Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where the Blazes Have I Been?

So, what's in a year?

Some stuff has happened lately that has given me a renewed interest in resuming this food blog. I won't go back over the whole year, only that as of last summer, I had pretty well abandoned this food writing idea. Food had become something I made as simply as possible, while still trying to remain healthy. I wasn't really inspired, as I feel I had been in the last ten years. I felt that I was over it. There are so many food blogs out there now - and so many of them do this so much better than I do. I don't own a Mac, and my pictures look decidedly less fancy compared to others with each passing year.

I feel that God places things in our path at times, and we can either continue to walk around them and ignore the signposts, or we can stop and pay attention. Suffice to say, my signposts had begun to accumulate. A voice was needling me from somewhere in the back of my mind.

In September, I had a wonderful time at my older daughter's birthday party. I made her a Rapunzel cake; my first fondant cake with homemade fondant. It was incredibly fun, and I plan to do it again, possibly this summer when my younger daughter most likely has the Cinderella-themed party that she's been insisting on for months. They seldom let go of things, my kids.

Anyway, my mother-in-law made some shredded pork sandwiches for the party, which I ate and enjoyed very much. The next day, I promptly became a vegan, and have not looked back. I am in love with it.

(Then, I also turned the remnants of our herb garden into a large batch of Nonno's seasoning.)

Was this a shockingly sudden move on my part? Well, I'm sure it seems that way to most people. But I've been led to this point by the convergence of several others. First of all, I'm not so much an animal rights activist, but well, meat has just started to seem... Yucky. I watched an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" (a program I still enjoy, owing to the habit I have of watching cook shows that feature food I would never cook or eat), and they showed an entire pig being brought up out of a crank-turned smoker on a grate. It had been gutted, and laid open. It had smoked so long it was just holding its form together in a near-gelatin state. The diner's cook thrust his hand between the skin and the ribs, unceremoniously ripping out various cuts of meat ("there's your tenderloin") and throwing pig liquid all over the room. I thought, "Yeah, I'm done."

On top of this, I always enjoy vegetarian food. I know I may be a freak, but I already knew I loved tofu, seitan and tempeh. I just usually used cheese liberally in my vegetarian dishes. Did I want to give that up? Until recently, I also couldn't picture life without eggs. I'd been heard to say that I felt vegetarianism was logical, but veganism was something I viewed as a type of eating disorder. But back to that in a moment.

The second influence on me was a couple articles I'd read by vegan athletes. I was eating more lean meat than ever (note the post, "Diet Plate,") based on the advice of periodicals like "Runner's World," which pushes a lot of lean meat, telling you that as a runner, you need 30% more protein, printing meaty recipes, etc. I was exhausted almost all the time (which I actually blamed on my children). So when I read about Scott Jurek (which I also have to credit to "Runner's World," though you'll notice that the tone of the article treats him like quite the novelty), another component slid into place. He talks about coming to this decision a little at a time, over a period of years, which is how I feel my journey has been. I was eating meat, but my tastes have been evolving in the last ten years, from someone who really enjoyed her Cheez Whiz, into someone who really enjoys broccoli rabe. Anyway, I had read another couple articles in the same week, seemingly placed into my path somehow.

I decided to try it out for a couple of weeks, just to see what happened. As my brother says, "I figure if I ever change my mind, the meat is still there." So without pressuring myself, or expecting much either, I decided to try it out. I needed a new adventure, and I figured maybe I'd lose two pounds or so for my efforts.

My first vegan meal was acorn squash, stuffed with black rice, dried fruit and chopped nuts, apples, and topped with lots of cinnamon, margarine, and brown sugar.

(It was very good, but I decided I had over-sweetened it.) The next week, I went out to dinner with my friends Brooke, Kim, and Brooke's incredible family (still waiting for them to sign my adoption papers) at Vapiano's in the city. I ordered an entire pizza without cheese, ate the entire thing, and then the next morning I got up and ran my first marathon.

(My knees started killing me at about mile 18, but I attribute that to too many weekday miles, not the vegan diet.**) Anyway, after two weeks, I felt better than I ever have in my life. Like, WAY better. Incredibly alert, energetic, strong and beautiful. And I still do. Then I watched "Forks Over Knives," and the infamous China Study solidified my views on things. Sealed the deal, I guess.

(**I will say this, and apologize. If you go vegan, expect a certain side-effect to go on for a couple weeks until your body adjusts to the whole foods and fiber. Find a quiet corner at work, crop-dust, and get through it. I got better, and I still have some friends.)

I continued things all the way through Thanksgiving, when I kept everything vegan, except the turkey roll I made for the family. I served roasted brussel sprouts with chestnuts, mom's rolls (veganized version), stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, and a Tofurkey roast, which apparently only I didn't like. It reminded me that I had cut out most of the processed food in my life for a reason.

I love the food I am eating, and I look forward to sharing. My family is not vegan, though they often eat what I make, so if I adapt a recipe for them, I will share this also. If we go to a burger joint together, you're going to see that also. Cooking vegan has been a true adventure, as well as a learning process, both in culinary technique, and in integrating the cuisine into my family's life. Thanks for your support!


  1. What's tofurkey? Is it something you buy or make yourself? The spread looks delicious.

  2. It's a vegetarian roast: I got ours under the Trader Joe's brand. They designed it to tear like turkey meat ("at a 45 degree angle,") and the look and the texture are remarkably accurate. I also thought the included gravy was very tasty. However, it had a very processed kind of chemical-y taste that I didn't care for.