How Are You Vegan?
It is the fourth question I am asked when someone gets to know me after, “What is a good looking guy like you doing at a place like this?” “Why are you vegan?” and “Not even fish?” In a world where so much of our food derives from animals and their byproducts, how can one forsake it?
To me it is now easy. I have rejected fresh caribou meat in the wilds of Montana and just said no to the fishy tapas of Spain. I have been able to hypnotize and brainwash myself to ignore pangs of hunger until I find something I am comfortable with ingesting. But to someone who has yet to indoctrinate themselves and are tempted to enter the realm of veganity (A word I am tempted to trademark as I don’t think it exists), what to do? Here’s some unsolicited advice.
Don’t Go Cold Turkey
I’ve often heard stories of people who were vegetarian for six months and then gave it up because they craved a steak. I believe this happens because the person went too far too quickly. People tend to thrive on familiarity and if you totally rock your world by giving up all animal products at once, you might never feel at ease with veganity (it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?).
My suggestion is first give up beef and pork and start exploring plant based options. Then you give up fowl. Learn and accept that tofu is not supposed to taste like meat. Then perhaps you can give up fish. If you’re liking how you feel give up dairy. Then you can stop eating eggs and, voila, we got ourselves another crazed member of PETA.
How long should this timetable take? I say to each their own. If you want to go on a week by week basis, do it. If you want to make each sacrifice a New Year’s Resolution, may the force be with you. On of my favorite clichés is, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Embrace Ethnic Cuisine
The world’s become a friendlier place. Even Denny’s and Subway now offer veggie burgers. But if you live outside major cities such as New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles it might seem there’s nothing for a vegan to eat. This is where you should go to your local Chinese dive, or the all you can eat Indian buffet or that Thai place down the street or even Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. Most ethnic cuisine offers things a vegan can eat besides the house salad with oil and vinegar. Make sure you ask thoroughly though. Does the broth have chicken stock? Is there cheese in the pesto?
Lie and tell your server you have severe allergies. Otherwise they might not take your philosophical concerns seriously. Unfortunately many items that seem like vegan no-brainers have animal products. Miso soup, for instance, almost always contains dried fish flakes.
Learn to Love to Cook
Unless you live in a major metropolitan area and have a trust fund your pallet and/or bank account will grow tired and weary. Spaghetti marinara and veggie burgers get old after a while (although spaghetti sandwiches never get old).
If you want a broad diet you’re going to have to get out your cutting board, spatula, and wok. Recipes are easy to come by. Type into Google “vegan tiramisu”, “vegan duck recipe”, or any other meal you’re craving and I promise a variety of sites will pop up. Ingredients are also easier to come by these days as most supermarkets have health food sections and many towns have local farmers markets with fresh, tastier produce.
My best friend in the kitchen though is the first cookbook I got when I became vegan, The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook by Louise Hagler and Dorothy R. Bates. It’s completely vegan and tells you how to make everything from pancakes to macaroni and cheese to sloppy joes to chocolate cream pie. It also goes into detail in how to make basic staples like tofu, soy milk, and tempeh. The directions are clearly and simply stated and most of the recipes don’t bog you down with a hundred ingredients. And no my unbridled enthusiasm for the cookbook does not mean I am getting a kickback from any copies sold.