One Month At A Time

Things I’m not eating

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Over the last week, a lot of people have asked me to clarify what it is I mean by vegan.

By definition, a vegan is someone who abstains from the use of animal projects. So, here’s what I’m not eating.

1- Meat, which includes, but is not limited to meat. Meat is defined as tissue or material taken from any animal (alive or dead) whether it crawls, walks, runs, scurries, trots, saunters, hops, rolls, slithers, or lies perfectly still.

In addition, this also includes creatures that fly, swim, burrow in the earth or cling to rocks, trees, or the bumpers of minivans. Specifically, this means beef, chicken, pork, fish or anything even vaguely similar like deer, ducks, hamster or snake –plus bugs, but I didn’t eat insects to begin with.

2-Eggs. Any egg from any creature, regardless of it’s place of origin is considered forbidden.

Hypothetically, I could try to eat a dinosaur egg, which over millennia has been petrified and turned to stone. I think 100 million years is a reasonable statute of limitations on organic matter, but I’m not going to eat a rock because that’s silly.

3-Milk and products made using milk. Milk can be defined as a nutritive liquid manufactured by (mostly) female mammals to feed their young. If milk can be derived from lizards, it’s also off-limits. I do not know if lizards can give milk. I suspect not, but honestly haven’t checked.

Milk products include cheese, cheese sauce, sour cream, yogurt, more cheese, and the types of ice cream most people consider worth the trouble of eating to obliterate any diet.

4-Animal by-products. This is harder to pin-point because, generally speaking, they all sound horrifying to the average person. For instance, isinglass, is made from the dried swim bladders of fish. It’s used in the clarification of some beers. Isinglass sounds pretty benign. On a can of beer, “Made with isinglass” sounds OK, maybe even cool. “Made with dried fish bladders” probably only appeals to people who rely on fish for a large portion of their diet and aren’t so squeamish –like 8th century viking warriors.

5-Brussels Sprouts. I just hate ’em.

Vegan: Day One

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My first vegan meal was nothing special. It was Kroger brand oatmeal prepared with a little peanut butter and some sugar.

This was sort of an unremarkable beginning to being a vegan. I’d considered starting off with something more exotic, something that loudly declared, “I am a Vegan,” but it was 9 o’clock in the morning, New Year’s Day. Loud noises were to be avoided at all costs.

I had some other elaborate vegan/health-conscious sounding food in the house. While visiting my sister in Tennessee, she’d gifted me with all kinds of stuff from her kitchen, including “Super Oats Chia nuts and seeds” hot cereal blend and two bags of Simply Balanced Rainbow quinoa.

The quinoa vexed me a little. I wasn’t entirely sure on the pronunciation, and I’d had a bad experience with it.

A couple of years ago, after the weird grain became a super food darling, I bought some and tried to prepare it. The package I bought indicated you were supposed to wash the quinoa before you cooked it. So, I rinsed it off and strained it through the only thing I had –a plastic colander, like the kind you’d use to drain spaghetti.

Most of the tiny, atom-like grains poured right through the colander with the water and went right down the drain.
My sister laughed, and then gifted me with a small sieve.

Oats and other things.
Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy

I wasn’t quite ready to try it out, so, I stuck to the oatmeal.

It was filling and not all that different than what I typically have –boring, but oats are good for you.

Lunch was just some fruit. I really wasn’t that hungry, but dinner, I thought, needed to be something special.

The day before I’d settled up my 40 cent fine with Kanawha County Public Library and gone on a binge in the cookbook section of the downtown branch.

They had a really decent selection of vegan cookbooks. I checked out “Hearty Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites,” “The Joy of Vegan Baking,” and “Vegan with a Vengeance” because the cook on the cover looked a little punk rock and cool, like a roller derby girl –and I wanted to be cool, too.

I also picked up “Vegan on the Cheap,” because I am who I am, which is often underfunded.

Honestly, despite the pretty pictures, many of the recipes were kind of daunting, used ingredients I wasn’t really familiar with or wanted to dive into right off. I’m all for an adventure, but somehow marinating tofu for a stir fry seemed a little depressing.

But I took my time and found something in the “Vegan on the Cheap book” called Peanutty Pumpkin Stew. It had a bunch of ingredients, but none of them were particularly exotic –unless parsley comes across as exotic. Nothing came from the specialty section of the grocery store and none of it cost very much –a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of light kidney beans, a can of pumpkin.

I might have spent four bucks on the ingredients.

The book said it could be eaten by itself or served over rice. Making rice seemed like a pretty good backup plan. I could always heat up some frozen broccoli and drench the stuff in soy sauce or something if I failed, but the stew seemed like a pretty good bet.

And it was easy. Outside of chopping up one onion, one potato and one carrot and mincing one clove of garlic, it was mostly just empty a can of this or a can of that into the soup pot and remember to stir.

Other than having to go back to the grocery store to buy a can of pumpkin (I thought I had one left from Thanksgiving), the recipe went off without a hitch, and was awesome.

Regretfully, the photogs for the Charleston Daily-Mail do not live in my house. The picture would like nicer if any of them did.

The stew was a really interesting mix of textures and flavors which included peanut, curry, chili peppers and peas.
According to the notes, the recipe made four to six servings, but with the rice, I got quite a bit more; and ate it for lunch and dinner the following day.

I’ll try to get permission to post the recipe.

Going Vegan: Pre-game

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The trouble with going vegan was that I wasn’t the only person living in my home.
I broke the news to my boys that I was going Vegan just before Christmas. I told them, starting January 1, I wouldn’t be buying or consuming any meat, cheese or eggs, and would instead be cooking up lots and lots of vegetables.
My eldest said, “Good luck with that, Dad. I’ll just buy my own.”
And he could. He works at a grocery store.
The youngest just stared at me, wide-eyed and alarmed. He had no idea what that meant exactly, but it didn’t sound good.
“What will we eat?” He asked.
The 10-year-old is a notorious picky eater and not fond of my cooking unless it involves a lot of sugar.
I told him he’d be eating what he usually eats here –a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and fresh fruit.
The kid likes apples and will eat them by the bushel sometimes.
I also promised that if he wanted cheese I’d get it for him.
People at work asked me what I was going to do in the meantime –as if somehow doing this was a lifelong commitment and not one that lasted around 30 days. They wanted to know, what was going to be my last meal? What was going to be the last piece of meat?
Well, with about a week to get it done, I ate all the animals. I ate their eggs. I drank their milk.
I cooked a pork loin, served it with rice and then and made sandwich after sandwich after sandwich. I fried omelets for breakfast, filled them with cheese and pork. I bought exotic cheeses –one of them was some kind of soft cheese cured with wood ash and aged in a remote cave somewhere in Eastern Europe, probably Transylvania.
I sliced it thin, ate it on toasted bread with an artichoke spread.
That’s what I ate on Christmas Eve while watching Albert Finny and Obi Wan Kenobi in the 1970 musical “Scrooge.”
On Christmas day, the boys and I made our usual pilgrimage to my favorite Chinese buffet. I ate chicken, beef, pork, and whatever they use in their sushi. I had crab Rangoon stuffed with cream cheese and would have eaten the greasy, little sausage dumplings (my personal favorite), but they didn’t have them.
Just after Christmas, I visited my sister and her family in Tennessee. On the way down, we grabbed cheeseburger at a hamburger joint. On the way back, we got drive-thru burritos at Taco Bell.
In between, my sister fed us bacon for breakfast, took us to lunch at fusion food place that served shrimp and gyro tacos with feta and then a German place for dinner, where I ate chicken schnitzel and potatoes fried in butter and ham.
Somehow, I also managed to wedge in several bowls of chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, and a steak grilled medium rare.
I’m not proud of any of this, but this is what I did in the days leading up to quitting meat. I made a complete pig of myself.
And I was going to pay for it.