Thursday, January 13, 2011

Protège moi de mes désirs

The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true. 

For one reason or another, when I think about eating something non-vegan, I hear Galadrial in the back of my head talking to me. Seriously.

This is a bit dramatic, but there is a lot of truth to this. I used to smoke, I mentioned this in post I put out in late summer last year. I commented on how much I enjoyed smoking. I quote: "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..." This is precisely why I could never entertain lighting up another cigarette. Oh I have had a few in the last 5 years, but I swear on "someones" grave, I did not inhale. I knew better. Once that smoke hit my lungs, I'd be hooked again. At least I recognize my addictive nature, and avoid getting sucked back in. I even toyed with giving myself rules to allow myself to smoke. Like, "Only smoke when you travel", but then I travel too much for that, so I said "Only smoke when travelling Internationally". That sounded better, but almost immediately I started eyeballing Canada (which isnt all that far away). I could see myself making an excuse to go to our Detroit office, then slipping into Windsor for some debaucherous behavior. No, not that,.. just pull over, have a few smokes, then drive back. I can imagine what they would say at immigration. "Purpose for visit? Oh, I'm just coming over to have a smoke". Clearly I couldn't trust myself with rules. It was all or nothing,.. well,.. it was nothing.

You see my point. Just one slip, and I come crashing down. This is how I feel about my now nine months of veganism. I watched TV last night, as I am oddly addicted to Glee (not related to the point I'm trying to make, but it may be relevant at some point), and there was a slew of commercials on for the crappiest of foods out there. Pizza, Fast Food, Fried Chicken, etc. And it all looked soooooo good. I could smell the Pizza, feel the crunch of the Fried Chicken as I sunk my teeth into it,.. and Subway has a new "big hot pastrami" commercial. Come on are you serious? A Subway commercial of all things? Yeah, I'm not always haunted by classy stuff, its not Ruth's Chris and Morton's that are haunting me, its the Jersey Mikes, Jimmy John's, Quizno's genre that is causing me the greatest stress. But lately, its that damn pastrami commercial. That commercial feels like it was made to taunt me specifically.

Maybe its the new year, the holidays are over, work has slammed me once again. My happy festive spirit is long since gone, my gallettes were a train wreck (still pondering though). My travel schedule is getting brutal, and my general mood is declining. Its probably just that post holiday slump. I feel like this veganism is narrow path along the face of a cliff, and there is an easy way off. (No, not the Mines of Moria) Just eat the cheeseburger, and put all this madness behind you. What good am I doing? One vote never counts, despite whatpeople tell you.

I dont really have anything tempting in the house anymore, but I've been thinking about how I could cheat, and not tell anyone, keep it from my wife, my family, keep it off twitter. I have daydreamed about going to Jimmy Johns and just sitting in my car, disposing of all of the evidence, then going on my way. Man, I could NEVER pull that off. I'd have guilt written all over my face,.. and then I'd just want to do it again and again. My wife would see right through me. I could never keep a secret from her.

Its a struggle, and I'm just surprised at myself a little. I've read a number blogs of people converting, and then within a couple of months, they have all but sworn off any desire for meat or dairy. I wonder if that desire will ever go away. I have changed, there are things that now give me pause, where i never used to give them a second thought (ribs for example. now the thought of sucking on bones is a bit disturbing). Thats good, right? It is much more gradual than I had thought though. This is going to take years or longer to get this behind me. Or is it like smoking, where it never quite goes away, and I have to give myself an out. When I turn 80, I'm going to take it up smoking again. At that point, what harm could it do? Too late to kill me then. So maybe I'll have a steak as well. My luck, I would cease up and die on that very spot. I would forever be remembered as the long time vegan that died face down in a hunk of meat with a marlboro burning in an ashtray. Ok, maybe I wont have that steak, but I am having that smoke.

It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Corporate America wakes
Coffee republic and cakes
We open the latch on the gate
Of the hole that we call our home

Protect me from what I want...
Protect me protect me

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sammy's first Birthday (All Vegan Party)

I'm a little late getting this post out, as I had a few other blog entries that pushed ahead.  As most of you probably already know, my youngest (Sam), is a lifelong vegan. His life, has only been a year in the making, but he has been a vegan longer than I so I have great respect for his lifestyle choice (ok, we made the choice).  He turned 1 the day after Christmas, and we are hosting his first birthday party with immediate family and close friends (and their children). We felt that this was a perfect opportunity to showcase our newly discovered cooking talents, and make this party entirely vegan.  I cannot guarantee that a "sheet pizza" will not be bought, but I promise you it wont originate from me.  This should be easy, only 40 or so people.  We are also keeping this nut free, as there are always allergies to consider.

I've posted the links to where I got these, I don't claim to have come up with all of these on my own, but if you do see something you like, feel free to leave me a comment, and I'll happily share what went into it.

Our "intended" menu for the days festivities are as follows:
  • Gardein Chicken Fingers
  • Pasta with Marinara
  • Bruschetta w/ Daiya moz
  • Olive Tapanade w/ Tofutti cream cheese
  • Our Homemade Hummus w/ Pita
  • Olives, Red Peppers, Celery, Carrots
  • Chips & Salsa
  • Mock Tuna Salad
  • Sushi (homemade by moi)
  • Salad
  • Yummy Vegan Chocolate Monkey Cake (a banana cake for Sam) w/ So-D Ice Cream
Most of our food was just staged on a table, so people could just graze as they wanted. We rolled out pasta after a few hours, I neglected to photograph the pasta, but there was nothing so visually interesting about this pasta anyways.  Close your eyes and image pasta.

The party was a wonderful event.  We had a large contingent of friends and family, and the lack of Animal, Dairy or otherwise went completely unnoticed.  I was deemed the sushi chef, so I spent the first part of the event in the kitchen assembling.  It turned out wonderful.  I am very meticulous about the rice, I prepare the water in advance with some Kombu and Sake.  Spend a good 20 minutes washing the rice before cooking it. I bought a Hangiri years back, and it helps the rice come out flawless.  Best sushi rice ever!!!

The sushi turned out awesome

I'm not the best roller in the world, definitely need to work on that, but these bad boys got sucked down pretty quick.

My daughter transforms into a sushi zombie whenever this stuff gets near.  

Watch out, she may feel the same way about braaaaaaaaainnnnnnnnzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Well lets get onto the party, and the birthday boy.  Rachel worked tirelessly on the cake, and some of my vegans on twitter may recall when I was tweeting about some cake malfunctions that were going on the kitchen.  These malfunctions were all addressed, and no one was the wiser :)  This was a "Hanuman" themed party, so our vegan Hanuman came out great

Note the banana above.  This was Sammy's personal cake.

All in all we had a wonderful party, about 40 guests, and Sam stayed up until all but the last few die-hards were long gone. Sorry Toby, we ate everything, there was nothing left for you ;)

First all Vegan party,... and the best part was, no one even knew, and everyone had a good time.  I will be making the sushi again soon though.  For as big as a pain it is, its still pretty awesome.

Happy Birthday Hanuman.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm a free "booch" baby

I cant say for certain what she has in that cup, but I have it on good authority that she is enjoying a nice cup of kombucha.  On who's authority you ask?  Well lets just stick to business here, and let me worry about where I get my information.  Hey, if its good for Gaga,.. it is indeed something I am interested in.  Yes, this once-former-80's-metal-head-turned-Miami-Vice-wanna-be-Cure-goth-loving-Grateful-Deadhead-meat-eater-turned-vegan-grande-triple-latte-drinking-evolved-to-oolong-sipping-consumer is brewing da booch.  Let the good times roll.

So booch and I go way back.  I mean waaaaaaaaay back, like we are talking MONTHS!!! Ok, not so way back then.  The first time I ever heard about this was from a small place in Northside call Picnic and Pantry. They told me about something call Fab Ferments.  A local kombucha brew.  Whats that (i ask)? She told me it was a fermented tea that tasted like vinegar (that's what SHE said).  At $4 a bottle, I had no choice but to get one.  So I did.  I brought it home, looked at it in the fridge for a few days.  Then one evening when no one was home, I cracked open the bottle, and drank it down. It was an odd mixture of grape flavor, and fizzy vinegary taste, but it was enjoyable.  Afterwards, I sat back, and waited for it to happen. Wasnt sure what would happen, but I suspected visions, colors, trails, and general euphoria.  After a few hours, I decided this wasnt going to happen, but as odd as it was, I was craving it a week later.

My wife noted that at $4 a bottle, I had better learn how to make my own, as I probably wont be drinking many at that price.  Thats about the time I started twittering around, and came across this unasuming lady.  Meet my new booch mama. Hannah Crum.  She is in no way related to that somewhat famous Bulgarian Quiddich Seeker Viktor Krum.  Well I assume she isn't.  I'll leave that for her to clarify.  They do look awfully cute together though. And you should treat yourself to some of her work, she is a quite an accomplished linguist and actor. 我跳舞的时候你可以照顾我的猫五分钟吗 Hmmm,... but I digress.

To make a long story short (hahaha, I never do) and following my normal mode of operation (act first, inquire later), I started looking around to see what I need to brew my own.  I still didnt know what it was I would be making, but that never stopped me before.  Remember my "going vegan" story? Yeah, I went vegan before I knew what it meant, so this must be easy peasy.

So Hannah hooks our little club up with some scobies and other wares.  Oh, by "club" I mean: @vegangoodthings @slc_vgn @monkandmao @cookinvegan and myself of course.  (we are the fab 5). Oh and by "scoby", I mean a "Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast". Ok, dont ask, I have no clue what that means.  I know it looks like a slimy pancake, and it is what makes your otherwise sweet-tea, kombucha.

I found a nice little martini pitcher to hold my scoby, until I knew what to do.  I searched all over the house for something to brew in, but ended up going to Target to find a nice home for my brew ($20).  And brewing was a snap.  If you can boil water, you can booch.  Although with all of the questions I post on twitter, my tweeps may assume otherwise.

So here is my scoby hanging out in a nice sweet tea, just waiting to be set aside and left alone.  I admit, I have had this overwhelming urge to poke this scoby, but I have been convinced by our club to leave this be.  Its very tough for me to leave it alone.  We have grown quite fond of each other.

So now I resist the urge, I cover it up, and find a nice place to hide it.  Now we havent even gotten to bottling.  I've no idea what to do there, but I'll surely panic, email and tweet the KClub, but before long, I'm sure I will figure that out too.  In the meantime, I leave it in its nice cozy spot.  Stay tuned for bottling updates.  I'm thinking of some flavors for now.  We'll see how it pans out:
  • Vegan Reuben Booch
  • Potatoe and Leek Booch
  • Hooch Booch (Kentucky Bourbon)
  • Smart Dog w/ Vegan Chili Booch
  • Garlic Hummus Booch
Maybe I better Google,.. or better yet, HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nothing strange going on here. Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To be a Donor

I'm taking a moment away from vegan blogging to write a quick note about something I don't actually talk to much about, but recognize that it is a very important subject, and has the potential to save so many lives. I'm referring to organ donation.  I never thought about this much, but I always checked the box when getting my license.  I always assumed that when I go, I wont be around to worry about my organs anyways.  That was until about 13 years ago, my father, while undergoing a routine exam for his heart, was given a contrast dye, which ended up destroying his perfectly healthy kidneys (there was no heart problem as it turned out).  This was a rare statistical anomaly, but its one of those things you generally sign away when giving consent to have a procedure done.  

By the fall of 98, by father was in "end stage renal failure", and was getting out of bed hourly, and going to dialysis several times a week.  That fall, I began the process for being evaluated as kidney donor. Without getting into too much detail, I basically became a regular fixture at the Cleveland Clinic while they evaluated me from top down to make sure I was a good candidate.  Sometime in November that year, I was cleared for donation, and the date was set.  Jan 5th, 1999.  12 years ago today, I donated a kidney to my father.

Yes, thats us clutching our sides with our personal stuffed animals. Mine was a platypus

Most of my friends don't even know about this, as I am intensely private about my personal life, and I really dont look for attention when it comes to these things.  I'm not writing this entry for any reason other than to just tell people to consider being a donor.  According to UNOS, over 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants.  Living donation helps bring this number down and saves lives.  Over 6000 donations were made last year (average) by living donors.  This includes kidneys, liver, lung, intestine, and pancreas.

Today the procedure is much less invasive. This was my 14 inch incision

The procedure has advanced quite a bit over time.  In 99, only one or two hospitals in the country were doing this laproscopically, and Froedtert in Milwaukee was not one of them.  I'll never forget flying there on the 2nd of Jan from Cleveland in a snowstorm.  We were concerned about getting off the ground, when I was informed that since I was "transporting" an organ for donation, a military or coast guard plane could be summoned to take me.  That was a moment that actually freaked me out considerably.

The surgery was a success though, and my fathers health improved immediately.  We spent a week in the hospital, I spent the next 2-3 in Wisconsin, before returning to Cleveland.  All told, I missed about 3 months of work.  With the advances made since then, I'd probably only miss a week now.

I honestly don't think about this too much any more, as we have both healed and moved on.  For me there was never a decision to make, I always knew I would donate.  That doesn't mean this was easy.  It was a tough time emotionally for me and my family.  Now, my father is doing well, and has never had any rejection issues.  Besides the daily medicine regimen he is on, there are no lingering issues.  The problems was solved 12 years ago today, and if it wasn't for a note my dad sent me last night, I may have let this day pass without notice as well.

Whenever the subject comes up regarding "the transplant", everyone
tells me how lucky I was to have had (and still do),  a son with the
courage and character to step up. .  Of course I knew then, and still
do, that you were someone special.  I'm a very proud and  lucky guy to
have you for a son.

When thanks isn't enough,

Love dad

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year

I wanted to get out a quick post at the beginning of the new year mainly to wish all of my friends and family a Happy New Year.  Last year was quite an upheaval for me:  My wife and I were enjoying our first full year of marriage, while raising our new "vegan nugget" Sam, who just turned 1 on the 26th (Dec).  In April we both transitioned to a vegan lifestyle and we never looked back.  Its been a hectic but overwhelmingly eye opening year for me.  I've learned more about life, food, family, and myself in one year, than I have in countless previous ones.  I look forward to more of the same in the coming year.

I started listing out names of the new friends I've made over the last few months, but quickly realized that there are way to many to list, and I would not want to omit anyone.  I am wishing all my "vegans" great success this coming year, and I hope to continue to get to know you all better.  Thank you all for your help and support these past few months.  I will look to you all for continued help and support in the coming year.  I will do my best to help you out whenever I can.

Happy New Years my Vegans Friends