Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jalisco Gringo Vegan

You may have noticed that I have not been around that much. I have a lot of things to blame, as I refuse to take personal responsibility for that. It would be easy to blame work, but I recall when I spent over 2 months in Milwaukee last summer, I still managed to blog quite a few times. So maybe I didn't really have much interesting to say. I try not to take life too serious, and I try to keep my blogs somewhat light, so when I didn't have anything funny to say, I elected to just say nothing and not blog. Maybe those were the blogs I should have written, so I'll try a new tactic, even if I have nothing chippy to say, I'll just write a boring blog about some random event and we'll see if it really matters. Hows that for PMA?

I've been travelling quite a bit (pretty much every week), and most of the time I've been getting by. This past week I spent in Guadalajara Mexico. My company had a trade show there, and they thought it might be fun to send me there. It was fun, in some respects, but eating was a special challenge. Lets just say that while I was trying to find food that did not contain "Carne, Leche, Huevos, Queso, etc", I was always greeted with wide eyes, and then a disbelieving smile. It didn't take me long to learn that vegetarians, let alone vegans were not very common in these parts. Well I wouldn't let that stop me, I'd starve before I exhausted all of my resources. Wait, I just may.

So a few weeks before when I was in Dallas, I traveled with Clif Bars, Pistachio's, PB, crackers (like I was worried about Texas being a third world country). Did I bother to pack one thing to take to Mexico? Nope not a one. I remembered before boarding that I would probably want something to eat, so I managed to find a decent burrito and brought it on the plane with me.

So I've heard endless warnings and horror stores about the dangers of what I was walking into, and I really haven't done any foreign travel in over a year, so I was a bit apprehensive. That, on top with the language thing (No habla espanol), I was half expecting to see militia at every exit of the airport, and and smoking hulls of Toyota pickups that had encounters with IED's. I was pleased to see neither of those, nor any real obvious issues. The neighborhood looked decent enough. Guadalajara is a big city, but not oppressive, by the time the cab got me to my hotel (20 mins), I already felt comfortable enough to head out on my own.

Upon just arriving I managed to get unpacked and changed, throw a pair of flip flops on (that I haven't worn since last summer, another brilliant idea), grab a map from the front desk and hop in the cab for the city center. After walking around for a while, I got the bright idea to find this vegetarian restaurant I sort of remember seeing online. The phone works, I'll just call my wife and she can look it up for me. Ok that was easier said than done. The next several hours were spent walking and walking in search of this phantom restaurant. After it started turning dusk, I managed to find a 7-11, where I grabbed some (cant confirm its vegan-ness) rolls, and a mexican-coke, or as they call it in Mexico, "Coke". So it was back to the hotel for me, and room service. A very un-Mexican Pasta-Pomodoro.

The next few days at the trade show were unremarkable. No real breakfast served, but there were veggies and fruit juices out every day. As I noted, the veggies were to be eating with salt, lime, and chile powder. This became my daily breakfast routine. Especially cucumber. It was an especially good combo with them. Lunch's were formal, no buffet, all sit down. Soup (cream of something), Main course (meat and veggies), and dessert. Having explained my "situation" to my colleagues, they took to explaining to the wait staff my restrictions. So my vegetarian meal was basically the main course, with a few more veggies, and no meat. I will admit, I was pretty sure that butter was involved in my meal, but the alternative was to eat nothing each day. I opted for survival (go easy on me).

Going out with some colleagues, led me to my most Mexican meal of the week, cheese-less nacho's (they added mushrooms for some reason), guac/chips, beer (Sol) and Tequila (Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia). Which in and of itself was funny. If they saved this stuff for the family, how does a gringo like myself get served it?

We drank what the referred to as a "Mexican Flag", but I think the colors were off a bit. You sip the tequila (middle), then some spicy tomato juice, and finally some lemon juice. Its an odd combination, but I liked the pomp and circumstance, so I was all over this combo.

On to the next few days, more spicy cukes, chips and salsa (botanera), veggies probably made with butter, glass after glass of horchata (where has this amazing drink been all my life?), and room service pasta, I was left to my last evening where some folks took me out to a nice restaurant, which turned out to be Italian. Yep, I'm getting pasta for dinner again. So to make a long story short, for a week I thought I would be up to my eyeballs in rice and beans, I've pretty much eaten taters, veggies, and sketti's for a week.

Interestingly enough, my best meal of the week was at the GDL airport. I managed to find the vegtarian dish at this restaurant, and although it was light (I ate this in about 4 bites), it was quite tasty.

Its no wonder that when I got home late Friday night, I was oddly craving burrito's.

On to my next adventure

Monday, March 21, 2011

It seldom turns out the way it does in the song...

Well I ain't often right but I've never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right

Probably my favorite lines from any song ever recorded. They really stuck with me at a point in my life when I needed all the help I could get. I've just recently listened again to the precise show that these words really jumped out to me, and it took me back about 10 years when I was going through a rather rough time. (This is Scarlett Begonias from The Grateful Dead if you hadn't guessed by now). I was going through some profoundly tough times, and I sought solace in listening to Grateful Dead shows. It was the music and poetry of Jerry Garcia that had a big hand in showing me the way through those times.

I'm going through different times now, not like back then, but a different set of life challenges. I have a job that has evolved into a full time travel position, 2 great kids, that i "share" with my ex wife, a year old nugget that is love of my life, and a wonderful wife, that just so happens to be expecting in October. Oh yeah, and the whole vegan thing has had its share of challenges. Its a different struggle now, but one I'm still looking to Jerry again to help me through.

I am happy that I am encountering so many great people (who happen to be vegans). So many of them seem to be getting by, and living life with ease. I could not be happier for them... For me? Well I'll just listen to those old shows I have when I start to wonder where I can find the energy to keep it all together.

Friday, March 18, 2011

a Vegan survey (for Phro*Zen Meg)

Meg from Phro*Zen Ice Cream recently contacted me and wanted to ask me a few questions. I figured instead of just filling out the email and sending it back, I'd at least make a blog of it. More fun this way, and it keeps me at this full disclosure thing that I've been saying. Anything I have to say about myself is open to the scrutiny of my vegans. I haven't read these in advance, I'll try to be as serious as I can, but that is asking a lot.

For those that haven't read your blog yet, give us a little background. When did you become a vegan?

I became vegan in April of 2010. I changed over from a full on Omnivorous lifestyle. I literally changed overnight from eating meat, cheese, drinking milk, and avoiding most vegetables like the plague. I tend to overdo things, so instead of trying to phase into it, I stopped all animal based products when I returned from a trip to Colorado. From the next day on, I began the process of figuring out what exactly I got myself into.

What was the inspiration behind making that change?

My wife was 4 months into Yoga certification training, and had already given up red meat, and was moving towards a vegetarian diet. She had been enlightening me to the concept of "Ahimsa" and bringing to my attention the real workings of the meat and dairy industry. I'll admit, I was pretty sure those industries were not squeaky clean, but I've always been of the mindset that meat and milk come from a grocery store, and thats about all I needed to know.

Have you faced challenges with adhering to a vegan diet?

I have and continue to face them. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing, so I was first challenged with what I could eat. I spent about two weeks eating PB&J and Pasta. Granted, PB&J is probably the worlds perfect food, but I was sure I could not keep eating it. Over time we learned how to cook and shop, and have begun to amass a library of things to make. But it is still a challenge, as food in general is not a simple as it once was.

I was surprised at how little I missed milk, and how much I missed things like hot dogs and hamburgers. I've been seeking to replicate and find the perfect substitute for them, but realize that those are not going to leave me satisfied, and I need to find other things I love, instead of trying to reproduce the old desires.

Have you experienced any positives associated with veganism?

I feel healthier, and I dont have diners remorse. I did in fact love fast food, but would literally feel ill at times after picking something up that sounded good at the time. In December I had noted that I had lost 30 lbs since adopting the new dietary lifestyle. I have a greater appreciation for Organic food, and am now seeking out how we can eliminate preservatives and artificial ingredients completely from our diet. I'm better educated about what goes into food, and the myths of why we need dairy. I feel at least I am not contributing to industries that are preying on the fact that our nation is and will continue down a path of gluttony. Oh and I've met some cool chicks.

Are there things that you miss aside from certain foods that you miss about being an omnivore?

I travel quite a bit, and I miss being able to go out to dinner, and order a meal without just settling for the one thing on the menu that is or can be easily veganized. I miss going to my wifes inlaws for Sunday dinner and having to eat "around" the items that were cooked. I miss the convenience.

What's one thing someone who is vegan should know about those who aren't?

I think that most people who are not vegan have no idea why anyone would want to become vegan, nor would they be aware of the ideals that the vegan has adopted. So I treat anyone who would challenge me with smiles and respect. They don't know me or anything about me, so I will give the benefit of the doubt, and happily explain my position. I don't judge, or pass judgement. This is my choice, my life.

What's one thing that someone who isn't vegan should know about being vegan?
I've learned to view this like anyone else who has a personal lifestyle that may not align with mine to simply respect another persons lifestyle. And we aren't all flaming liberals. But most of us probably are.

What would you like people to know about the vegan lifestyle?

I think you can guess the theme of my comments, and it is really about respect first. I'm not a preacher, and tend not to bring my personal opinions on how others choose to life their lives. I realize just because everyone does something, doesn't imply that it is right, but since I tend not to try and sell my lifestyle, I just ask that others do the same. I would offer to others that I am just like them, I just choose to make different decisions when it comes to dining, shopping, etc. Its hard to pick us out from a crowd. We are like real people.

Are there issues concerning the vegan lifestyle that you find surprising? exciting? confusing?

I have a friend who eats meat/dairy but does so in a somewhat responsible manner. He buys his meat from a local farm, drives almost an hour to another farm for his milk, and pays upwards of $4 for a dozen of organic eggs, that I suspect are laid by chickens hanging out by the pool, and reading trashy romance novels. OK, the meat still results in the death of the animal. The milk? Well I didnt ask if it was given up freely by cows who who got pregnant because they were promiscuous. But if the chickens are really living the good life, why not enjoy their product? But then is that exploitation the problem?

Am I really making a difference by avoiding the whole wheat bread from Subway because it has honey? Is this better for me than the vegan choice of Italian. Would honey as a sweetener server me better that high fructose corn syrup?

A friend of mine has been vegan for 20+ years but he eats honey. Perhaps by some he would have to give back the vegan membership card.

Anything else you'd like to add? A favorite vegan dish you can find here in Cincinnati? A favorite recipe?

I could go on and on here, but since we are head there tonight, I should point out that I love Skyline, as it was probably the only place that I continued to frequent before and after turning vegan. I was happy to find out there pasta is vegan, so having a 5-way with veg chili (no cheese) is one of my fav's. Besides that, Melt, Amma's Kitchen, and now Shanghai Mama's are our current fav's in the city.

Please check out Meg's blog and follow her on twitter.

Cincinnati,... its not just for Chili anymore.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Losing My Religion

Lately it seems I have been thinking about this in great detail. As you all have seen, and guessed that I have been somewhat aloof lately. I've been trying to wrap my head around all of this. Over the last few months I've amassed a fair amount of followers on Twitter, and I have been witnessing a lot of differing levels of individuals "commitment" to their chosen lifestyle. I also see a fair amount of challenges and accusations and statements about what it means to be a "real" vegan. Let it be known that I have never been challenged on my "veganism", but then I don't think I am an entirely open book, so perhaps the challenging chapters have not been published (yet).

I really think it compares closely to a religion, or ones passion they have for their faith, and the desire to project their faith on others. As far as that goes, lets take a step back. I was raised a Catholic, but never really practiced it that much. Pretty much once I was confirmed back in junior high school, church became somewhat "optional", and I don't have a recollection of going much in my high school years. I think I went to church once or twice in college, but that was mostly because a friend of mine was a rather devout Catholic, and I used to like hanging out with her. After that I pretty much went "alltheist" (see urban dict for that one).  I dabbled in Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Wiccan, Devil worship... just kidding,.. I never went Lutheran.

It was recently (in relative terms) that I went back to the Catholic church, and I can mostly thank (blame?) my wife for that. Well before we were married, she used to talk to me about the benefit of going to church, taking that time out of your week to calm your soul, and be thankful for what you have. Also, to introduce it to my son and daughter, who had no knowledge, or desire to learn. My parents gave me the benefit of the introduction, but it was up to me to establish a relationship. Unfortunately relationships have never been one of my strong suits. Coming back was my decision, my desire, and all by my doing. I don't agree with a number of things, but I do it for me, and I leave others to make up their own mind. This is about the extent I even talk about it. Its my choice, and as far as I'm concerned, I am a Catholic.

My ex-wife was raised Southern Baptist.  Her folks are split up, and remarried.  Her mother ("born again"), and her father-in-law became very "assertive" church goers. Very aggressive Christians. So much so, that it would really start to put you off. I've had a number of discussions and arguments with her FIL, as I just didn't get the point that only those, who are "saved", would be saved. I didn't buy the fact that most of the planet was doomed because they didn't know how to utter the words. I finally stopped arguing. My point would never be made. I can see how my ex, and her sister became very put off by the religion. So much so, that they are put off by any and all of them. I was more impressed by what it was that made her FIL so convinced he was right. I didnt think he was, but he sure as hell thought he was (interesting choice of words I realize)

But I was thinking about the passion my FIL invoked whenever it came up in conversation. In his mind, this was the path to salvation. He really seemed convinced he was right. So if you really knew in your heart that this was the only way to be "saved", would you be passionate enough to try to convince others?

I'm learning also how passionate people are about their veganism, and how far they take it. I'm understanding the nuances of a "foodie" versus an "abolitionist" (seriously, I never really encountered those terms), and seeing how outspoken everyone is about this. There is a lot of activism in this "club". A lot of people that are very passionate about their cause. Its a righteous one, admittedly. Simply put:
  • End cruelty. Live a cruel free life. 
  • Don't purchase or consume products that contain animal content. 

Its that simple, right? Well people get pretty emotional when it comes to this, lots of opinions, calls for letters, boycotts, it can get very heated. Well why wouldn't it? So many people need to be educated, so many people don't know. Well they don't know what they don't know right? I recall someone tweeted that we should just talk to one person a day about veganism,.... well its almost like talking to them about Jesus being your personal savior, right? Interesting, maybe my FIL had a point. At least I can understand his passion. Whether I choose to believe it or not is another matter. I have to respect where he is coming from.

So is there a difference?  In veganism there is no "god" per-se, but the ideal we seek, is not unlike the ideal one seeks to live ones life as Jesus. So if I don't claim Jesus my savior am I dammed? If I don't abolish all animal based products, am I dammed? I don't know, maybe I am. But maybe I just need to find out where I fit in. I will admit, I stressed out when I discovered there was probably bone dust in my Oreo's.

I don't know how far this goes. I wonder, because I know at some point it is really going to affect those around me. I don't want to be the kid that sits at the special table, or someone who has to bring their own food. I don't want to question my mom, dad, or my in-laws about every ingredient that went into a meal. I hope I can find the right groove, feel like I am really doing the right thing, on the right path, but not alienate those around me.

It is interesting to see two groups as polar opposites, yet so much alike. I guess I have to respect the abolitionists, but I am clearly not there. Maybe I never will be. I respect the "saved" for their opinions. Maybe they are right. But it doesn't matter. They think they are.

So according to some, I'm neither Vegan, nor am I going to Heavan. I, however, think I need this T-Shirt