I've gone vegetarian accidentally more often than I can count, but I'm pretty sure I've never endured a day without cheese or chocolate on my own volition.
I had a one-month stint with full-time vegetarianism in college, but it didn't stick. My grandmother offered me her beef burgundy, my favorite dish EVER, and I summarily resigned my veg ways and went back to my carnivorous self. I say that all to say that I knew I could go vegan, but I also know that I am, at heart, a meat and dairy eater to the core and that food habits die hard.
The whole point of this, for me, was to wholeheartedly invest myself in a vegan lifestyle for a day. If I was going to do it, I figured I should put forth all of the effort, research and planning that a real vegan would. I had a couple rules for myself:
- Eat one vegan meal that I would normally eat
- Order a vegan meal at a chain restaurant
- Cook with a meat substitute that isn't tofu (I've had tons of tofu in my life: I wanted to try something different)
- Drink a milk-substitute that isn't soy milk (I switched entirely to soy milk throughout college, so that wasn't anything new)
- Try a vegan ice cream
Breakfast was pretty simple, just oatmeal with brown sugar, strawberries and almond milk. This meal fulfilled the requirements of number 4. Almond milk last is undeniably delicious, with a super-light, barely-there texture and taste that finishes sweet.
For my afternoon snack, I had Planter's Nut-rition Antioxidant mix. Dried fruit and nuts, totally vegan, totally something I would normally eat, fulfilling objective number 1.
Now be honest, does this look vegan? For dinner I made baked tempeh enchiladas with rice and beans (and a salad too, not here in this picture)!
I cooked this dish all by myself from a recipe, representing the first time I've cooked a meal with a meat substitute, which just so happened to not be tofu, fulfilling objective number 3. I was so skeptical about this dish because raw temeph looks like a totally unappetizing slice of brain, but I was so unbelievably pleased by the outcome. Tempeh, when cooked correctly, has the texture of pork. Mark loved it as much or more than I did (surprise!!) and said I could cook it for him any time. Not kidding. This dish was to die for.
For dessert I had organic and all-natural "ice cream" made from coconut milk--no soy, no dairy, no gluten. You could have fooled me entirely with this one. The Amaretto-Cherry frozen treat was packed with it's stated flavors and fully satisfying as a dessert. It had the same texture of ice cream and 200 calories per serving to boot.
I learned a ton from researching, planning for and eating vegan foods. The main lessons were that eating vegan doesn't mean that you eat low-fat, all-organic or all raw foods. This challenge also showed me that eating vegan incorporates a lot of things that I already love, but that just require an extra step of thought. For the big kicker, vegan eating proved itself to be extremely filling--I didn't feel deprived all day.
Eating vegan did, however, buck the trend that I've tried to observe recently about trying to eat non-processed and local foods. Many prepared vegan foods are highly processed, as you can see with most any meat substitute. I guess we all, vegan or otherwise, pick our food battles.
Overall, this New Thing was a big challenge, a ton of fun and revelatory of the vegan lifestyle. I actually thought at the end of the day that with all of the vegan options, I should have tried to do this for a week instead of a day. How's that for a change of heart?
I do have a secret that I need to confess. I had to go to Whole Foods to get many of the elements of my tempeh enchiladas. There, the staff was giving away samples of baked brie with fig sauce. I couldn't resist. I am only human.