I’ve been a vegan for four weeks, and I’ve decided I’m going to keep it up. For now.
Mind you, I’m not rigid about it (as I mentioned in comments in the previous post, I had some Gannons Isle homemade ice cream on Saturday). And I’m not going to bend myself into a pretzel to avoid every animal product and all the myriad uses they can be put to. A coworker, for example, mentioned some gins filtered using animal bones. If I happen to be fortunate enough to be offered a gin and tonic, I’m not going to interrogate the bartender about the processing of the gin.
In the past month, I’ve learned a lot of interesting, inspiring and annoying things related to going veggie, and I’ve read a few more books and blogs.
I still crave milk, cheese and yogurt, and the substitutes (soy milk, vegan cheese, almond milk, etc.) are not too impressive. But when you’re 20 pounds overweight, as I am, you’re getting the message that you’re eating too much of something (or, I suppose, everything) and the likeliest culprit, in my case, is dairy foods. Just because I like them so much, I’ll overeat them when given the opportunity.
On the other hand, a Freedom of Espresso (my local coffee shop) soy milk mocha latte from time to time is pretty good. At home, I lighten my coffee and tea with almond milk, and it froths up nicely and tastes fine, in its way. And I’m beginning to discover some of the many uses of tofu. For instance, I made some tofu-based ricotta, as a pizza topping, from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ Vegan With a Vengeance cookbook, and it’s delicious. Really! Floured tofu fried in oil is also quite yummy.
And, yes, I’m aware that soybeans contain phytoestrogens, and there’s some concern that eating too many processed-soy foods can cause undesirable adverse effects in people. However, I’d like to point out (as you probably know) that most conventionally raised dairy cows, beef cattle, chickens and turkeys are filled with hormones to promote growth as well as antibiotics to combat the bacterial illnesses that plague animals eating foods (like grains instead of grasses, in the case of ruminants like cows) that their bodies are not well-adapted to eat. So pick your additives; at least phytoestrogens are naturally occurring in soybeans.
Venturing into animal-product-free cooking has been one of the stimulating aspects to my experiment, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz (among the most famous vegan cookbook authors) has been a pleasant discovery.
On the other hand, I’ve had middling luck with the recipes in Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet–the book that propelled me on the vegan(ish) way. A lot of the ingredients she uses are astoundingly expensive. Her brownie recipe called for $12 worth of maple sugar. I substituted less-healthy white sugar. And the brownies, with substitutions, were very crumbly and not especially tasty.
I would need to experiment a bit more to determine how to compensate for the different properties of the ingredients I used. So the brownie failure is surely not Ms. Silverstone’s fault. That’s apart from the cluelessness–yes, I said it–that makes a person attempting to promote a vegan lifestyle employ an ingredient that costs $18 per pound in her recipes.
Her book describes two levels of eating–Vegan (no animal products) and Superhero (macrobiotic and ultra-healthy–supposedly). On the Superhero side, I made the Adzuki Bean and Kombu Soup, and I was unimpressed with its squishy blandness. And, unable to find the magical kombu squash, about which Ms. Silverstone rhapsodizes, I substituted butternut. I can only say: eh.
But the Dried Fruit and Walnut Cookies were delectable. No eggs–no problem!
I’ve also made several recipes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
I checked out Kim Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook from the library. Some of the recipes look simple and tasty, but I’m having a lot of trouble taking in the useful information she offers while overlooking her obnoxious “voice” or “brand.” That is: Thanks, Kim, but do not call me “bitch.” Because I hate it. I thought I could deal. But I don’t even like having the book and its “Bitch” on the cover in my house.
Ultimately, it’s been pretty easy to go vegan. I give my omnivorous husband and sons one or two vegan dinners a week–a stir-fry or legumes and rice–and the rest of the time, I make them something that has meat or cheese in it and fill in, for my dinner, with a tofu or seitan “main dish” along with the vegetable sides. (I made my own seitan! I didn’t love it to start, but it’s growing on me and the experiments are ongoing.) Sometimes I just eat a whole lot of sweet potatoes. Have you had them grated and sauteed in olive oil with garlic and fresh sage?And did you know that tofu is amazingly good (really, what isn’t?) when accompanied by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce?
So far I’ve found a lot to like about this new lifestyle. I’ve lost five pounds so far, and I am eating plenty of food. I’m learning all kinds of new things about different foods and I’m having fun solving the problem of “what to eat” in novel ways. And the uneasy feeling I’ve long had about my wasteful Western lifestyle has been quelled–okay, it’s not gone, but it’s a little less oppressive. Eating plants and plant-based foods has been good for me, and I don’t think it’s hurting anyone else. Maybe it’s even helping.