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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.