Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving is Dead to me.

I started thinking about this at length over the last few weeks. How was I going to survive Thanksgiving. Well I dont have to worry about it, because Thanksgiving is officially dead to me.

Lets go back a few years and explain this infatuation I have had with Thanksgiving. (yes,.. had).  For as long as I can remember growing up, Thanksgiving was always spent at home.  We never had big groups, crowds, parties, etc.  We have had random family members come and go, Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents, etc.  For the most-part it was the 5 of us as the core team.  Thanksgiving was about the meal.  It was a feast.  We made a point to eat early enough, so we could eat at least two more times before passing out in a coma.  Although sometimes we had to be revived from our respective coma's, in order to eat more.  Friday was never spent getting up early and shopping, it was meant to continue the feast we started the day before, and we'd do it all over again, Friday, Saturday, and turkey permitting, we'd keep going until it was gone.  It was my dad's favorite meal of the year, and it became all of ours as well.  It was probably my favorite single holiday of the year. (We'll blog Xmas next month)

As we grew up, and moved out, spending Thanksgiving together became increasingly difficult, impractical, etc. I started adopting the same practice in my own house though. I resisted travel for the mopstpart, and made this a home holiday centered around the meal.  About 5 years ago I tried my hand at making the meal myself.  This wasn't the ideal situation, as I was recently separated, I had a small crappy apartment in a Cincinnati ghetto, but I was damn sure having Thanksgiving. Even if it was only for me and my dogs (Toby, Cleo and Whiskey from LtoR).  So I did it, I decided the night before it was on, so I headed to the grocery store, and picked up everything I needed.  I made an 18lb bird, stuffing, potatoes, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, biscuits, cranberries, and a couple of bottles of Riesling (I didn't make those).  I made enough food for about 8-12 people, but here I was in my apt. up at 6am creating this huge feast for me and the hounds.  It was somewhat amusing that I stat down to eat about 3pm and I was done at about 3:10pm. Well that was a lot of work, but I succeeded in feeding myself for the next 4 days with nothing but turkey.

Over the next few years as my life grew a little more settled, I maintained this tradition and made this meal every Thanksgiving. I made it also on one Christmas, and even an Easter Sunday.  That was the infamous weekend where my golden retriever (Cleo) got into the trash and ate the entire turkey carcass, every bone, every last bit of a 20lb bird, my dog ate. I can only imagine the scene sometime 3 or 4 in the morning, this possessed retriever consuming this entire bird, fending off my my other two dogs, because I know they didn't get a morsel. She was fine though, based on the laughter on the other end of the phone when I called the vet to inquire about what to do when a dog consumes an entire turkey carcass. Although she didn't eat anything else for a week. (I digress)

The last few years were altogether different, my new wife had a tradition which was diametrically opposed to mine.  Mine was about staying home and feasting, hers was about spending the day at her uncles, with most of her immediate family (like my family times 10). I resisted this event as best I could. I could not fathom the idea of going to a Thanksgiving dinner, and having the meal start and end there.  No leftovers? No gorging for days? What kind of tradition is that?  This is the not MY holiday.  All I can do is what I do best; sulk, get moody, and then try to make my wife feel guilty for a few days (I am a little shit sometimes).

So in April of this year I went Vegan (we all know this), and early on in this process, I remember talking to my wife that Thanksgiving was going to remain an exception to the vegan rule, and we were still going to cook a turkey. I think I locked that little secret away in my head and maybe it gave my psyche a little something to look forward to.  So it wasn't until the last few weeks until it really started to hit home for me that I was not going to enjoying my traditional Thanksgiving.  I've been sticking tight to twitter the last few weeks watching what all of my "vegans" will be doing, and the stories are mixed.  Some of them are creating these monumental feasts that would do any vegan proud. Some are having mixed engagements with family, and others, like myself, are suffering an Omni feast as one in the distinct minority.  So I'm torn, because I dont want to take away from any of the hard work of the last 8 month, but man would I enjoy a nice turkey dinner.  Still I am tempted and haunted by food. But I know better than to even allow myself one little indiscretion.  After all, you know how much I love more.

So this evening I got into a calm discussion with my wife about what this holiday means to me, and it became abundantly clear to me that when you took away all of the food from this holiday, there really wasn't much a holiday for me.  As I know it, Thanksgiving died for me, and would forever change from this day on.  So on Thanksgiving, when we head over to her uncles house, I don't see it as being a such a big deal now, I'll pack some PB&J's, a Jokerz, and snack on some veggies and salad when I get there, and then just hang out and drink.  Its just a party, its not Thanksgiving (as I know it). Thanksgiving was dead.

I laughed when I said it, but I quickly realized that I meant it. I thought back about this holiday, and it was always a few things to me. It was a nice long weekend away from school or work, and,.. well you know.. the food.  Now don't misunderstand me and think that Thanksgiving meant so little to me.  Well,... maybe it was a shallow, self serving holiday for me.  Maybe I never really thought about a greater meaning, or looked beyond the gluttony.  Food was/is a huge part of my life. A food centric event to me is a big event, not to be taken lightly.  When the food is taken away, the event goes on life support. In this case, I pulled the plug.  I declared it nothing more than a long weekend. Dead I tell ya....

So I wanted to leave it there, declare it dead, and dismiss the whole weekend and start thinking about Christmas (its not dead yet, although I cant guarantee its fate), but my wife refused to let me drop it just like that. She is making me think about Thanksgiving in a new way (well, in reality, actually start thinking about it at all).  The holiday to me was mostly just about the long weekend and the food.  So a new tradition will need to be born.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful,.. I'm thankful for many things, but I never really looked at this weekend to validate that.  I truly looked at this weekend as a long weekend with a great buffet.  I dont need to re-invent Thanksgiving. I need to INVENT it. I have a clean slate, now that the food is gone, I get to create a new reason for this weekend. My blog for has runneth over for now, so I wont suffer you my ramblings while I trying to figure it out.  Suffice it to say, I first needed to discover where I was at, before I could decide where I needed to go.  I plan to have a most excellent Thanksgiving, but I'm not going to lament the food that I once based this weekend around.  I'll figure out what to make of this weekend in time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Mom Reads My Blog (aka Visit from Folks)

Let me start this entry by saying "My mom reads my blog" (Note, that is not my actual mom in the picture).  This in no way is a means for me to remind myself about what I may or may not say in the remainder of this entry concerning the visit my folks recently paid us in our humble abode in the "Queen City of the West".

Before I talk about the visit, let me explain the dynamics and logistics of my family.
I am the middle child of 3, my father has a younger brother, and my mom an only child.  My grandparents have long passed, and I have three first cousins that I have not talked to in years.  There aren't many of us.  We are basically an endangered species, a few nomadic French/Polish clans scattered about the eastern half of the US.  I live in Cincinnati, my brother and sister in Madison, Wisc. and my folks in South Florida.  My family is close, but not geographically. We are close, but we really are not the best communicators.  I don't think we know each other as well as we should, but we think we know each other better than we should. Does that make sense?

We live across the country from each other, so we don't spend a whole lot of time together.  It can get dicey sometimes when we are couped up in the same four walls, but since we are relatively mature.  We manage without too much blood loss.  When I got out of college, I moved home and started work.  I'd never spent a holiday away from my family, nor much time away for that matter.  In the span of a few years, I was seeing my folks, brother and sister once or twice a year, and it would be that way for the next 20. Factor in my folks retiring to Florida, and getting us all in the same room takes damn near a miracle (and with 3 kids, that's 5 or 6 weddings).

So now, throw in a new lifestyle adjustment, centered around food (which is already the focal point for most people), and lord only knows where this trip is going to lead.  I will admit, I was a bit nervous about how it was all going to shake out.  I'm not in a good position to even explain my new lifestyle to myself, let alone trying to explain it to someone else, let alone, explain it to my parents! All I could do was buckle down, and prepare for the visit.  Which of course I didn't.  I didn't really think too much about my parents arrival. In retrospect I should have planned out a menu for the week, picked up some "omni" fares, planned a few dinners or lunches out, you know, lower the stress level.  I prefer to wing it and see what happens.

So shortly after arrival, I spy my oldest, and my father beginning to conspire about an outing that can only end in the meaningless slaughter of poor defenseless animals for the coveted "baby back ribs". I never thought about this, but this is an awful thing to call a dish. I had to Google just to make sure they didn't come from baby pigs. I'll admit, I've had these a thousand times, but never knew why they were called "baby". I'll bet I never gave it any thought. I generally did not like my food to resemble what it may have looked like in its former life. (They don't come from babies, and I'll blog about Japan another time).  So the concept of "baby back ribs" now kinda grosses me out.  I'll have to think about some of the things I've eaten.  At any-rate, there they were, planning an outing to get meat, in my own house.  I'll let this slide, as long as I don't have to see it.

So despite the long absences we have all had from each other, we managed to get along pretty well that week.  I think my dad was concerned that we may go overboard on the veganization, so he was always suggesting going out to lunch, dinner whatever.  He was after all the one that coined the term "blech" to describe the food I ate.  Well despite that, we went out quite a bit, and managed to do fine.  That was until the last night, and the dreaded dinner at The Montgomery Inn (I thought the pic of Montgomery Burns was more appropriate).

I tweeted about this in advance, seeking advice from "my vegans", even going so far as to posting the menu so people could look at and provide ordering advice.  I had a variety of comments from "What an awful restaurant" to "Good luck with that", but for the mostpart, I got a lot of good suggestions about what I should do. I had little luck calling the restaurant, as they were not very accommodating to me over the phone. However, when we got there, they were very helpful.  My first order of business was a very cold, very dirty martini. This is always the best start to any meal (vegan or not). Our waiter referred us to the "vegetarian" meal.  I think they had one standby vegan/vegetarian dish, and we got it.  Pasta, steamed veggies and a side of marinara.  All in all not bad..... Now on the other side of the table, a complete and utter slaughter was taking place as my father, son, and daughter were up to their elbows in sauce and bones (Mom sat on our side and had fish).  I say that, but in my previous life, BBQ was my all time favorite things.  I'm not that put off by it in all honesty, but it is starting to freak me out a little.  There may come a time soon where I'll just have to pass by this place and not even go in.  As far as the social aspects, it is always fun to get us all together, and my dad has been picking up the check all week, so I wasn't about to complain.

So as quick as that, my folks were loading up their car and getting ready for the drive back to Naples.  I worried about the trip, mostly surrounding the food, but it turned out well, with little issues.  I think this was good for me, as it was the first time I really got to see some of my old favorites up close and personal, and I discovered I really had no interest in going back.  That was a little breakthough for me.

And even quicker, the house returns to its original quite state,.. the big kids are back at their moms,... a PB&J is sounding pretty good right about now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Vegan? (for Jenn)

In response to a request from Jenn Hernandez (@cookinvegan) I'm going to try to give a short concise account of how and why I got to where I am today.  Unlike a lot of Vegans, I did not build up to this, I was not a long term vegetarian, I don't have an ethical axe to grind, I was, and am a relatively typical guy, who ate a diet predominately meat and potato based.  I was never a lover of vegetables, and my few friends in the past who were vegetarians, I had been known to question or debate with. In short, I was never someone you would think would give up anything, let alone "everything", and that is precisely what I did.

It wasn't without some provocation. My wife in the three months prior, had given up most meat. It started from her local yoga certification program. Her yoga colleagues were all Vegan, and much of what she was learning was lifestyle changes, not just yoga poses. I had no idea, I assumed yoga was just low impact stretching. How little I knew.  So she did introduce me to a lot of ethical concepts that I had never really considered, and although I was not completely convinced by them, I told her that I was willing to go all in, learn what I could, give up all animal based foods, without question, for 6 months.  I figure I needed some sort of escape clause, not knowing what I was getting into.  So when I returned from a trip to Denver, where I proudly told a colleague (as I was eating carnitas taco's), that I was giving it all up when I went home, I did just that.  In the span of a few days, my wife and I cleared the fridge and freezer, and for a few days I ate a lot of pasta and PB&J.  A lot has happened since then.  I have an 8 and a 10 yr old from a prior marriage that I have to contend with, I have an 11 month old baby at home as well.  Suffice it to say that when I hit 6 months I had only scratched the surface of what going Vegan meant, but I was not about to give it up.

I created the blog for a number of reasons, but mostly it was to record my process through this adventure, and help me understand what this conversion meant, and why I should want to continue it.  My adventure continues, as I struggle daily with the concepts that I never dreamed of.  When I gave it up, I knew very little of the Dairy and Beef industry.  I assumed you need milk for calcium, and meat for protein.  All of these myths are still weighing in on me, but I choose to maintain a Vegan lifestyle, while I try to understand it.  I see the blog continuing until such time I have "figured it all out".  I don't see that happening anytime soon, but I no longer look an escape clause, or a time when I would consider reverting back to my former self.

Friday, November 12, 2010

One Seriously Crabby Vegan (aka Dudebro)

Against my better judgement, I am going to post this. I ran this through my "editing" department, and she assured me that this was worthy of posting.  This was written when I returned home after a long day, with almost nothing to eat.  At the end I psychoanalyze myself, just for fun.  Please enjoy this, I have not edited it at all from my initial writing (OK, maybe just a few words).

I thought I would log in and write this.  I'm not sure at this moment that I will even publish this, but in the mood that I am in, this seemed like the best thing to do. Lets just say that when I dont eat, I turn into one crabby bitch. And that is putting it mildly.  Today was just the absolute worst day. I started off making a huge mistake of not eating. So when your day starts with coffee on an empty stomach, you are not off to a good start.  Moving into the lunch hour, I elected to wait for my wife to get free and come and pick me up at work to go to lunch, I passed on her advice to get a salad in the cafeteria (2nd big mistake).  Lets just say that my office has a first rate shitty cafeteria.  And I'll also state that I have grown so tired of salads, that I will literally go hungry before I succumb to another bed of lettuce.  Ok, in reality, eating that would have been better, but I had my sights set on a trip to Whole Foods, so I passed on the salad.  So now at 3pm, my wife calls, and at this time there is no way I can leave the office.  By now my mood has soured considerably.

I have a function after work which includes cocktails at 5, awards at 6 (of which I won an Engineering Innovation Award, whoop dee fucking doo), and dinner at 7.  So I chill out a little and have a few drinks.  Awards ceremony comes and goes, and dinner starts to come out.  A salad to begin.  First thing I do is comb through it and remove all the cheese.  I eat the olives, the tomatoes and the cukes, and push the iceberg lettuce around the plate, and drink a glass of Pinot.  Then comes dinner.  There are no options, just a plate of food.  It included a piece of chicken, small strip steak, shrimp, some sauteed veggies, and smashed potatoes (thats what I call them, and no thats not my dinner in the picture, i just found that revolting picture for dramatic affect).  So I deal with the obvious fact that these veggies were sauteed in butter, but I push the meat away, and consume my food in about 4 bites.  Drink another glass of Pinot, have a roll, and my Sr. VP notes that I'm not really eating, so of course he asks.  So I tell him I'm a vegetarian.  I've noted that he is eating the exact opposite as me and has left his veggies and taters, and eaten everything else, to which he acknowledges that he eats nothing good for him.  So now is my favorite part, when my coworkers feel that it is time jump in and discuss my dietary change.  I take it in stride, and try to get the conversation to change.  Then dessert comes, and of course I'm not taking any part in that.  But I know at this point the evening is waning, and its just a matter of a little more time and I am outta there.

I had no car today, so my wife comes and picks me up, and I remain completely silent in the car on the way back to her folks. I know better than to speak, somehow I want to blame her for my mood, so I best keep my trap shut.  She has asked me a few times if she could make me something to eat, which is exactly what I need, but precisely what I decline.  Back at her folks, I get changed, find a nice corner of the couch, and just stew.... After about an hour, I decide to pop online and seek some professional advice from my "vegans" (thats what I call them)... Advice? or just to brood on twitter and see what happens... that sounds like more what I feel like doing....

I jokingly tell my wife that I love "more",... more what you ask?  It doesn't matter,... I love "more".  Whatever it may be, it is not enough.  If I'm looking at computers, I want a bigger monitor, if I'm dishing out pasta, I put more on my plate, if I'm taking pain pills for my back, I take twice as many as I should, if I'm driving to work, I go too fast, if I go out with friends, I'm the guy ordering Jaeger at 2am.  I joined Facebook, and when I hit 5000 friends, and wasted every evening playing Mafia Wars, I couldn't get any more....  I just love more,... bigger, faster, hotter, colder, saltier, sweeter, whatever... I push the degree of whatever it is I'm dealing with.  This vegan-ism is a good example.  I didn't want to just stop eating beef,... no, I wanted more.  More vegetarianism,... lets give up beef,... and chicken,.... and fish,... and everything! Lets go vegan,.... NOW.  Bam,.. I'm a Vegan.  I got my More.

Ok, tonight is classic more, in a different sense.  More shitty mood.  Yes, I don't discriminate in the least.  When I say I love more, I mean it applies to things that are not always in my best interest, or my personal desires.  This isn't the first evening,.. and I'm writing this while steaming now because I want to see where this blog is going.  I want more crappy mood, and I know if I eat something, my hunger will subside, as will my mood, so the only thing that will keep me in this sulking martyrdom is to abstain from eating.  I will "more" this mood into the ground.

In comes @celeryinthecity, @TheTastyVegan on twitter.  Twitter is clearly a "more", but I havent yet gone too far with it.  Oh I will, but since I know there are real people on the other end, I think they may keep me in check.  These two and their relentless pursuit to make me realize what a "Dudebro" (don't ask, I cant define it) I'm being, has cracked my mood wide open, and I have given in to making something to eat.  And just like that, normalcy is coming back.......

I'll try to post something more mature next time.....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Stages Of Grief

When I was discussing my veganification with a one of my twitter friends (@celeryinthecity), she brought to my attention the different stages that she went through.  I hadn't really thought about how this was really going to go.  Specifically, I had no knowledge of any emotional stages.  It made perfectly good sense, I was giving up a significant portion of my life, and so abruptly as well.  There was grief to consider.  I didnt pick the name Crabby at random, there is good reason for that (besides the fact the Cranky and Grumpy Vegan were already taken).  I was a crab, I was total cranky. I looked down on every meal, I pouted, I sulked.  I was a real treat to be around.  But fortunately for my family, I only showed it to them (yeah, fortunately for them).  I could not share that with the outside world.  You can't complain to your friends after you make a change like that.  Especially MY friends.  If they saw any sign of weakness, they would pounce on me and stage a carnivorous intervention.  I'd be at Morton's that night, and a monster rib-eye (bone-in "cowboy", they know it was my fav) would show up on my plate. Hey, I'm just a man, I have needs, I can only take so much before I fall off the wagon.  If anyone new what was really going on with me?, I would be toast.  I had to keep it too myself.

So there was depression, but not just depressed, I was getting a bit manic at times as well.  I read back on one of my blogs where I spent a week in Grand Rapids MI.  I remember finding the restaurant Stella's, and I was elated.  This would be my first real external "vegan experience" for me.  I talked with everyone there, ate and drank myself sick (a good sick, mind you).  The food was awesome, the people were amazing, and the atmosphere was electric.  I was bouncing off the walls....  Then the next morning, I woke up in my hotel, drug myself back at our show, and was snapping carrots, and cursing my coworkers as they ate fried chicken at lunch.  What a night...

At the time I didn't know what was going on.  I was just getting along  day by day, dealing with one meal at a time.  In retrospect, I think I can isolate dome distinct stages,.. but I don't think I followed the classic model.  If I think about it in the classic 7 stages, I have to shoehorn a little, but it would look something like this:  
  • Shock or Disbelief - I would say that since technically my "grief" was completely self induced, this stage was short lived. I was more excited to get this things started, whatever this "thing" really was.
  • Denial - I live my life by this word, so I'm a denial "pro". My biggest denial in this transition has been the magnitude of my decision. Trust me on this one, I'm pretty good at making monumental decisions without thinking them through. 'nuff said
  • Bargaining - I skipped this entirely, or I haven't hit it yet.  I was excited to get this going, so I didn't bother to try and negotiate any deals.  If was doing this over, I may have tried.
  • Guilt - I'm better at dishing this than receiving it, but the only guilt I am feeling about some of the more shameful things I've eaten in my life. I should write a blog about that
  • Anger - I've been good in this department. I would go out on a limb and say that this stage has not only eluded me, but I think I've been much more chill as a result. This could be the calm before the storm (read on).
  • Depression - I'll admit, I've struggled with this quite a bit in my life, but my life has improved dramatically over the last several years.  I went through this stage in the first few months of the change, and it was mostly due to my lack of knowledge on what to do.
  • Acceptance and Hope - Lets not go here yet
    OK, my situation really doesn't match those stages all that well.  I sort of went through my own unique different ones.  Not to say I wont go through a number of other additional ones.  So let me give you my real stages as I have experienced them. (note, results not typical, your mileage may vary)
    • Euphoria - I was excited to no end to start this train rolling.  I didn't think beyond that moment what it meant, I just knew I was Vegan baby.  Suck on that!
    • Reality - Oh shit, I am freaking hungry and there isn't a damn thing I can eat. Thank God the PB&J is vegan, because I'm pretty sure thats what I'm eating the rest of my life.
    • Depression - What the hell did I get myself into? I cant go out anymore, my friends are harassing me. I feel like kinda freakish, and my only road food (Subway) uses veggie patties with eggs. This sucks vegan tofu balls.
    • Bi-Polar - I was in my element, I was high as a kite, enjoying every moment, taking everything in.  Eating, Drinking, Laughing out loud.  I was having a blast. I found places to go, people like me!!! Then I woke up in a hotel room, alone, and craving a Denny's Grand Slam.
    • Superman - I'll give Milwaukee some credit for that, 10 weeks on an expense account, and you'll start buying pretty girls vegan cupcakes too.  That city was enough to make me a vegan hero. @milwaukeevegan was a big part.  She helped me navigate the city, and I did so with reckless abandon.  I was a vegan player in that town.
    • Regrouping - This is my current situation. Travelling to Milwaukee didn't set me back so much, as it gave me an unrealistic view of this life. Its pretty easy when someone is picking up the tab.  Now its up to me again, and how I handle myself at home.  Dealing with real life, day by day

    So here I am entering what will amount to be the next set of phases which I am oh so excited to being to endeavor.  I've gone through a lot of emotions, but I've come back to a more stable relaxed state, that I think is going to carry me for a while.  Emotionally, I would have to say I have stabilized considerably  I gone through a lot of transitions, but I know that even 7 months into this, I'm still only scratching the surface of what this is really all going to be about.

    I have to note that this blog is dedicated to a brief, but profound twitter session I had with @celeryinthecity  She shared with me her stages, which got me to thinking about mine.  This was my inspiration.  Thanks for her eloquence:
    • Meat is kinda gross man. 
    • Soy cheese has less calories. 
    • Let's see if I can be vegan.
    • Whatever, man.
    • I am so sad people eat these beautiful little animals, do they have NO souls? 
    • The present. <3