Bittersweet Goodbyes

April 8, 2010

I’m sure you’re all wondering (especially you Molly!) how the first day of non-veganism went.  Lets just say we definitely got our money’s worth at the brunch buffet.  Chris opted to go all-out and get the prime rib; I was a little more cautious, only sampling a few bites of the rack of lamb, and sticking mainly to shrimp, salmon, eggs, and a sampling of cheeses.

SPEAKING of cheese….oh. my. gosh.  I made THE most decadent, rich, creamy macaroni and cheese on Sunday night.  And it was spectacular.  Probably included about a pound of cheese (including cheddar and gouda), it was exactly what I needed to satiate the multitude of cheese cravings I have been having for the past month and a half.  It was rich, and sinfully delicious.  Yum.  But alas…

We’ve finally reached the end of the road (cue Boyz II Men).  After being a non-vegan for 5 days, I am going to just go ahead and say:  my life is far less interesting.

Gone are the days of “is there egg in your fried zucchini batter?” or “can you make that without cheese?”.  Now, when I go to a restaurant, my orders are less complicated, and the experience is more enjoyable for everybody involved (especially the waitress!).  But enjoyable doesn’t always mean exciting.  Deprivation is no fun, I’ll attest to that, but I’m always willing to challenge myself, to see if I can push myself to do something that I wasn’t sure I could do (which is probably why I find climbing so much fun!).  Nowadays, eating, while pleasurable, is less of an adventure, and more of a treat.  It’s almost like the point in life when you realize you can have ice cream for dinner and stay up until 4 am on a weeknight and nobody can stop you (ahem..college).  At first you love it until you realize that maybe getting 4 hours of sleep isn’t the healthiest thing in the world.  My macaroni and cheese is akin to that 4 hours of sleep.

And while the macaroni and cheese was delightful, and the cheesecake we had last night was spectacular, I’m still a little stuck in my vegan ways.  Monday during lunch, I decided to make some chili in the slow cooker for dinner.  But no, I didn’t add ground beef, or ground turkey, or chunks of chuck roast.  I put in texturized vegetable protein.  That’s right.  And as I added it, I thought to myself, “Wow!  It looks just like ground beef!”, apparently unaware that now I was allowed to add actual ground beef to my chili.

In addition, I went to an interview/business lunch and ordered tofu steaks.  I know, it doesn’t even make sense!  A steak and tofu are polar opposites!  But yes, despite the chicken, salmon, oysters(!) and other various animal products, I opted for the tofu.  I think this vegan diet has had an influence on my food preferences.  I find myself picking roasted potatoes over sausage, and cauliflower over escargot.   And you will not believe how excited I get over rice milk – “Chris, did we get rid of the blender?  I found this awesome strawberry rice milk smoothie!”.

Yes folks, overall, my cravings for meat are practically gone.  And I say “practically” mostly because, for the past 3 days, I have wanted nothing more than to eat a thick, juicy, beefy cheeseburger.  And I plan to, very very soon.

On that note, I hope you all stay tuned for the next series: “Chris and Meera Eat Their Way through Denver” starting with the renowned Trompeau Bakery.  Yum.

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I think I’ve realized what it is that creates that “old person” reaction to things. When you get used to certain routines, and you like them, being forced to change the way you interact and go about your life is extremely irritating. For instance, when I want something to eat, I’ll eat what sounds good and is available at the time. Being vegan leads to innumerable situations where you are in fact hungry, and there is in fact food available that does in fact sound pleasing to you, but you CANNOT EAT IT. I can see myself in the future having to change some aspect of my life, and being that crotchedy old man yelling how irritating it is to have to change my ways. White haired, bent over old Chris “I’ve been doing it this way for  100 years, I don’t have to change it now” As a side note, I’m getting excited about having a cane and a lawn that I can yell at the neiborhood kids to stay off it with their hoverboards and flying video game consoles. Anyways, in this moment of realization I figure that testing out this diet is not an excercise in restraint, but and exercise in flexibility. We have to learn and adapt to everything, having engrained reactions and feelings leaves us fighting against things that we can or cannot change. Being forced to look at these types of things (there and available) also forces us to think about why we react in the ways that we do. It’s far too easy to fall into routines and get comfortable with them whether or not they are good for us. Staying flexible allows us to dynamically refine our routines and habits. Knowing why you do things makes you aware of your surroundings, body, social structure, nature, and other people. You’re more observant and ideas will strike you and inspire you in the most bizarre moments.

Like right now 🙂

Uh-oh

March 30, 2010

So this weekend, for Chris’s birthday, we took the Amtrak up to Glenwood Springs.   I’m sure you’re all dying to know….did we cheat??

Now, let me start with a little disclaimer: when it comes to small towns, vegan choices can be somewhat…limited.   That was to be expected.  What we didn’t expect, however, were the vegan options on the Amtrak!  They have a “vegan burger” (not veggie burger – VEGAN!), they had oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, they had soy chips!  We were in vegan heaven to say the least.

Once we got into Glenwood, we went to the local brewpub to grab a snack before exploring the city.  We figured it would be a kind of don’t-ask-don’t-tell weekend so we ordered onion rings without making sure there wasn’t egg in the batter (gasp!), and ordered soft pretzels without confirming that they weren’t dipped in butter (oh my!).  Of course the onion rings probably did have egg and the pretzels probably did have butter…but who really knows for sure?

Dinner soon came and we opted for a cute Italian restaurant with a bubbly little old lady as the proprietor.  I got the gnocchi with tomato sauce (vegan?) and Chris got the eggplant parmesan (vegetarian – good enough!)….of course there was fresh grated parmesan on our pastas…not so vegan.  But OH so delicious.  We won’t tell anybody if you won’t.

The next day our bed and breakfast keeper made us a vegan breakfast, complete with vegan blueberry pancakes, potatoes, fresh fruit, fresh juice, tea, coffee, nuts, the works!  The pancakes were light and fluffy and delicious (especially with homemade strawberry syrup!) – and we were thinking “these are vegan?!?”.

After sitting in the jacuzzi post-breakfast, we rode our (slightly undersized) bikes through Glenwood before working up an appetite for lunch.  We spotted a family mexican restaurant across the bridge and had some delicious veggie and bean enchiladas (confused waitress: “but what meat do you want inside your enchiladas?”).  Of  course, there might have been some cheese on the enchiladas…

The enchiladas led us to an afternoon nap before having to walk all the way across town (poor us!) to get massages and sit in the vapor caves (both of which were AWESOME).  Relaxed and rejuvenated, we decided to stroll through town to find a cute dinner spot, ultimately settling on “Rib City” (it just sounds vegan, right?).  After sitting inside for 5 minutes seeing people scarf through their most-likely-frozen-and-reheated sandwiches (with of course nothing remotely vegan on the menu) we decided we’d ditch the chain and go local.

We ended up at another really cute Italian place, this time having pesto and puttanesca.  Both vegetarian, but my pesto sadly had a cream-based sauce (that’s not real pesto!!)…Chris’s meal however was vegan vegetarian pescatarian(thanks Cyndi – anchovies are definitely not vegan!), and also delicious.  Puttanesca is definitely something to keep in mind for a vegan meal (minus the anchovies)…lots of flavor, and very satisfying (as long as you like capers as much as I do!).

SUNDAY….sunday sunday sunday.  Sunday was Chris’s birthday.   And we took a very serious birthday vow that we would not be vegan for Chris’s birthday.  For breakfast we had amazingly poached eggs with english muffins and potatoes and ham, and fresh fruit and muffins!  It was an amazing birthday breakfast (despite the fact that Chris’s muffin had wax from the candle all over it!).  After almost missing the train, we missed lunch in the city and ended up having pulled pork on the train (they were out of veggie burgers, so it was that or chipotle beef).  And then, to top it all off, for dinner, what else but Sushi Den – and wow, you forget how good fish tastes after not eating it for 40 days, but IT WAS GOOD.   Very good.  Shhh.

Now I’m telling you this story because I know you’re not going to tell anybody else.  So let’s just keep this between you and me, and we’ll make it through this last week of veganism.   🙂

P.S.  We watched Food, Inc. last night and are now feeling pretty good about not having eaten any meat in the past 40 days.  Check out the movie – you’ll think twice about eating processed food and packaged meat.

We've reached day 34!!

March 24, 2010

I can’t believe that we are only 12 days away from Easter!  Time sure flies when you’re having….lots of tofu.

For starters, we made a little tofu onion scramble on Saturday that was really (really) good on toast with avocado.  The texture was a bit off since we used silken tofu (it was kind of watery) but it was reminiscent of some soft-scrambled eggs.  Overall it ended up being a good brunch with some raspberries and oj.

We also made some eggplant tofu lasagna.  It just sounds wrong, doesn’t it?  Lasagna is another one of those things that almost just NEEDS cheese to be complete.  I food processed my tofu with garlic and some nutritional yeast, in an effort to emulate ricotta, and broiled my eggplant to add some heft to the meal.  But it was still kind of “blah” by the time it came out of the oven.  Chris assured me it was the best vegan meal we had made but I knew deep down that it was not a winner.  The eggplant was chewy and, while the texture of the tofu ricotta was spot on but, no matter how much I seasoned it, it was still lacking that little punch.  After a generous dousing of salt and pepper, it tasted good enough, but I think that’s probably the last lasagna we’ll see until after Easter.

But don’t worry guys, this isn’t a complete tragedy.  Friday night, in about 10 minutes (chopping/washing included) we made OUT OF THIS WORLD portabella burgers.  Out of this world.  They were meaty,  hearty, and just so delicious.  Grilled on the stove with some olive oil and balsamic and nestled on a toasted bun with “aioli” (vegannaise and garlic powder), brown mustard and red onion, they were way better than any garden burger I’ve ever had.  We were in a huge rush to see Alice In Wonderland with Molly and JD, so we forced them to watch us eat and, as Molly walked in the apartment, the first words out of her mouth were “Wow, it smells like real food is cooking in here!”  If that’s not a compliment, I’m not sure what is.

This weekend is Chris’s birthday weekend, and I’d tell you what the plans are but (shhhhh!) it’s a surprise!  So once we return I’ll update you on how we may or may not have cheated in order to make sure Chris had the best 26th birthday of all time.  Time to go heat up some tofupups!

Days 27, 28, 29…

March 19, 2010

Imagine yourself ordering a pizza from one of the two places in town that caters to vegans…and imagine the disappointment when, after a long day of working and cleaning, you open up the pizza only to find that you forgot to order vegan cheese. Yes folks, we took home a whole pizza before realizing that it was not, in fact vegan.

I’m not entirely sure what the average person would do, but Meera-let’s-be-crazy insisted that we pick every single trace of cheese off of that pizza.  “Seriously?” “Yes Chris, seriously.”  What that poor guy puts up with.  I mean, it wasn’t that bad for a pizza without cheese.  But it was still a pizza without cheese.  Which is hardly a pizza at all.

Flash forward to St. Patrick’s day.  I make some pasta with olive oil, red pepper, and a bit of balsamic vinegar (sounds weird, but you must try it – delicious).  And I’m feeling decent about putting together a pseudo-meal with ingredients we have on hand.  Of course, unbeknown to us at the time, when you eat dinner at 5:30, and then go out to celebrate birthdays, things that are green, and of course, our irish heritage, you are definitely hungry again before the end of the night.

So what do we do at 11:30 pm that night?  We do something completely against Meera’s character. Something she hasn’t done in years.  Something she chides other people for doing.  (And yes, I am talking in 3rd person, trying to disassociate myself from myself).  We go to Taco Bell.

I’m not trying to be snobby, or high and mighty, or anything like that.  I grew up eating Taco Bell on occasion.  The cheesy gordita crunch was always satisfying.  But there is something inherently contradictory about being vegan and eating Taco Bell.  Especially after preaching about how eating is about quality of food and not quantity

Lo and behold, we ended up getting some cheese-less bean burritos.  And guess what?  They tasted good, they satisfied, and overall prevented any crankiness.  I’m not saying that Taco Bell is the new gourmet, but when you’re hungry and your options are limited, it’s there. And we ate it.  And I’m not apologizing.

And what a weekend it was…Chris and I were just social butterflies all weekend long.  From happy hour with Molly and JD to Wynkoop with Paul, Amanda, Rachel, Jake, Katie, lunch with new friend Matty and hanging out with Lisa, Tom, Ryan, Becky, Kammie, Uncle Tom, Kevin, Julia, etc. etc (my aren’t we just so popular!)….definitely did not leave a lot of time for cooking vegan food.

However, by a wonderful coincidence, my friend Kevin invited us over for dinner and lo and behold, he had cooked Indian food that ended up being 100% vegan!  A few people there were vegan/vegetarian, so it was nice to share a meal with a group of people without feeling like an inconvenience or being told we’re crazy.  While most of them were slathering ghee on their chapatis, we didn’t feel like we missed out on anything at all.

Last night for dinner I threw together a pasta sauce (tomatoes, oregano, thyme, parsley, garlic, red pepper) and roasted up some asparagus.  Chris pan-fried some tofu and we ended up with a quick and healthy meal – though not anything terribly exciting.  Tonight I’d like to aim for this (minus the butter of course), but based on how poorly we’ve been following through on cooking endeavors, I’ll be satisfied with anything that’s not a peanut butter sandwich.

Thanks to Cyndi’s suggestion on Day 14, I picked up some Rice Dream rice milk, and it’s great! It’s got that nice rice-y flavor, reminiscent of horchata, and I can see it making a deliciously creamy oatmeal.  Now that school’s out, I’m much more excited about hunting down delicious vegan items and am determined to get through the last half of this experiment with minimal complaining.

Breakfast: Rice Dream milk (need to buy more grapenuts, clearly)
Lunch: Leftover Buffalo Seitan Wrap (it’s not eating out if it’s leftovers!)
Dinner: Hopefully Mushroom Bourguignon
Days Left: 19
Attitude: Ambitious

Halfway there!!

March 12, 2010

We’ve reached Day 23 – the midpoint in this whole game.  What have we learned so far?  If you’re unprepared, being vegan is expensive.

B-vitamin supplements ($26??), premade vegan lunches ($8 for meatloaf and quinoa/bean salad!), and restaurants that cater to vegans (you don’t even want to know how much we’ve spent…) definitely add up.

When we started this, we had time to cook meals, take leftovers to work for lunch, craft salads and simmer sauces, and it wasn’t that bad.  As our lives got busier with Chris’s new job and my torture advanced microeconomics class, we became strapped for time.  When you’re hungry and getting home at 9 pm, you’d be willing to spend unheard of amounts of money on food that actually tastes like real food (otherwise that peanut butter-meera’s dip-cracker incident from day 18 would happen way more frequently).

Now that my class is over, and Chris is getting settled into his office, we’ve taken a vow to not eat out at all next week.  No Chipotle for lunch (their guacamole keeps me sane) or Rebellion Pizza for dinner (despite friends’ accounts of terrible service, their vegan pizza is the best around), and definitely no more “let’s just pop into Beatrice and Woodsley for a drink” (which inevitably leads to looking at their vegan menu, ordering off their vegan menu, spending $30 on “just a snack” – I should mention that Chris and I are addicted to Beatrice and Woodsley…we go there at least once a week.  It’s not a cheap habit.)

“But Meera, didn’t you just go have lunch at City O’ City with Kammie 3 hours ago?”  Yes.  I did.  You caught me.  BUT to my defense, we alleged to not eat out at all NEXT week.  So today and tomorrow are fair game.

😉