Back Twice Over

Long time no see, right?

Despite the craziness of the holiday season and everything else going on, I’ve decided to pick up the blog again. And before we dive in here, I have a confession to make:

I stopped being vegan.

And when I say I stopped, I mean, good god did I ever stop. There was no “Well I’ll just eat dairy and eggs” phase. I went straight from hugging cows and petting chickens to literally gnawing on them. Steak, man. Steak is really good, and that is really unfortunate on so many levels.

I couldn’t give you an exact date when I fell off the wagon, broke it into a thousand tiny pieces, and then set those on fire. It was in August some time. I think I know some factors that contributed to it though. See, I had to spend a week going into the office and thus packing lunch. That’s tricky enough for me, since I don’t do mornings and trips into the office often involve getting up while it’s still dark outside. Additionally, my doctor started me on some new birth control that made me feel like I was going to throw up anytime I ate.

What that turned into was eating nothing but crackers and bread with vegan cheese on it. By the end of the week, I snapped. I think I was just so nutriet deficient that my body nagged at me to eat the most nutrient-dense food it could come up with. It wasn’t steak that broke me. Or cheeseburgers or chicken wings, although all those things followed not too long after.

It was eggs. I was constantly daydreaming about fried, sunny-side-up eggs. Like, all the time. A few days into these vivid daydreams about delicious egg yokes the crispy egg white edges and fantasizing about eating that by itself or on toast with butter that I caved. I bought a dozen eggs and ate them all inside a week.

That same week, after my first eggy breakfast, I also ate steak and a bacon cheeseburger and I don’t even know what all else. Like, I said–I fell off the wagon and just started running.

Are you still reading? I feel like saying “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” except I’m an atheist, and apart from poetic value, those words don’t mean much to me. I will tell you this though–for my entire time as an omnivore again, I still ate at least one vegan meal a day. I still 100% agreed with veganism; I was just a fat chick with no self-restraint.

Here are some observations I made during that time. One, almost nothing that I daydreamed about tasted as good as I’d built it up to be in my head. The eggs were good, but they weren’t that good. Same with bacon, and real butter, and even cheese. (I’ll be fair though. Steak is still that good. And some cheeses are too. I did say “almost” nothing.)

Secondly, every time I ate meat, I felt grossly full, even when I didn’t eat that much of it. Sometimes that feeling of discomfort would stick with me for hours. I didn’t like it, but it was just such a damn commitment to go vegan again.

It’s easy enough to choose to eat beans or tofu instead of chicken for the span of a meal, even several meals, but to swear it off forever is intimidating as hell. I totally understand why people say “I could never be vegan.” I’ve said it. I think most people who are vegan have said it.

I did it again though, and once again, it was a pretty spontaneous decision. I watched a documentary and then immediately went into my kitchen and threw away every non-vegan item in there. I filled a huge garbage bag with frozen chicken breasts, sliced cheeses, rolled butter, eggs, bacon, and all sorts of other stuff. I wanted it out of my house.

Extreme? Maybe.

The documentary was “What the Health?” For those who aren’t familiar with it, the documentary exposes just how corrupt the meat industry really is. And by that, I don’t mean how they exploit workers or abuse animals or anything like that. It was way more simple than that. It’s about the lengths the meat industry goes to in order to hide how unhealthy meat actually is. In watching this documentary, I didn’t really learn much that I didn’t already know, but the information was presented in such a way that it really struck a chord in me.

Let me try to elucidate why:

I quit smoking about five years ago now. I don’t need to tell you why I quit smoking, because you know what cigarettes are and you know the effects they have on the human body. Anytime you tell anybody that you quit smoking, literally no one says “Why?” unless they’re being a smart ass.

One of the new bits of information I gained from “What the Health?” was the knowledge that processed meats (such as bacon, lunchmeat, sausages, etc) are considered Group 1 carcinogens, according to the World Health Organization, which is the same classification as cigarette smoke and asbestos.

Now, if I quit smoking–not that there haven’t been hitches along the way for that particular vice as well–but didn’t quit eating meat, what was the point of quitting smoking in the first place? I liked smoking, and I like bacon, but I’ve always been an all-or-nothing sort of person.

So, I pieced together an entirely new wagon and hopped back on it.

This was about a month ago, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving actually, and while you could easily make the argument that my timing is awful, I’d contend that it couldn’t have been better. What better time to change my eating habits than during the time of the year when it’s typical to make frequent unhealthy choices? And you know what? Since going back to veganism, I feel so very much better. Not just mentally and all that from not killing things just for food and lessening my carbon footprint, but also physically. Eating plant-based meals doesn’t make me feel bogged down and gross the way meat does.

That said, I will totally be making vegan Christmas cookies. You can’t eat healthy foods all the time, right? I sure can’t.

I will say this though: remember how whiny I was when I first attempted veganism? I missed cheese so so so much and I whined about it constantly. I didn’t like vegan dairy replacements, and I flat-out cheated more than once. This time around, it’s shocking to me how easy it is. I think it may be because I at least know what I can and can’t eat to a reasonable degree and I know of quite a few vegan alternatives that are pretty delicious and close to the real thing. (Violife cheese and literally anything made by Gardein, for instance!)

And now for some pictures of yummy things I’ve eaten in the last month because why not?

Advertisements

The Wagon

I want to talk a little bit today about the wagon. And by that, I mean veganism. Brace yourselves; this one will probably be a lengthy one.

My cousin got married yesterday. Despite having to work my full shift in order to get eight hours of free money for Memorial Day tomorrow, I was able to make it up to my hometown for the reception.

FB_IMG_1495983142851

Doesn’t she look gorgeous? The reception hall was beautiful and everyone was occupied stuffing their faces when I got there.

This reception was incredibly non-vegan, by way the, complete with at least three tables full of cookies (because that’s how we celebrate weddings in western PA–with literally enough cookies to kill you), as well as chicken, meatballs, Italian sausage, butter-drenched potatoes, butter-drenched green beans, and penne covered in parmesan cheese.

There was nothing I could eat, but I left as soon as my shift had ended and I was hungry. So, I ate. I had some potatoes (and told myself it might be margarine) and some beans (and told myself it also might be margarine) and I dug under the layer of parmesan on the penne and had some of that too. Also, some cookies, but there was no lie I could tell myself that would convince me that there weren’t eggs and butter in them.

Again, this is a western Pennsylvanian wedding, and you eat cookies. It’s what you do. People–particularly the people who spent a small fortune and about 84 hours of their lives making all these cookies–get offended if you don’t.

That’s not why I ate them though. I ate cookies because I wanted to. I kept it vegetarian though, which was not a total relapse, I suppose.

It wasn’t until some hours later that the wheels came off the wagon.

After leaving the reception, the boyfriend and I went to hang out with some other friends in town and eventually everybody got hungry. I’m reasonably sure that there are no vegan-friendly places in the dank hole in the world that is New Castle, Pennsylvania, so after some discussion wherein everybody tried to accommodate me and felt bad because my only option literally everywhere was some form of fried potato product, we eventually decided to go to a Chinese buffet we lovingly refer to as China B.

China B

What vegan options does China B offer? White rice and fried potato wedges. What did I eat at China B?

A couple chicken wings, some pork on a stick, crab rangoon, rice noodles with veggies and egg, mussels with cheese, some sushi with veggies and cream cheese, and I did actually have some fried potato wedges as well.

Did you hear that? It was the sound of the wagon bursting into flames.

We have a tendency, in these days of Instagram and Facebook, to only show off our good side. You see it all the time. People post selfies of their perfectly beach-blown hair while they’re on vacation, and of their newly planted herb garden. They don’t post pictures of five days worth of dirty dishes piled in their kitchen sink and they don’t post selfies of when they’ve spent two straight days on the couch wearing the same pajamas with their greasy, unwashed hair pulled up.

It’s so easy now to only show the world the moments you want them to see, and I could easily adopt that tendency with this blog as well. I’m certainly guilty of it on Facebook, but that’s not what this blog is for. That’s expressly why I choose “A Carnivore Experimenting with Veganism” as my subtitle. I have every intention of talking about it when I screw it up.

I do actually feel guilty, and none of it (with the sole exception being the mussels with cheese) was as good as I’d hoped. Here’s the thing though: The guilt comes from feeling like I cheated on a diet I was on and not so much from the fact that several animals had to be mistreated and killed for me to stuff my face yesterday. I’m still processing the implications of that, to be honest.

In the meantime though, just because the wagon fell apart doesn’t mean I can’t slap some duct tape on it and continue meandering down the road.

That’s what I’m going to do. I told myself I was going to write my blog confession first, as punishment, before I was allowed to eat breakfast. Now, I’m going to head downstairs and make some vegan blueberry waffles to enjoy with some vegan sausage.

 

Doubts and Assurances.

Brace yourselves; it’s gonna be a long one! It’s been a rough and tumble couple of vegan days over here.

Let’s start with Friday. Friday was a really good day, actually. It was my last day of having to get up early and go into the office, and the bank (I work for a bank, by the way) was cool enough to buy us all lunch. Now, I was super scared that “lunch” was going to mean pizza that I could stare forlornly at but not eat, but I was wrong.

Sidenote: I had decided early on not to mention my new dietary preferences because I didn’t want everyone to have to accommodate me.

What they ended up doing was letting us order whatever we wanted at Noodles & Company so I got Japanese Pan Noodles with Seasoned Tofu.

Another sidenote: I’m beginning to like tofu. I was certain I could never get past the texture. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong!

20170506_161531

There were a few good natured jokes made about the fact that someone was eating tofu, but it was tasty. Their loss! Friday continued being good even after that because we all got an extended lunch which I used to take a walk around the city. I even lucked out and the sun was out the whole time!

I actually love Pittsburgh, even though I still prefer to work from home. Nothing beats listening to music of your choice while you work, while wearing yoga pants and a hoodie.  I do miss being able to take scenic walks like this on my lunch break. It’s a trade off.

After work, I sat in rush hour traffic for the last time (for awhile anyways) and then came home and made vegan poutine. I was a little scarred of what vegan gravy would be like, but it was actually really good.

20170506_161440

Sidenote Again: Vegan cheese is still gross. Next time I’m going to leave the cheese out. More on that later.

Moving on to Saturday, I followed through on my plan to drag my boyfriend to a vegan restaurant, so after I finished working my overtime shift, we headed out to Loving Hut for their Saturday vegan buffet.

20170506_173409

This food made me love being a vegan. I literally don’t have enough words for how freaking delicious all of it was. (The boyfriend didn’t like much of it, but even he went back for seconds on the seitan pepper steak.)

Now, let’s talk about Sunday. Sunday was not a good day to be a vegan.

Having finally sampled seitan and discovering how versatile and delicious it can be, I decided to try making it. Twice, even.

I failed horribly both times. My first attempt was simmered seitan from one of the cook books I bought. It turned into inedible meat jelly. I think I didn’t knead it enough. The second time, I tried baking it from a recipe I found online. This time, the texture was closer to correct, but it wasn’t good at all.

Along with that seitan experiment, I attempted a version of vegan mac and cheese. It was also inedibly bad. Remember what I said about how I hate to waste food? Both seitan attempts and the vegan mac and cheese went straight in the garbage. (Also, an attempt at a vegan “cheezee” sauce from earlier in the day went straight in the garbage as well.)

Disclaimer: I have cooked long enough to know that not all recipes are winners. I would even go one further and say that sometimes you try something new and it fails so horribly that it ruins you for that particular food item for awhile.

I know seitan can be yummy. I just might not have that skill set and that makes me a little sad. The cheese thing is killing me though. I love cheese. I miss cheese. And I have yet to try a vegan alternative or substitute or creative hybrid that is not terrible.

I’ll be perfectly honest here. I sulked most of the night after these failed cooking attempts and wondered why I even thought I could do this vegan thing. I wanted to quit. I was close to quitting.

My boyfriend went to Hardee’s and came back with a bacon cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich and it just smelled so good. I watched him eat them while I forlornly nibbled the fries I asked him to get me, and  I was just so close to jumping in the car and coming back with a burger and chicken sandwich of my own.

I didn’t though. I told myself it wasn’t the first time I’d made a bad recipe and that there were other things I had yet to try.

This morning I knew I needed a good breakfast to get my head back in the game. Something vegan and tasty that would make me feel better. So I made a waffle with a banana in place of the egg, used peanut butter as my topping, and I decided to try some of the “Gimme Lean” (Haha!) vegan breakfast sausage I dubiously bought a week ago.

20170508_171410

I think it’s safe to say that I’m back in the saddle again. The sausage was better than I expected and at least I know I can buy seitan products even if I never acquire the skill to make it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the cheese thing, but at least I no longer feel hopeless about it.

Pretty Sure I Broke a Rule

Let me just preface this by saying I didn’t eat anything that came from an animal.

I’ve still been chugging along, eating leftover couscous and experimenting with something called Somen noodles (which are remarkably similar to angel hair pasta when cooked).

somen.jpg

Sometime this weekend, I plan to make seitan since I can’t find it at any store I’ve gone to, even the ones that sell vegan products. Plus, a coworker gave me a recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies and I do love me some chocolate chip cookies.

How, then, did I break a rule? Well, I didn’t eat meat, but I cooked meat. Is that bad? I don’t know.

See, I’m in school part time and I needed a proctor for my World Lit exam, and my boyfriend’s mother was cool enough to do it. As a thank you, I offered to cook her dinner. She’s not a vegan, is a fairly picky eater, and I know she likes chicken. Also, since I still have a freezer with various animal parts in it, at least it didn’t go to waste.

I might be playing around with a cruelty-free lifestyle, but I still hate wasting food. It’s my grandmother’s fault.

I still have butter in the fridge too, so I made a butter sauce (with thyme and garlic) to drizzle on the chicken and the brown rice and red peppers that went with it. It looked good. It smelled good. I’m told it was good, and I very much wanted to have some.

But I didn’t.

I watched her eat, lied and said that I already had, and then when she left a few hours later, I heated up some leftover Somen noodles with edamame and peanut sauce. It was also good.

 

All of the Oopsie Daisies!

Let’s start off on a happy note first!

I just ate a yummy dinner of couscous with red kidney beans, sautéed mushrooms, and scallions. Honestly, I was a little scared of how this would turn out. I make a pretty delicious vegetarian couscous with Kalamata olives, cucumber, roasted red peppers, fresh onions, lemon juice, and feta cheese, but the feta is totally the highlight of that dish. I wasn’t sure how to tackle couscous without it, but the answer was cumin, paprika, and garlic powder. I might add some fresh herbs next time for even more layers of flavor. I just didn’t have any today.

20170426_184618

Looks good, doesn’t it? Onto the bad news then..

Yesterday, I was accidentally not a vegan. But let’s back up for a moment, shall we?

Portable food is a difficult thing to manage. I work at home, but I’m in the middle of three straight weeks of having to go into the office to teach and mentor some new people we’ve brought onto the team.

Since I’m forced to drag myself, inch by traffic-congested inch, into downtown Pittsburgh during rush hour every morning, I’m also forced to brown bag it. This is the reason I’ve actually tried tofurkey. It’s also the reason that I screwed up yesterday.

I was in a hurry in the morning (shocker) and after packing my tofurkey on whole grain bread, my two clementines, and shoving a miniature sleeve of whole wheat Ritz crackers into my lunch box, I decided I would need more protein. Without reading the label, I dumped about a quarter of a cup of cinnamon almonds into a baggie, shoved it in my lunch box, and ran out the door.

Cinnamon. Almonds. Both of these things are plants. No way it’s not vegan, right?

…right?

When I got home nearly 12 hours later, the pack of almonds was still on my counter and I decided to double check the label.

Honey and evaporated milk were among the ingredients. Son of a…!

It only took three days to screw this one up. And this might sound weird, but I feel guilty about not really feeling all that guilty about it.

I decided to get back on the horse though. I kept it vegan for dinner last night and all of today. I will say this though: Remember a couple of posts ago when I said that coffee with almond creamer was perfectly fine? I may have been lying. Not just to all of you, but to myself as well. Since I waved good bye to the half and half, I’ve rather lost all enjoyment for coffee. Neither almond nor soy creamer is getting there. It’s just not creamy enough and the flavor is all wrong.

Non-vegans: If you wanted to try this whole veganism thing one day, and you like your coffee with cream like I do… sorry. I’ve got nothing–no optimistic niceties or work arounds. Hopefully, you’ll like the plant-based creamers more than I do. If not, you might just have to ask yourself how important it is to you and act accordingly.

As for me, I’m switching to tea, effective 6AM tomorrow. Spiced chai is delicious, with or without cream in it.