Let’s Not Meat, ‘kay?

My meat craving has subsided at long last. I managed to stay strong and not touch the remains of the turkey club in the fridge and the piece of steak the boyfriend brought home Monday and didn’t eat until today. I feel super accomplished.

Really though, it’d be great if I could get to the point where meat grosses me out. I don’t think that’ll ever happen though, if I’m being honest here. It’s just too tasty.

I joined a Facebook group recently called “What F.A.T. Vegans Eat” which is fantastic. It’s literally just a bunch of vegans posting pictures of whatever vegan delights they happen to be enjoying at the time. Not only does it make me feel like veganism is this really awesome club I’ve joined, it’s also given me some really good recipes and food ideas!

I’m in the middle of another test of willpower as I write this though. I just finished eating the last of the leftover TVP Sloppy Joe mix over rice with broccoli. It was tasty, but I’ve eaten it for dinner for the last three days and I’m REAL tired of it.

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That’s not the test though. The test is that there was only enough for one more dish of this stuff, so rather than travel forth to acquire food for himself, the boyfriend made and is currently in the process of eating a pepperoni and cheese pizza.

Oh my gosh, the smell of it is divine.

I’m actually really full, plus everything I’ve eaten today has made me feel a little sick to my stomach, so I’m not going to cave. But why does it have to smell so good? I told him previously that he wasn’t allowed to make the frozen pizzas until I gave the go ahead because I wasn’t sure my willpower was up to it.

Pizza may not be my favorite food ever, but it’s still freaking pizza.

He got the go ahead tonight though. Hopefully he eats the whole thing. He won’t. I know he won’t, but a girl can dream, right?

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Muffins N’At

If you’re not from Pittsburgh, the title might require a little explanation. N’at is Pittsburghese which literally means “and that” but is kind of substituted for “et cetera.” (I’m way too excited about the fact that Pittsburghese has made it into Urban Dictionary.)

Anyways, after tomorrow I will have officially been a vegan for a whole month now. It’s kind of funny actually. This whole vegan thing, and the blog that went with it, started as an impulse and I fully expected to quit/fail. That’s why I used the word “indefinite” in my very first post.

Now, here we are a month in, and I’m kind of liking it. In the past month, while I have pined rather dejectedly for cheese and have whined about it multiple times, I’ve not actually craved meat at all.

Until yesterday. And I very nearly ate some too.

Let’s back up for a moment, though. Yesterday was not a great day. It started with a hangover and an early morning text message from the head of my department, asking me if I wouldn’t mind sacrificing my day off and hopping online to cover for someone who had to leave.

The answer was no, that I most certainly would mind, but the response was “Yeah, I can do that.” I love me some overtime, regardless of the circumstances.

Getting back to that hangover, my go-to cure for a night of debaucherous binge drinking is bacon and eggs. My kitchen currently contains neither bacon nor eggs, and even if it did, owing to the need to work, I wouldn’t have had the time to indulge anyways. I was aware that I wanted to though, and it was rough.

My day never really improved from there, and I have this horrible tendency to try to eat my feelings away. Trouble is, it’s really hard to eat your feelings away with quinoa and tofu. This is where cheeseburgers and chicken wings come in.

I don’t have either of those either though. However, the boyfriend brought back the leftovers of his turkey club sandwich and I did see that in my refrigerator. I even took the container out and looked at it. At that point, I very nearly said, “screw it!” and ate some.

I didn’t, though. If I’m going to fall off the wagon, it’s not going to be a turkey club sandwich from Kings that does it.

Instead, I ate some vegan nachos (with TVP) that didn’t quite hit the spot and made muffins out of some bananas that were a little past their prime.

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I’ve never been much of a baker, but they were actually pretty yummy and my gloomy mood improved a little bit.

Today, I’m still craving meat, and the boyfriend just left a little bit ago to go to Longhorn Steakhouse with his mom and brother. Hopefully there are no leftovers for him to bring home. I’m in a better mood though, so I think I can withstand the temptation even if there are.

Wish me luck!

Getting Cheesy!

Firstly, seitan is still gross. I still haven’t tried the breakfast sausage, but I may do that in the morning. The leftover simmered seitan was every bit as icky as the fresh-from-the-crockpot simmered seitan. (Sorry to lovers of all things wheat gluten.)

Secondly, I made some homemade chocolate and also some vegan sloppy Joes today.

Both were yummy, but that’s not what I want to talk about this evening. I want to talk about success. And about cheese. I want to talk about cheesy success!

This morning for breakfast, I had some tofu scramble, because I just can’t seem to get enough of that stuff. But, more importantly, I also had a hashbrown.

What does that have to do with cheese, you ask? I’m getting to it. Patience, precious!

See, I had some red skin potatoes that were starting to get soft, so I knew I needed to do something with them. Truth be told, I’ve known that for days, but it’s been nearly 90 degrees all week and I don’t have central air, so I haven’t done much cooking. This morning though, I faithfully peeled those potatoes, grated them, soaked them in water to remove the starch, and then mixed in a little flour and vegan mozzarella, and then threw it all in a skillet.

A hashbrown was born!

OK, so you all know how I usually feel about vegan cheese. This was really good though! Apparently I do enjoy the taste of crispy vegan mozzarella. I was so surprised by this, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. Other than eat my hashbrown, that is. With more delight even than I displayed with the tofu!

Not only was this cheese attempt a success, but I found a suitable replacement for the feta cheese in my couscous salad.

Tofu!

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I’ve mentioned previously that feta cheese is the highlight of this particular form of couscous. However, if you dice up your tofu and marinate it in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic, it has a similar taste to feta.

Now, I’ll readily admit that it doesn’t have the creamy, tangy deliciousness that feta has, but the texture is pretty close and the rest of the ingredients of this dish are enough to make you forget all about feta.

In addition to the cooked couscous itself (and the marinated tofu of course), I added, cucumber, grape tomatoes, scallions, roasted red peppers, green olives, lemon juice, and olive oil.

It’s so good and I’m so happy I have leftovers to last for a couple of days.

(I really should make a recipes page. I just need to find the time. And, you know, impetus.)

Either way, NOM NOM NOM!

TVP and Seitan Attempt Number Three

Working from home might be the best decision I’ve made in the entirety of my professional life. One of the many perks is that I can still prepare food while I’m at work and I don’t have to rely on eating out and buying snacks to get through the day. Also, since I work until 10 PM, while at home, I can eat dinner at a more reasonable hour.

Today, I experimented with a couple of vegan meat replacers.

The first was TVP. It sounds like plumbing, doesn’t it? Or, if you’re a gamer nerd like me, it may sound like an arena-style player versus player match. Fortunately, it’s neither of those. It’s textured vegetable protein, or as I described it to the boyfriend, “dehydrated soy stuff.”

I rehydrated some of the chunky version in hot vegetable broth, squeezed it out a bit when it was ready, and then made a chicken salad-esque lunch by mixing the pieces with some vegan mayonnaise and chopped scallions, and then throwing it between two slices of homemade bread.

Sidenote: I love my bread machine.

I was a little iffy about it. In the bag, it looks a lot like unseasoned croutons and I didn’t know what to expect with the flavor, but it was quite yummy! It even had a similar texture to actual chicken salad (without the greasy film that cold chicken often gets).

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I wish I could say I had the same success with the seitan, but I at least think it came out the way it was supposed to. I used a recipe I found in one of my vegan cookbooks for “Better than Pot Roast Seitan” which called for seasoning the wheat gluten with soy sauce, ketchup, onion powder, salt, pepper, and thyme, and then cooking it on low in the crockpot for eight hours with some veggies and vegetable broth.

Sounds promising, but I think I just don’t like homemade seitan. This attempt tasted much like the previous two attempts, but this time I got the texture right. Either it needs more seasoning or it’s just always going to taste a little bit like wheat gluten no matter what. I don’t know the answer to that, and I’ve never been able to find seitan at the store to compare.

I have, however, tried seitan jerky, and it definitely has that wheaty, gluteny taste, and I just don’t like it.

Now, as I understand it, simmered seitan usually is best the next day, so while I dutifully ate some this evening, I’ll try the leftovers tomorrow and see if that makes a difference. If not, I have one more seitan recipe to try, before I give up on it. Steamed breakfast sausage seitan.

And if that doesn’t work, I still have tofu and TVP.

Bringing Families Together

I don’t know about everyone else, but my family always comes together over food. The dinner table is where we meet, where we share secrets and stories, and where we sometimes have vicious arguments, usually with our mouths full and a piece of bread in one hand. We might not agree on everything (or anything for that matter), but we can still share a table and some supper.

My mom’s side of the family is Italian, so every time I imagine a family gathering, it’s always around a big bowl of pasta and homemade sauce. I’m probably reminiscing now because I just heated up some leftovers of my own homemade sauce (complete with homemade garlic bread) and hastily ate it from my home office.

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Perfectly vegan and perfectly delicious!

Sidenote: Except for the faux parmesan cheese. It makes the dish look “right,” but it’s pretty gross. This cheese thing is still finding subtle ways to disappointment.

Up until Sunday, very few people outside of the blogging world knew I decided to go vegan. But, in remembrance of my mom, I thought I should share my last post on Facebook, and the moment I did, I steeled myself for the backlash.

“You didn’t really become a vegan, did you?”

“But you love meat!”

“I can’t believe it!”

“You’ll change your mind, I know it.”

These are all things I expected to hear. I expected outrage, disappointment, and maybe a little bit of scorn. A funny thing happened though. Everybody (with the exception of one relative who heard a couple of weeks ago through a friend) was really supportive, and instead of hurling accusations and judgments, they asked questions.

My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and traditionally, a couple of really awesome people offer to cook something for me. (I’m a foodie–can you tell?)  Now that I’m officially “out” as a vegan, I thought that would go by the wayside.

Another funny thing happened: They still want to, and they’re totally willing to make it vegan. I have no idea what these vegan dishes are going to entail but I’m super excited to find out! (And also really touched, as well.)

On a semi-related note, I want to talk a little bit about tofu.

The first time I tried tofu was last October (in my pre-Donald Trump vegetarianism). My experience with tofu up until that day was exactly zero, and I totally didn’t expect a spongy white mass of vaguely plant-scented goop stored in water. I couldn’t even touch it without getting squeamish.

Needless to say, I didn’t like it. At. All.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. Along with some store-bought, horrendously expensive vegan sausage, I tried tofu scramble for breakfast with scallions and garlic (seasoned with cumin, paprika, turmeric, parsley, and nutritional yeast), and then after it was done cooking, I tossed on some hot sauce and fresh pico de gallo.

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I guess now you could say I’m a fan. Who needs scrambled eggs?

Food (and other things) as Coping Mechanisms

Today, this post is only tangentially going to be about veganism. Instead it’s going to be about my mom, because it’s Mother’s Day and because I lost her quite recently. I want to talk a bit about how she, a dedicated carnivore and lover of all things cheese, made me become a vegan.

The very first time I ever contemplated veganism and vegetarianism was last September. My aunt rented a cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland and my mother and I went down with her and spent our Labor Day weekend by the lake. My sixty-six year-old mother, who loved to party even at her age, spent the weekend inebriated, while I spent much of it in a canoe by myself.

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With a view like that, can you blame me?

It was in this canoe, surrounded by water and trees and a sky that went on forever, that I contemplated my effect on the world around me. Not being a religious person, I feel that my role in the grand scheme of things is to be a walking, talking pile of stardust on a tiny rock in a distant corner of an insignificant galaxy somewhere in the vast reaches of the universe. However, when you look at it up close, this tiny, beautiful, miraculously life-supporting rock is all we have.

I don’t need to lecture any of you on the pollution that raising animals for food causes, and if anyone reading doesn’t accept that man-made climate change is a real thing, you should probably stop reading now. This post–and indeed this entire blog–is probably not for you.

Sidenote, à la Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science is real whether you believe in it or not.

From that point on, I made it a point to reduce my meat intake and even went vegetarian for about a month. Then Donald Trump won the election and there didn’t seem to be much of a point in caring about the environment (or even personal well-being) anymore.

I bought a pack of cigarettes and went to a wing joint. I’m bad at coping.

That was a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t smoke and even though I never went back to full-on vegetarian, I still continued to eat less meat than I did before.

Back to Deep Creek, my mother loved that vacation. She jumped in the lake before either me or my aunt did, prefacing it with “Sometimes you just gotta take the bull by the horns!” She loved the camp fire, the hot tub, brutally beating my aunt and me at 500 Rummy and making snide comments about it, and she even snuck outside one night by herself to go skinny dipping.

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She was diagnosed with lung cancer in February and died last month–not from the cancer itself but from complications from a surgery to help get rid of the fluid in her lungs from a case of pneumonia she couldn’t shake.

It was supposed to be the easy surgery, the routine one, the one that she recovered from quickly so she could go under the knife a second time and have the more difficult surgery where they removed the tumor and part of her lung.

I feel like I’ve been cheated. I have this image of her stuck in my mind, the morning of her surgery, sitting on the bed, being impatient because she wanted to get it all over with so she could go home.

She died twelve days later.

I didn’t buy a pack of cigarettes or go get wings this time. I went downstairs to the basement, hit my punching bag until my knuckles were bloody, and then a week later became a vegan.

Maybe I can honor her memory by making positive lifestyle changes instead of negative ones to help me deal with grief.

My mother didn’t want a funeral or any kind of service. She wanted us to throw a party to celebrate her life. So, we rented the same cabin in Deep Creek this August, and we’re going to throw the party there and scatter her ashes in the lake she loved so much.

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Happy Mother’s Day.

The Cheese and the Feels

I had a dream that I very surreptitiously visited a McDonald’s out of town, where I was certain I wouldn’t run into anyone who knew I was now a vegan. During this illicit, illusionary visit, I ordered a Big Mac and fries. I was so excited that I could barely wait to sink my teeth into this delicious mound of unhealthy, abused cow flesh. At the same time, I felt so guilty. I hesitated. I reminded myself that it’s not right that a cow should die just to feed my food addiction.

I took a bite anyways. I chewed once, twice. It tasted awful and I spit it out. Surely, it was just that bite. It was mostly bread anyways. I knew the second bite would be as delicious as I remembered. But it wasn’t. It tasted like chemicals and death. I spit it out and felt both relieved and disappointed at the same time.

From there, it got weird. Something about customers being served grilled cheese sandwiches in stainless steal bowls of ice water and being largely dissatisfied with the quality thereof, but the first part of that dream really stuck with me. I haven’t eaten an animal in nearly three weeks now (although I’ve inadvertently eaten milk products twice), and what I miss the most isn’t meat.

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It’s still cheese.

I miss ooey-gooey, savory, sharp, tangy cheese, and I don’t know why I’m not having dreams about that instead. I signed a petition yesterday to try to get Pizza Hut to offer vegan cheese, out of the hope that a large national chain of pizza purveyors can get access to some highly processed, largely artificial, restaurant-quality vegan cheese that actually tastes good. If so, I will gladly pay their obscene prices for their subpar pizza and be contended.

The really horrible part is that every time I get to the point where I tell myself that screw it, I’m just going to be vegan except for cheese, a vegan friend of mine posts a video on Facebook of a baby cow being forcibly dragged from its mother while both animals struggle in vain to reach one another again, bleating and crying and panicking the whole time.

It’s heart-wrenching, and is my love for cheese really enough to justify that?

Never mind the environmental consequences of the dairy industry, never mind the dietary consequences of consuming dairy products, and even never mind the cruelty inherent in the veal industry, which is propagated almost entirely by the dairy industry–is smoked gouda or sharp cheddar or fresh mozzarella really worth that kind of pain, the pain of having your baby or your mother ripped from you?

I’m not even a mom–in fact am vehemently against the idea of ever becoming one–and the answer is no.