Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pourquoi & My 1st Vegan Weekend

I assume most of the people reading this (if there are any at all) have come from my original blog: Hang On Little Tomato. And I bet you're wondering why I felt the need to start a new blog devoted to my foray into veganism. Well, my reasoning goes a little something like this: not everyone wants to know about my diet. And because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will have a LOT to say over the next several weeks about what I'm eating and what I'm not eating and why and how hard/easy it is, I thought it best that I put it in an entirely separate place. Does that make sense? (Plus, I thought the name "vegan tomato" was kinda fun!)

Anyway, on to my first "vegan weekend." My weekend was full of social engagements, and all of them involved eating. It was admittedly difficult, though not impossible. Friday night I had dinner at 34th Street Cafe with several dear friends, and it must be said that 34th Street Cafe is not vegan-friendly. It's not like I could just order something without the cheese - the cheese was an integral part of the dish (and I'm not just saying that b/c I love cheese!). So I couldn't indulge in any of the appetizers, and I ordered the veggie plate for dinner, prepared sans butter or milk. Well, that basically meant I got a plate of asparagus, swiss chard, and quinoa, all of which was ridiculously over-seasoned, particularly with salt. LE SIGH. Whatever - at least I got my greens in for the day, right? On the bright side, my friends' reactions to my, "I'm trying to eat a vegan diet..." was not as bad as I expected. Most were actually tres supportive in making sure the chef was informed (chef was a friend of one of them) so that was sweet.

After dinner (and too many glasses of wine), I met up with two other friends at Uncorked, a hip wine bar on the east side. I was, naturally, craving something sweet, and when I saw the bread pudding a la mode on the menu, I couldn't resist. I figured this would be my last hurrah! I mean, technically I'm not starting until March 1, right? Right... So I ordered it and I ate most of it, and yes it was delicious, but was it worth it? I don't know. My tummy was less than pleased almost immediately, and it pushed me over the edge to that uncomfortable full feeling. So, I don't know if it was worth it or not. But, happily, these friends were also supportive of my decision and agreed that cutting dairy was likely to have great effects on my health and overall well-being. Yay!

Saturday night, however, was a bit more challenging. I had dinner with a friend whom I knew would be giving me shit about the vegan thing. Under normal circumstances I think I would've dealt with it in a lighter way, but I was kind of over the whole "how will my friends react" thing. Snarky comments combined with my general exhaustion over the topic equaled a very irritated moi. This is to be expected. This IS what I expected, but I can see that my patience for it is tres limited. Have any of you dealt with this? How do you do it? How do you stay upbeat and positive and ignore the haters??

Today, Sunday, was the hardest. I woke up and had my coffee with soy creamer (fine), and then decided on grits for breakfast. Well, the problem is, I normally have my grits with a pat of butter, a sprinkle of cheddar/monterrey jack, and a delicious fried egg. This morning I had my grits with a scoop of Earth Balance, which admittedly was not bad. The problem is, I added too much liquid so the grits were more watery than usual, and the fact that I didn't have cheese to ooey-gooey them up made me a little sad. After a few bites, I threw them out. And then made myself a hemp shake w/ rice milk.

Then came my trip to Whole Foods. As I was reaching towards the avocados, my nose was immediately hit with that salty pungent and terribly familiar smell of parmigiano reggiano - a giant wheel of it. Okay moving on... I picked up some fruit, greens, coconut creamer, soy milk, vegan worcestershire sauce, tamari, an Amy's frozen cheeseless roasted veggie pizza, etc. It was all well and good until I hit the salad bar to make a late lunch to-go. None of the hot foods were vegan. Okay, fine, I'll just make a salad (even though I HATE eating nothing but cold food as a meal). And what's the first thing I see? My FAVORITE feta - huge chunks of it, speckled with delicious seasoning and ready for eating. Pass. Boiled eggs? Pass. Pasta salad? Pass. Tofu? FINE. Ok so my salad will be ridiculously healthy, that's fine.

Or it was fine, until I got home, ate it, and was so. not. satisfied. Because then I got all depressed and was like, "is this what my life will be like without cheese???" and dramatically threw myself face first onto my bed and cried to Lola. Yeah, can we say melodramatic? After about 20 minutes, I made myself a piece of toast w/ peanutbutter and felt way better. And then I proceeded to search the web for yummy vegan and cornbread recipes that would satisfy my desire for warm, flavorful food. And you know what? They were DELICIOUS. And even though I now have enough chili to feed a small army (must cut recipe in half next time), I'm soooooooo glad that my first attempt at vegan cooking went very, very well.


  1. Go you! Peanut butter is a great way to cut dairy cravings :) I think it was even mentioned in that vegetarian times article in breaking the cheese addiction (I gave you the link, right? now I can't remember).

    As for your snarky friends - honestly, I dealt with that when I went on my restricted diet last year - at the end of the day, their comments are their problem not yours. I find it interesting that some of my friends lately have been like "so you've been on this diet like forever, i thought you were going to add things back in" and then get really upset when what I added back in seems marginal. To me it seems like I got to add back in a lot: ie the occasional vegan cheese, a little more fat like avocados (there was a point in my restricted diet where I had to keep it very very low fat for a while bec of my gallbladder), a very occasional dessert (usually coconut milk vanilla ice cream), even occasionally meat if I want it (interestingly, I have little interest in it). To me it seems like a ton, but one of them got severely upset that I could not add back in dairy, and got even more upset when I told her even if every allergy test showed me as tolerant to dairy, i would never eat any of it again. In some ways, the fact it was a choice at some level was more upsetting to her.

    The point is - when I deal with comments like that, it is so clearly their issue, that once I have been polite and given a basic explanation, I just ignore and change the subject.

  2. leaving behind a life of cheese is not something i am ready for. leaving behind the meat was easy but i just can't put down the cheese. i HIGHLY recommend the book The Vegan Table. it has many delicious and easy recipes to make your new adventure a bit more enjoyable. good luck and i look forward to reading about it!

  3. It's funny that you and I have started this journey at the same time. I look forward to reading your comments and comparing notes.

  4. I look forward to reading your journey and offering you any support that I can. Whilst I am not turning vegan, I hope that you are going to share some recipes as good, healthy cooking sounds perfect to me right now...

    As for your friends.... support makes big changes so much easier but you know that you are strong and will follow your own path (plus if it gets you down, remember you have an on-line cheerleading squad right here). Hugs x

  5. Hello! I'm really excited that you started this blog! Although not vegan, I do admire it and hope that one day I'll be able to get a little closer to my ideals. Have you seen Sarah Kramer's cookbooks? Do a little search for her if you haven't come across her name yet... she is a wealth of information on the subject of veganism, but puts such a fun spin on things you can't help but be encouraged by her enthusiasm.

    I really enjoy vegan baking and have some really tasty, easy recipes if you ever get a craving for baked goods!

  6. Eating out the first few times is one of the hardest things because it can be surprisingly difficult to avoid dairy and eggs, not to mention gelatin, animal broths, and other things that you may or may not even bother with at this point. But it gets easier as you learn what places are more vegan friendly and what you can order at chain places. Sometimes you can email places ahead of time and that really helps.

    I thought I'd miss animal cheese, but I haven't. My husband and I use Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese on our bagels and I like to add some nutritional yeast, too. And the yeast is great on pasta, like a Parmesan topping. And one of the best meals he's made was a three "cheese" lasagna from The Uncheese Cookbook. It was a HIT when we brought it to his family's big holiday dinner last December. The kids scraped their plates clean! Also, we have a local pizza place that uses Teese on their vegan pizzas. Very good. But the best vegan cheese we've tried is Daiya. It's new and we're hoping we can get our grocery store to stock it. Otherwise, we'll just order it online.

    Again, I applaud you for eating vegan. I know it isn't easy but it's very much worth it, especially giving up cheese, as hard as that is for some people. It's really awful what goes on in the dairy industry -- what they do to the animals, what gets put in the milk, how unhealthy the milk is for us to begin with even, and the environmental impact. It's just not worth it, imho.

  7. I've also been considering going vegetarian/vegan for a little while now and have recently decided to give it a try after doing some more reading and research. I'm going to try the 21 day jump start too! I have many of the same questions and concerns as you so I'm excited to read about your journey!

  8. Cooking is essential for me. I find when I forget my lunch at work or when I go out to eat - I feel lost and overwhelmed and before I know it - I'm starving and ANYTHING sounds good.

    The vast majority of the vegan recipes I have cooked have all been outstanding and I would say at least 75 percent of them have gotten approval from my omnivore friends (the ones that haven't gotten such rave reactions are the super, super low calorie, low fat ones).