn’t even knew I had cleared up almost immediately. When I indulged in cheese once after that, the signs of lactose-intolerance reared its ugly head and that was that. I self-diagnosed myself and again, my parents supported me, especially easy since it was a family problem!

For whatever reason, giving up eggs seemed to go with the dairy-free territory and there was no momentous occasion for that at all. But again, after a few months off of them, eggs made me sick. It made me really start to wonder what kind of crap our bodies put up with every day so that we don’t all become violently ill on a regular basis, even though they’re repulsed by what we feed them.

All of that my parents supported without much of a whimper. I mean, It helps that I no longer live at home and don’t depend on my mother to feed me. But now that I’m back for a few weeks on break, I’ve had a few chances to break the vegan news.

1. At the grocery store, my mom suggested I pick up Vegenaise so we can make tuna fish sandwiches. I respond, “I’m not really into that anymore.” She says, “Oh.” *crickets*

2. My brother (a cute kid with autism, who’s the best ice breaker ever) asks, “Shannon, are you a vegetarian?” I say with great confidence for the first time in my life, “Why yes, yes I am!” My dad overhears and snidely remarks, “Well, sort of.” I say, “No, actually, I’m vegan now. For real.” He says nothing.

AHHH. I can’t tell if they’re cool with it or not!!! I make all my own food now when I’m home, so that’s not an issue, but I think it further limits what we can eat as a family together, and that sucks. I hate that my favorite aunts don’t know what to feed me anymore. But I do enjoy the opportunity to make my family delicious vegan food that’s not weird or out there, just yummy.

Tomorrow is Little Christmas, an annual gathering of my mom’s sisters and family to exchange small gifts, play games, and catch up before the big holiday. I made pumpkin macaroni casserole, a rip from Veganomicon’s pumpkin ziti (can you guess the difference?), and Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles, which can be found here. I’m not even going to tell anyone they’re vegan! I gotta let the food speak for itself – vegan food is normal food.


Bucket List

3 Dec

There are the kind of people who can quit cold turkey, and then there are others who need that final goodbye. December has been dedicated to revisiting my favorite non-vegan eats and evaluating what about them I like so much, and how I can live without them starting January 1, 2012. I’ll update this post throughout the month as I cross things off or think of new ways to desecrate my body one more time. I see green smoothies in my future.

1. Umami “Earth Burger”
This was the first to cross off from my bucket list, as I haven’t had it in a really long time but remembered it very fondly. A mushroom and edamame patty topped with white soy & truffle aioli, ricotta cheese, cipollini onions, butter lettuce, and an oven-roasted tomato on a brioche bun. Seriously the best veggie burger I have ever had, but NOT vegan friendly in the least. Even if you take off the cheese and aioli, you still can’t have the bun, and who knows what other things they stuff in the patty to keep it together.

I got it with a side of tempura onion rings (I’m just going to guess and say they’re also on the no-no list, as a lot of tempura has egg in it), popped a lactaid pill, and went to town. Impression? Overwhelming. The butter in the bun was almost nauseating, I had trouble focusing. Instead of being the mind-blowing burger I had remembered, it was kinda gross and no longer my style. I’m happy to say goodbye and move on. WOOT. Shannon: 1, Non-Vegan Food: 0

2. Wawa, “Egg Salad Ciabatta with Pepper Jack”
I grew up with Wawa, the amazing convenience store on the East Coast, and as a little omnivore, the world was my oyster and I was incredibly fond of their turkey and cheese sandwich. When I gave up red meat and poultry, I had to get a little creative, and discovered my new fav – egg salad with pepper jack cheese on ciabatta. I know, it sounds weird, but I even got my mom hooked on it, it was so good. My last visit home, I decided to give this guy a whirl, for ol’ time’s sake.

IT SUCKED SO HARD. After having M Cafe’s Tofu Dill Salad, I have been ruined for all egg salads to come, and good riddance. I also felt nasty for about a day and had to do some serious green smoothie detoxing to recover. I almost feel tempted to give a point to Wawa for almost killing me, but since I can now say NO THANK YOU with confidence, I think I win. Shannon: 2, Non-Vegan Food: 0.

3. Joan’s on Third “Mac & Cheese”
Admittedly, this is the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had (hence why it’s “bucket list” quality), and I was worried I’d find nothing wrong with it. Upon further inspection, it’s not that special, even with its variety of cheeses and perfectly crusted top. It’s greasy, heavy, leaves a film in my mouth, and kinda flavorless. Also, I had to pop a ton of lactaid and digestive enzymes to get it down, but STILL I’m left uncomfortable and a little socially unacceptable (sorry, TMI, but you lactose intolerant kids know what’s up). Good not great, and definitely not worth the physical toll. I CAN DO THIS. Shannon: 3, Non-Vegan Food: 0.

4. Milk “Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Sandwich”
I used to be certifiably hooked on these delicious morsels – excellent cookies & cream ice cream squished between two chocolate macaron shells. I never had anything like it before, and considering how macarons are made, I doubt they’ll ever be vegan. My fiancé, Sam, is OBSESSED and is either eating a sandwich or straight up ice cream from Milk pretty much every day. For most of this last year, I used to stare at him with envy. Finally, I am able to break the spell. I ate one and it was…. just okay. The macaron shells are more of a novelty than anything else, and the ice cream was just so sweet, it made my teeth hurt. Have my taste buds completely changed after a year of being mostly dairy-free? I used to go nuts for this stuff! Sam often describes his experience as a “mouthgasm.” Where’s the magic now? No matter, I’m just happy to say sayonara and lose the jealous stare. Shannon: 4, Non-Vegan Food: 0

5. Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya
This one breaks my heart a little. It’s “our” restaurant, where we go for every celebration, from projects finished to birthdays. Sam is a picky eater, and this was one of the few places we could actually share food. Last night, we went to celebrate his birthday, and for me to bid adieu to fish. We had a feast, and I was able to recognize why sushi has been so important to me when I’ve been able to eschew everything else, including cooked fish. Being able to share food with someone I love is a big deal, and we’re having less and less common ground the more vegan I become. He doesn’t even bother ordering anything at Café Gratitude or Real Food Daily – he’ll come with me, but I’ll eat alone. It sucks! The other draw of sushi is the texture and mouthfeel, which mostly comes from fat. Thankfully, the earth has given us plenty of fat (hey avocados!) and most sushi restaurants have at least a few veggie rolls. I’m not excited to start finding out which of my apparently vegan Japanese foods actually have fish sauce or egg, but that’s why I’m devoting a year to this, because I don’t want to eat ignorantly anymore. Shannon: 5, Non-Vegan Food: 0. Winning!

6. Urth Caffe’s Coconut Custard Pie
Be still, my heart. I never considered myself a huge coconut fan, but a slice of this pie had me doing backflips. Toasted coconut, eggy custard, graham crust, and so unvegan it’s a crime. I still totally love this, but I will take that passion and use it for good – I will veganize it!! Lest trying shall kill me first. Come on, no eggs eggy custard…

I prevail! Shannon: 6, Non-Vegan Food: 0.

7. Giovanni’s Pizza
East Coast pizza – does it get any better? Giovanni’s is my absolute hometown FAV, and I’m gonna miss it. There are a few different outposts, but they’re all kitschy Italian greatness. I said goodbye to cheese pizza and mozzarella sticks on a rainy winter night, and it felt good, because greasy cheese is awesome, but it’s no longer for me. I’ve had some excellent vegan pizza back West, so I think I’ll be okay on that front. Mozzarella sticks are pretty much over, but think of all the other cheesy goodness I can get with Daiya and Teese without supporting the dairy and veal industries! Also, Doomie’s have these amazing deep fried avocados that are the best thing I ever put in my mouth. Really, I won’t be at a loss for high fat yummy junk food reminiscent of my college days. Vegan pizza will be mine! Shannon: 7, Non-Vegan Food: 0. Rock hard!!

8. Tria
I saved the best for last. My name is Shannon, and I’m a wine-and-cheese-aholic. I love Tria because I can chat with my friends for hours while snacking and sipping on delicious wine. I still adore the ritual and will miss this place, which has zero vegan options, but I can make do at home. Dr. Cow cheese is nut based and perfect on crackers. I just wish it was offered in traditional wine bars! Sigh, maybe one day.

The Beginning of the End

2 Dec

I’ve been flirting with veganism for the last year and a half.  I haven’t had red meat or poultry since I was 16, but it was only more recently that I discovered dairy hated me big time.  I turned to the veg-heads of the internet for advice, and found a whole new world of food.  But along with the delicious food, I discovered an important message – we have got to tread lighter on the earth if we want to have a place to live.

It was hard to digest at first.  I love sushi, but the research I read about how our oceans are being destroyed to supply our huge demand made me a little sick.  The fact that my favorite leather bag once was a loving animal who died too young set heavy on my heart.  The fuel I require to drive might force the US to issue a pipeline through precious land.  My comfortable lifestyle suddenly didn’t feel very comfortable at all.

So that’s why I’m dedicating the next year of my life to treading lighter.  I already eat 95% vegan – it’s time to make it 100%.  I’ll retire my bag and swear not to buy anything made from leather, wool, or silk for the entire year.  I’ll bring my own shopping bags to the grocery store, and consolidate my trips to conserve the most gas.  I’ll run outside instead of on a treadmill, and grow my own herbs.  It’ll be a year of conscious consuming, and I hope a year of practice will form habits that can spill over into the rest of my life.

The purpose of this blog is two-fold.  First, if I’m documenting my experience, it’ll hold me accountable.  Do I want to be publicly shamed for not being able to resist salmon sashimi?  Nope!  Second, I hope my journey will inspire others to live more consciously, even in little ways.  The reality is that I’m used to a certain standard of living, as are most people, and I hope to find ways to translate how I live now into a more sustainable way of life.  If everyone makes one small change here or there, that’s going to make a huge impact.

The thought of never having fine cheese or sushi again bummed me out big time, but a year?  I can do that.