Friday, July 30, 2010

4th of July, and wanting to Cheat

Ok, this post is more about cheating and less about the 4th of July, but in case I go back and look at the history, it gives me an idea of where I am in this process.  The 4th of July was spent as many families around the country, going from gathering to gathering, smelling the familiar smells of hot-dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and instead of being turned off, I am really wondering if having one would really do much harm.  My wife gave me an out at a friends party and told me just to have one, but I said no, more out of the fear of unraveling what I have done over the last few month, than rejecting eating meat.

I look at this like smoking.  I used to smoke, and I was good at it.  No, I was great at it.  I was the best smoker you ever saw, and I loved it.  I loved the sound the match made as it slid across the paper, slowly sparking and coming alive.  The first wisp of sulfur smell it made, and the sight of that small golden flame that I produced.  Bringing it to the cigarette, and the paper and tobacco start to ignite, as I pull on the filter.  The sound to the ignition, the first puff, and then a nice deep pull, inhale, feel that slight tingle in your chest, and release the smoke into the air.  Wow, it was a great feeling.  I felt the stress melt away with ever relaxing draw.  This was a part of me, and something I could not imagine giving up...... But just like that, I did.

I looked at my son, 5 at the time, and my 3 yr old daughter, my failed marriage, and I wondered if this was what I had let myself become.  What example was i setting for my kids?  How long could I expect to live not caring what I did to myself?  I felt old, I was old, and I wanted to change.  I quit smoking, and haven't touched (not true, i did touch) one since.  And I could never do it, because I know how much I liked it.  One smoke could never suffice, it would pull me back in, and take me over, and I could never let that happen.  I wasn't just about me any more.

What about eating?  Is this the same for me?  I was a good eater. Food was (is) a big part of my life.  I loved simple foods and complex foods, and when a meal came together just right, it was an experience for me I could not explain.  My wife loved cooking for me, because I would actually become giddy at times when it all worked out just right. I loved food, and I loved to eat, and now I cant say that, and I am looking for how I feel that way again.  What I do know is I cannot eat that cheeseburger, not unless I am willing to undo the last few months.  This whole process would have been for nothing.  I'm still learning, I cant give up just yet.  I'm just starting to figure a few things out.

Take a deep breath, walk away, pick up my wonderful son, and think about all of the times we will spend together, and forget the grill.  Danger averted, but how long do I go through this?  I really need to find a few goto meals... I need to fall in love again, with food...............

Monday, July 26, 2010

What about the Happy Cows in California?

Ok, I'll admit it straight away, at this point I knew nothing about the dairy industry, and what went on behind closed doors. I remember years ago arguing with a guy from work (a vegan) about why I thought dairy farms were ok, because in my mind, after a cow gives milk for so long, the cows were put out to pasture, so whats the problem with that?  I remember his answer was not very compelling (rather lame actually like "no way man, they are like killed man"). So now, what little I recently learned would seem to blow away my original ignorant theory.

My wife asked me not long ago some basic questions, such as "how do you think a cows gives milk?" I said, "she has a baby, then produces milk", then I imagined a little calf frolicking in a field, with a smile on its face.  Thats it right?  One baby, and then she can give milk forever. I never thought about it that way.  Is that it?  OK, if she has to have more calf's, do they get a conjugal visit in an out of the way stall?  I imagined some Tom Jones playing, and the Bull give the Cow the come hither look, and one thing leads to another...Ok, I guess I didn't really know.  Thats when I learned that "rape" was a technical term in the dairy industry.  Seriously?  Thats what the call it?  Not too bright.  Come on, couldn't you call it the "Cow Milk Production Enhancement Process".  It is what it is though, no matter what you call it.  Maybe there is more going on here than I really knew about.

Over the coming weeks, I learned more and more, enough I think to reasonably form an opinion, and for the first time in my life I really thought about it when I picked up a gallon of milk.  OK, here is another issue, I have 2 big kids, and an ex-wife, who are not interested in a dietary shift.  Interesting, as I write this, I am recalling a conversation this evening with my son who had ribs for dinner.  Am I noticing what they eat more? Or are they begin fed more meat to vex me? Maybe I'm being paranoid.  Yes, my kids may not cooperate in this endeavor, so I'm still buying Milk, Eggs, Cheese, etc.  My son did eat some TVP based meatballs last Sunday, but he may have noticed.  Thats a story for another day....

So now here I am becoming reasonably educated (those are calves btw), enough so that its starting to make me think.  Like this is no longer really just a diet experiment, but a real shift in my way of thinking, and true blind ignorance being enlightened.  No pats on the back just yet.  I'm just starting, although I've already had my first real encounter where I felt the needed to defend myself, I mentioned the calcium myth, the cruelty, but my wife put it best when she asked me what I think milk is for?  Well its to help a calf put on about 600lbs.  How good can that be for us.  On that note, my friend asked if I subscribed to consuming breast milk, where I had to laugh, and told him. Absolutely!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Family Vacation

In June, shortly after my big kids were released from school, we embarked on a 10 day vacation to Naples Florida, where my mom and dad retired to years ago.  My mom had given up terrestrial meat some years ago, so I figured we were off to a pretty good start.  My dad was the consummate meat eater, and quickly adopted the phrase "blech" to describe anything that I might be eating.  However, after our long travel day got us to their condo, we were greeted with the best vegan pizza that Papa Johns could muster.  (I admit, I didnt research their dough, which has been part of my "dont ask, dont tell" policy).

In Florida is where I started cheating a little bit however.  It was rather benign cheating, I didn't sneak our for a Big Mac (which I always crave btw.  Although even before when I would eat these, I always regretted it later. I can only fathom the guilt I would have in downing one of those things now).  It started with a simple olive. Not an ordinary olive, but an anchovy stuffed olive. These went very well drowned in Russian Standard I should note.  I considered the Anchovy as outside the influence of a vegan dietary existence.  After all, no one has ever been accused of cruelty to Anchovies. So I consumed them with reckless abandon.  The Anchovy stuffed olive became my secret affair for ten days.  I would go into the kitchen to presumably get a drink, and quickly open the jar, and pop a couple of them.  Ahhh,.. I loved to dance at the top of the slippery slope.  We'll talk about the kids pizza crusts, and the bottoms of the cans of mini ravioli later (I had no shame).

But for that one indiscretion, I managed to exist quite peacefully in early June, basking in the oppressive heat that is a south Florida summer. Lots of cereal, pbj's, faux meat sandwhichs, hummus, salad, pasta, and two trips to a new found Vegan restaurant located in Naples.  I discovered the Loving Hut had recently opened in Naples, and there I had one of these experiences similar to when I found Stella's in Grand Rapids.  This was a fabulous treat. We had a "fish", that was made from bean curd and seaweed, that was utterly phenomenal.   And now as I look back at what I had written, I realize that 2 months earlier, the thought of bean curd and seaweed would have hardly seemed appetizing.  We went back a second time for take out, brought home a wonderful key lime pie as well.  They called it cheesecake, but it really wasn't.

The Florida trip winding down, and thinking about the prospect of travelling home and going back to work is dawning on me now, our last days were spent boating, swimming, chasing dolphins, and letting my folks soak up there new grandson as much as possible.  Little do they realize, he is destined for much "blech"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Joy when finding new food

Shortly after my mildly successful trip to Alabama and Tennessee, I found myself going up to Grand Rapids Michigan for a trade show in mid May of 2010.  Again, I had reasonably low expectations of this trip, but at least I was travelling somewhat by myself and could at least break away and go out exploring.  There had to be something out there.  I was fortunate to find that the trade show itself had vegetarian wraps for lunch, so once I dissected the cheese out of them, they were somewhat edible.

The next few evenings were spent using my new found modified potato and salad approach, but when my coworkers were going to a "chop house" for big steaks (I always had a weakness for the king of all steaks, the "bone-in ribeye", at least it was my king), I said enough was enough, and went on a quest.  I should note, it was still hockey playoffs, so I was looking now for a place to watch hockey, and a menu that had something other than salad.

I was referred by a nice bar maid, to a new place called Stella's Lounge. This was probably the single best day in my new vegan life.  This was a whiskey bar, that specialized in vegan dishes. Note that there was no tv to be found, but at this point I forgot about hockey.  I started with faux chicken wings (called "Blessed Black Wings"), and then a Tempeh Bacon and Eggplant sandwich called "You Suffer".  I had to love the Metal and Punk food names on top of it.  This was the most food enjoyment I had had at this point, and I was texting my wife all evening with my delight.

The only bad news was I found this on Wednesday, and Thursday we were heading East to Troy, so I did what anyone would do, I made a stop on the way out of town, and purchased my next 3 meals to go.

I love you Stella, can you please come to Cincinnati??????

First Road Trip

The first trip I made in this state (yes, I feel like that) was to Huntsville Alabama on a business trip.  I'm driving there from Louisville, Ky with a coworker for a few days.  I had rather low expectations of how this trip was going to go, but I was all for it.  The road trip was easy (Subway, remember?), but when we got to Huntsville, that was another matter.  As cosmopolitan a town everyone says it is, its still a small town in Alabama.  I'm guessing a grass eater, who is also a yank, is not going to find much to eat.

My goal was to find a place that was showing hockey (Stanley cup playoff time), and didn't even try to find anything that would suit me.  Plus, travelling with someone from work, I didn't want to impose too much.  We ended up at a small Fridays/Applebee's type place, where I learned my new dietary options.  Heavily modified baked potato and salad.  These places always off a number of sides for you to put on top of your steak, I found they work pretty well on your potato.  I survived another night.

Note that I am nowhere close to quizzing the waiters on how food is made, if there are eggs in the pasta, etc. So ignorance is bliss at this moment.  I'm trying though, if it seems like it would contain an animal product, I do avoid it.  Cheating is for another entry. I have still been pretty good at this point.

We spent a night in Nashville on the way home, and I was more interested in stopping at Tootsie's than worrying about food again (I could live with another potato if need be).  I was sitting in a bar with my friend, where he made some rather absurd statement about building a huge wall along the Mexico boarder to keep illegals out, and I laughed and asked him if he planned to raise taxes to pay for it, when I was instantly verbally accosted by a couple of fine specimens from the Detroit area. I barked back after the onslaught, and then recoiled.  It wasn't worth the effort, and evidently they thought the same, because they apologized, I paid the tab, and we headed out the door.  However, for a liberal vegan yank, I do enjoy a bit of country twang, so we spent the rest of the evening enjoying local bands, and drinking beer.  Thank god, beer is vegan.

As I write this, I forgot what I ended up eating in Nashville.  Its entirely possible that I sustained the evening on chips, salsa, and shiner bock.

For the love of Subway!

It did not take me long to realize (btw, that pic is from my honeymoon in Thailand, no other reason) that fast food restaurants don't cater at all to vegetarians, let alone vegans.  There are a lot of websites out there that list out everything that is safe in just about any restaurant you can think of.  The problem is, I can only survive so long on fries, fruit pies, and salads.  Even the veggie patties that you may find are not vegan.

Ok, here is a side complaint about vegetarian cheese.  For a month, I was buying a veggie cheese, only to find out that it was not vegan. My question is, who is going to the trouble to buy vegetarian cheese, and is not interested in omitting dairy? What is the point? If you aren't going dairy free, eat cheese for god's sake. I know, I am excluding those who are lactose intolerant, but I'm the crabby one.

I do travel a lot in my job. Some plane, mostly car. I'm all too familiar with Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and parts of Tennessee, and Alabama (now thats another blog entry, vegan in Huntsville). I was quick to discover that Subway was probably one of the better fast meals I was likely to come by.  And when I found out the veggie patties they used were not vegan I was crushed.  A footlong salad sandwich only goes so far.

Let me try to describe my love of the sandwich.  If that was the only thing I could eat for the rest of my life, I would never grow tired. Ahhhh, the fresh bread, some prosciutto, capicolla, provalone,... etc. etc... It was my all time favorite thing, and one of my constant cravings... I digress

So Subway veggie delight is my road savior for the time being. Its not my favorite, but it is better than the road alternatives. I will admit, I never get one unless there are not other options.

I wonder if I will ever crave that??????????

Why am I doing it? How do I answer that question?

Lets get the political views dispensed with.  I am pretty liberal, but I do have conservative tendencies. Lets leave it there.  My co workers are very conservative typically, and most of them I can talk politics with (there are a few people who are a different story though).  So I mention this because our one former colleague (a friend of mine, Randy) is a vegan, and a flaming liberal.  He is pretty extreme, and has been probably for 20 odd years.

So now I am being asked by my conservative constituency "why".  Thats a good question.  I never really thought about the dairy industry, poultry industry, etc. or the philosophical issue with taking a life, so i could hardly use that as an excuse. Health, that must be why.  So I go on to explain how I want to reduce my cholesterol, and lose a few pounds (both of which are pretty good answers).  No "liberal" stuff, I just don't feel like having the conversation, since I really don't have an opinion at this time.

I really do need to figure this out pretty soon, I am bound to get more questions, and I had damn sure better get healthier.  Time to talk to my wife to try and figure out why.

Note that I am this kind of person by default.  Do it first, figure out why later.  I dream of going to Law School someday (I'm an Engineering major), but I have no idea what I would do with the degree. No clue.  I started a Grateful Dead streaming website back in 2000.  I started this before I became a fan of the Dead. I liked the idea of doing it, then learned to like the music. I love the idea of board games, so I have spent hundred on games that have been played once, or not at all.  I love the idea, just no time to play.  I could go on, but you see sometimes, I jump on the bandwagon, only to figure out who is on it and where its going.

Ok, now whats for lunch?

Having only one friend who is vegan, I really didn't know what this was all going to mean.  I have gone through crazy diets before.  I'm a thyroid cancer survivor, and every year I have to go through a radiation scan which requires me to go on a diet of low iodine. That basically means, no dairy, no processed foods, nothing from the sea, nothing with soy, no commercial grains. A hard diet, but doable. (I could still make a hamburger)

Let me give credit to my wife in advance, if I fail to mention her enough.  She is the cook, and the main architect of this diet, and has taken care of me without fail. Any failings I describe are of my own, and in no way reflect her support.

That being said, and thinking back, I can almost guarantee my first meal was PB&J (of which I have had thousands since). I also quickly got hooked on my wifes home made hummus, so I know I went through a ton of that.  However, never having been one who likes veggies, I knew I would have to open up and start trying things I never have had, and eating things I never have liked.

I thought milk was going to be a big issue, but I quickly adapted to Soy milk.  (cheese is a matter for another discussion.  So now, PB&J, hummus and pita, pasta, salads, soy milk.  Ok, I can do this.


I'm starting this blog about 3 months after I began this journey.  I dont want to try and redo the last three months, but I thought I would just try and catch up a little here.

As I mentioned I am 45. Recently married in 2009, and have a 6 month old baby.  I have a 10 and an 8 year old from a previous marriage.  My wife was a recent professional who has retired and is training to become a Yoga master (or whatever they are called. I've done Yoga once). So that is where the seed came from.  My wife gave up red meat a while back and has been gravitating to this since starting her training. This isn't about her though, I want to talk about what happened with me, and in the process, try and figure out what I want to do.

One day after returning from a trip to Colorado (we live in southern Ohio), I told my wife that I was going to go vegan all out, just like that.  I foreshadowed this in Co. while dining with a sales colleague, and I informed her (as I was eating carnitas tacos) that I was thinking about giving up meat.  Little did I realize, that was coming the following weekend.  So there it was.  I decided that we were not going to buy any more meat products, cheese, eggs, etc, and eat what we had, and ramp into this.  That lasted about a day.  From that moment on, I started down a road, that I could not explain why I was on.

What is this all about?

I'm a 45 year old, recently remarried with a 6 month old, a 10 and 8 yr old I brought along for the ride. I've been a meat and potatoes guy my whole life. In May, 2010 I went cold Seitan and adopted a Vegan dietary lifestyle. Suffice it to say, I wasnt sure (still not) why I was doing it, or if I could. This blog is my account of how (why) I'm doing it, what I am discovering, how crabby I get when my neighbors are grilling, what my family, friends, coworkers think, and other survival techniques.