Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween (Vegan Nugget Style)

All seriousness aside, this is the end of my 6th month of turning Vegan, and I'm happy to report that my continued evolution is going well. I'm sure there are will be a number of new topics I will strive to seek clarity on, and confusing and stressful times ahead. But there are also going to be an abundance of good times, and sweet moments that I look forward to sharing.  This is one of them, my Vegan Nugget Pumpkin Sam.  He is the Vegan of the future (lets hope).

Wishing a Happy Halloween to everyone, especially all my new Vegan friends.  I sincerely believe that you are playing a major role in helping me through this transition.  I appreciate all of your love and support.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Please Label Me!

I was inspired by a blog entry by my friend Neven Jones called "I'm not a vegan".  Its a great blog, I can relate to it quite a bit.  I started to think about myself getting hung up with the term "vegan".  When I decided to do it, I jumped up, declared I was a vegan,... and then I had to ask what that even meant.  I quickly adopted the label, before I began to think about what went into it.  Unlike Neven, I started with the label and began to work backwards from there. I could have just cut items out of my diet, but that wasn't good enough, because I couldn't identify that with a label.  Start with a label, then figure out how to fill in the blanks. (Its my mantra)

I've always been of the mindset that as soon as you can identify what you are, you have made the first step in identifying what medication you can take to get rid of it. Ok, maybe thats a bit extreme, but the label is important to me. I'm not that shallow, I may identify with the label, but I also have the tendency to rock that label to its core.  I'm very loyal, I'm like a Golden Retriever (a rescued one, not from a breeder,.. just sayin). There are many labels I have enjoyed over the years; Employed, Married, Divorced, Father, Single Dad, Cancer Survivor, Donor, Bi-Polar, Tri-Polar (ok, thats an inside joke), Vegan!!!!!

So there I am,.. I am a vegan, no... I'm a Vegan. And here I am trying to figure out what that means. I never considered a lot of things.  I never considered anything other than food. I never thought about what my shoes were made of (I assume like everyone that they were made by kids in Bangladesh), where I got my dog (I don't know actually, my ex just came home with him), nothing like that. My friend Noelle asked me this week if I was an "ethical" vegan.  I had to think about that for a second.  We soon determined that I was not ethical (in the vegan sense).  I believe some other terms were thrown around; immoral, evil, hateful,.. ok, FINE,.. but I got her point.  She indicated to me that most people become vegan for ethical reasons, otherwise eating meat or dairy every once in a while would be fine. Right?  Well I was pretty bent this past week when I found out my Pumpkin Spice Latte was not vegan. (granted it was more the ineptness of the Starbucks worker to not realize that non-dairy meant no whipped cream either). It took me a while to figure out why I was upset by it.  I got over the Starbucks ineptitude, but the next day I was there, I opted for my classic Soy Latte (Mom was buying this week, I never spend that much money on sbux ,.. thanks ma). I didn't want to consume something that I knew was not vegan. I didn't save any animal by skipping it, but it was important to me.  Label or not, it bothered me.
So here I am. I'm Vegan! Ethically challenged it seems, but it seems I'm starting to understand things a little better.  I'm think I am doing the right thing, but I'm going to hang on to the label.  Its like a crutch for me. I'm also meeting some rather inspiring folks (and some creepy ones), and that was a bonus that I never anticipated.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

2 Vegans, 1 Vegan Nugget, 2 Omnivores. Oh, The Challenges

As you can see, I have been twittering lately (a lot actually), and one of my new twitter friends asked me how it was raising kids vegan (a reply that could not be made in 140 or less).  I got to thinking about the challenges that lay ahead, not just with me, but for my kids, and how this can be realized with my family.  It is hard enough feeding yourself, and your spouse.  Now throw in a 10 month old baby (the vegan nugget),.. although in all fairness, he is the least crabby vegan of the bunch.  He takes it like a baby.  

Now factor in two kids from my last marriage (which is funny to say, because my wife informs me that this in fact is my "last" marriage. but, i digress), who question me on a nightly basis why i cant drink milk, why i cant eat meat, eggs, etc. "C'mon dad, just stop being a vegan".  I have a grandfather who keeps offering to take my older son out for steak and ribs (ok, its a bonding thing. now that i'm out of the way, grandpa and grandchildren can go out and gang up against the herbivore). I also have a grandmother who threatens to feed the baby meatballs, or other things to fatten him up (you should see him, he isn't lacking for meatballs).  Trust me, you can fatten up on vegan food. I discovered they have the word "cupcakes" in the vegan dictionary.  My friends are probably the least of the problem, but then they only harass me in the moment, when out at restaurants when I am invariably ordering a modified baked potato and a salad.  I assure them, this is not my standard meal. It is hard to tell someone what a vegan eats, without using funny words (seitan, tempeh, tofu; yes tofu is a funny word). It comes with the territory though, I can handle it.

So I thought the issue with the big kids was manageable, but as we proceed on this adventure, we still find ourselves buying and making non-vegan meals, and although I'm still OK with it, I foresee a time in the not so distant future, that I wont be.  Its not so much why I'm doing it, but if it is really worth it?  Is it really all about the food?  If so, than I could happily buy milk, meat, eggs and such, and just make them for the kids.  If it were just about the food, then I could eat a little meat, drink a little milk and all would be good.  Is that really the case?

Family gatherings are going to become (already are) increasingly challenging.  Can I remain a "Dont ask, Dont tell" vegan?  My mother-in-law is a great cook, and is enormously generous. Do I really want to start looking into what she puts in her pasta?  Lets not even get into the sauce (figuratively speaking).  Abstaining from meatballs, does not veganize the meal.  Will that be good enough?  Am I on the cusp of becoming a royal pain in the ass?  I'm reminded of a line I heard on the "Last Comic Standing".  "I'm a vegan, which is basically a vegetarian, only more annoying".  Can I be a vegan without annoying the crap out of my friends and family?  Can I do it without alienating them? (i see to be all questions and few answers this time)

I have a great quote from a comment left on one of my earlier blog entries, where I was enumerating my cheats.  Its from my awesome friend Celery In The City. She stated:

You don't owe anyone anything. If you want to change that list, change it. But don't do it because you're not 'vegan' enough. There's no such thing.

I love that! I need to print that out, and leave it on my desk and read it every day to ground me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

PB&J, Could not go Vegan without it.

When I became vegan back in April, a friend of mine asked me if I could still eat Peanut Butter and Jelly, and I assured him that it was considered vegan. He told me that as long as he could eat PB&J, he could probably go vegan.  I had no idea how poignant that was.  The PB&J for me has been a staple, a goto in times of crisis and despair, and I am just thankful that it is there for me when I needed it.

I had a brief conversation with one of my new twitter friends about the variety of "nut-butters" on the market, and I felt I needed to take a moment, reflect back and pay homage to one of my all time fav's. (Yes I really did have a conversation about nut-butters)

So thank you Peanut Butter, for being heavy enough to weigh the top side of my bread down, and always manage to fall face down on the kitchen floor when dropped (its a gravity thing, I'm also a huge fan of gravity). Thank you for being the key mechanism to allow me to give my dogs pills.  Thank you for being the only thing that I will eat whenever I am sick.  Thank you for being smooth or crunchy (depending on my mood).  Thank you for going with other things like bananas and bacon (faux).  And thank you GW Carver for "allegedly" inventing it.

Thank you Jelly for rhyming with my last name, which for me was the source of little enjoyment as a child. I will give you your props as you come in many flavors.  You probably take credit for jams, preserves and marmalades, but lets face it, you would probably just be a sweet condiment if it were not for the peebs.  But admittedly, without you and plain simple boring white bread, the PB&J would simply not exist.

You are the wind beneath my wings. Merci bien le beurre d'arachide et confiture. (Its a french thing)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Forgive Me Vegans, For I Have Sinned.....

No funny anticdotes,  no poignant stories,... no jokes. Its time to pull the curtain, fall to my knees and get on with it.  Forgive me vegans for I have sinned,.. its been,.. well never since my last confession.  Since I became vegan, I have been pretty good about staying true, and I haven't overtly strayed (well...), but I have pretended not to notice a few things.  I feel compelled to enumerate these.  Perhaps it will be therapeutic, we'll see.
  • Pizza Crusts - My son never eats the crusts. I tell them they are the best part, and he says "then you eat them".  So I do
  • Coffee Cream - I grab the "non-dairy" creamer most of the time, but I know full well there is still dairy derivatives in there. I really need a good substitute, I cant just drink it black
  • Milk - Ok, I really don't drink milk, but I'm the one who tests if the milk in the fridge (for the kids) is still good.  I always did this by taking a swig.  Last time I did this it was spoiled and I about hurled all over the kitchen.  Serves me right
  • Sushi - I've been better about this, but you've read the blog.  Last two times I went though were all vegan
  • Fish Sauce - Well not directly, its not like I took a big drink of it, but admittedly the last few times I had Thai, I failed to point this out when I ordered my curries.  In a related story, miso soup is generally made with bonito stock, which clearly is ng. I usually get miso soup with my sushi.
  • Butter/Ghee - I clearly order the vegetarian options when ordering Indian, but I don't always inquire about the use of butter.  I've also melted a little over popcorn, not to mention the movie theater. Does that make me a bad person?
  • McDonalds French Fries - Ok, I only did this a few times, but I have done it. (That does make me a bad person)
  • Subway Veggie Patties - I discovered about a month in that Subway had veggie patties, that evening I googled, and discovered they were not vegan. I've picked them up a few times since, despite knowing this.  In my defense, I've only done this out of desperation.
  • Pasta/Sauce - My mother-in-law is a great cook.  I'm pretty sure her pasta was made with eggs, I'm damn sure the sauce was cooked with meatballs. I just avoid the meatballs, but the rest is clearly not vegan.
  • Oreo's - Bones,... plain and simple. Oreo's are bony.
  • The bottoms of cans of Mini Ravioli - Very minor one, but I tend to clean off the spoons when I'm packing the kids lunch.  Ok, I was reaching a bit on this
No its not like I committed a crime on this, but its a general pattern that I would like to work on.  I'm not sure how it compares to others.  I guess that doesn't matter, so long as it bothers me, I should probably try to reduce this list.

Just needed to get this off my chest.  As a result, I started thinking about all of the things in my life I've dined on that I am sorry about. I wont even begin to enumerate those now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For me, its still about the Food

A few weeks ago I hooked this account up to twitter, and setup a new twitter account to push this blog out to a few more people.  Perhaps someone may read these entries and gain either some enlightenment, entertainment, or just get lulled into a bored stupor.  In any event, I hope readers of this, other than myself, find some thread of enjoyment buried in these words.  I've had a number of comments from folks, and am generally having a good time making new friends, chatting with folks from all over that I have a common bond with.  It makes me feel less alone, and less isolated and weird as this sometimes makes me feel. Not to mention a few eccentric friends who clearly add a tremendous amount of humor, mixed with a fair amount of bizarre/creepy entertainment.  You know who you are.

As far as explaining my diet to people, I can tell you without a doubt, I ate some fine food today, and there was not a lettuce leaf or vegetable to be found (in all fairness, the vegetables no longer resembled their former self).  I wish I could explain this to my friends that think I am just eating salads every day.  I still get picture messages from friends (one in particular, I'm pretty sure he isnt reading my blog) who would happen to be out dining (typically on large chunks of meat), and feel compelled to share it with me.  I'm really not offended by that (maybe I should be).  They right me off as being another wacky liberal.  I do know that being vegan is more than just a diet.  Perhaps veganism is much more of a political statement, and I am really just a non-dairy, non-eggs, vegetarian (a foodie?).  I don't know if I'm ready to take it all on just yet.  I tried to explained simply to a co worker that I don't consume any animal derived products.  Seemed an easy way to describe it.  She did roll her eyes at me, and for a brief instant, I wanted to smack her, but that goes against my peace loving nature.

For me it is still mostly about the food.  I've blogged a little about the industries, the dairy, poultry, etc. but I really don't obsess about it.  For a lot of people veganism is more of a religion.  Its a religion that encompasses a lifestyle, and a diet.  For me its still just a diet.  I'm not all jacked up about people that breed Golden Retrievers, or Seaworld, or leather wrapped steering wheels (Remember, I jumped into this without knowing what or why I was doing this).  So for me it was only about the food.  I have learned a few things along the way, and I am sickened by the over consumption that our society pushes, but I dont wear it on my sleeve.  

One week later..... That being said, I must say that every day I evolve, and words I write one day, may not carry the same strength a day, a week or a month later.  I wrote the bulk of this entry about a week ago when I was sitting up in my hotel room in Milwaukee.  Its a week later, and although its still a foodie thing for me, my language feels a little strong, and I am compelled to re-write and soften my opinion.  I decided to take another approach and just make this comment, and leave it where it is.  I think I'm growing up,... slowly.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vegaritos aka Doregans (fine, Vegan Doritos)

Ok, this picture is not exactly the right one, but just stop whatever you are doing, and run out to Whole Foods, and get the Red Salsa Nana Cocina Tortilla Chips.  Jesús, María y José these are bueno!  And just when I thought I had given up Doritos, these babies showed up at my door step.... Mmmmmm come to my mouth,... get in my BELLY... Ok, I got a little weird there, but these are good.  Nuff, said.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Winding Down In Brew Town

At this point I am finishing roughly an 8-10 week assignment which has brought me to Milwaukee virtually every week.  Suffice it to say, I am a little tired of the travel, and despite the fine vegan culinary adventures I have been on, I am still sitting in my hotel room, spending the night away from home.  In a past life, I would never call home and brag about the meals.  I remember getting into some deep "stuff" years ago, while I was going on and on about how wonderful a meal was.  I wasn't really getting the fact that my wife was at home trying to scrape together a meal, and here I was out living high on the hog (sorry about that reference).  This is a different time, and I feel a large part of my therapy in this endeavor is the ability to talk about what I am eating.  So nowadays I do just exactly what I used to shy away from.  I call home every day, and go on and on about the food adventures I am experiencing.  Its a different type of conversation now.  I think my wife probably would rather be dining with me, than putting something together out of the scraps from the fridge, but I also believe she understands the transition that I am going through, and gives me some latitude when it comes to what would normally be a breach of decorum when travelling for work.

I will say that as far as the past few days have gone, I have eaten like a vegan king.  I knew this was my last week in Milwaukee for a while, so I hit up all my faves, some new places I've never been, and never skipped one meal.  And most important, I totally boycotted that office cafeteria.  Nice place, lots of choices, but none for me (I really like more than salad).  Had this been my first week in town, I would be livin large, but I am drained, I need to get home.  I need to sit on my couch, with my wife, and have a PB&J.  Yep, the meal that started it all.  On day one, when I had nothing to eat, I lived on these for a little while. 6 months later, I've matured,.. I no longer giggle when I say Seitan (hehehe, bbq Satan, oooooo)... Ok, I still giggle.  Its a funny name.  Very demonic.  Would be rough going around in life with a name like that.

As I mentioned, I'm a food lover.  I don't always need a long term relationship with a meal, sometimes I just want southern fried tofu (aaahhh,... @PalominoBar), and do the walk of shame back to my rental car.  I want to have an experience with my meal.  I dont want to just eat it, and get full, I want to writhe in pleasure of every bite.  I want to enjoy it, look forward to it,... and not look back.  I'm starting to feel like that again.  I know its out there.  It is certainly in Milwaukee.

But for now, that PB&J is calling me back to Cincinnati, and so is my wife.

Friday, October 1, 2010

6 months! (The end of my experiment????)

First of all, "Happy World Vegetarian Day".  I admit, I only knew about this through Twitter.  I typically follow any special holidays, or other notable days by the design of the "Google" page.  Since there was no "horn of plenty" or any other theme, how would I know?  Thank you Twitter for that one.

So in April I said I would go vegan for six months and see how it was working out, and then decide what I would do after.  I can honestly say that it did not really dawn on me that I made that statement until this morning.  I thought, "hey, I decide if I go vegan or go home today".  Well actually I haven't thought about reverting.  Yes I miss certain things (fried chicken lately), but I don't really see myself going back.  At this point I am inclined to give it another 6 months, then make a decision.

So today I'm a half year vegan, lets see how the next half goes!