Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Beginning of the End

There are many strange sorts of things about me, at least, if you're taking a typical American viewpoint they are. In my next few posts I'll cover some of them.

1) I am a vegan.

I originally became a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) during college after a speech communications class where I gave a persuasive speech on the benefits of a vegetarian diet. My boyfriend was a vegetarian at the time and thought it was rather hypocritical for me to spout such claims and then go home to eat a nasty, dorm hamburger. So I took up the challenge and went vegetarian for a month. It wasn't as hard as people seem to think it is. Once you get out of the mindset that every meal needs to include meat, it isn't hard to go without. Most omnivores I encounter believe that by becoming veg*n you must now consume mass quantities of tofu. Tofu looks weird and blobby, kind of like a dense, white jello when uncooked. Not exactly appetizing.

That is not the case though. Many meals can easily be made without meat. Burritos, pizza, pasta, most "ethnic" dishes like Chinese, Thai (watch out for fish sauce!), Indian, etc. etc. After a month, I got my free trip to the Shedd Aquarium and decided to stick with it. It was even easier in a dorm setting at a large state university where they were obligated to provide veg dishes.

But alas, come November I realized I'd have to go without the sacred turkey! Gasp! No! So I got back on the bandwagon for the most part, however I decided to stick with shunning red meat.

During the following year I mostly ate seafood and the occasional piece of chicken, which really saved me when I went on a school sponsored trip to China. Since most of the meals were decided ahead of time and were done family style, I'm pretty sure I would have wasted away eating only steamed rice and horrendously overcooked veggies.

My veg boyfriend and I moved in together towards the end of college and it got more difficult to make separate dishes, so I decided to go the full shebang again. I was finally able to find some vegetarian cookbooks that had ingredients I recognize and could get at the local Meijer. It was the best for both of us as he was primarily subsisting on yogurt, boxed mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and the occasional tofu and pasta dish.

The only other major lapse was eating some lobster. I really loved seafood back in the day and decided to eat some on a cruise, especially since it was already included in the price. What I found though was that it didn't taste as good as I remembered. Perhaps I got a sub-par batch of lobster, maybe my taste buds had changed, or maybe since it had been so long since I had it, I had bolstered its memory. Either way, I abandoned the lobster and yearned for more broccoli.

Recently I became a vegan (about 5 months ago) after reading more and more about the atrocities committed by the meat, dairy, egg industries (both the treatment of animals and the environmental impacts) and the health issues associated from consuming dairy. I have always believed that if you're a veg for the animals you should really be a vegan. Dairy cows and egg laying chickens can be treated far worse than the beef cattle.

Veganism turned out to be very accessible. I initially started out trying to just cook at home vegan. No more mac and cheese from scratch, no more homemade cheese pizza, no scrambled eggs for breakfast, but what about cookies? Muffins? Pancakes?

Turns out that it's really not that difficult to go from veg to vegan, especially if you're willing to try new things. My pancakes today taste just as good as the ones with eggs and butter, but are much healthier without the cholesterol. I have a new favorite cookie (Rocky Road from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar). My grocery bill went down, so I can try new foods without worrying about the extra expense. It really wasn't too difficult.

The only challenges, which aren't all that different from vegetarianism, is eating out. Restaurants are getting better at providing vegetarian options, but vegan meals can still be tricky to find. Calling ahead to find out if they can serve you is one way to avoid this issue. Many times chefs are willing to throw something animal free together. Eating at a friend's/family's home isn't too hard if you're willing to bring a dish to pass.

There are other, sort of strange, benefits of going vegan. Not having to obsess over cleaning. No raw meat, no raw eggs, no problem. You can finally ignore that sage advice from mom and lick that brownie bowl clean!

You end up trying meals you never thought of before. My current favorite food is not something I ever had while I was vegetarian: grilled avocado sandwiches. Make it like a grilled cheese, but mash up avocado, top with a slice of tomato and bean sprouts, sooooooo good! Pizza without cheese seemed like a terrible prospect, but top a crust with pesto and tomatoes, or tomato sauce and a slew of roasted veggies? Yum! Milkshakes made out of frozen banana, peanut butter, and chocolate sauce or chips? Delicious!

You stop going to fast food places. While some places have vegan options (Taco Bell is pretty vegan friendly, if you like that sort of thing), many don't. Why bother going to McDonald's, Wendy's, or BK? If I do want a quick meal out, these days I hit up Thai, Chinese, Chipotle, or Noodles. Saves you money, since you probably eat out less, and no one ever said McDonald's is good for you.

(Just saw this article today: )

Anywho, that's the first weird thing about me. More to come!

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