So, I haven’t posted in a while. I kind of went tumbling off track and I was mad because it wasn’t even the result of a craving or anything. I did really well for 2 days, and then on Saturday I caved for a new reason: social pressure. I had my first brush with it and failed the test.
I had a play date with one of my friends and her dogs while I was dogsitting for my other friend. Afterward, we decided to go get something to eat. She told me if I weren’t vegan she would take me to these awesome Spanish restaurants she knew about in Herndon…I was again STARVING, and I thought, “what the hell”. She is a very new friend, and in my opinion to make us go somewhere where I could get something vegan would’ve taken away from the experience. I knew it would be fun for her to show me these hidden gems and for us to eat yummy food together (she is a fat girl in a normal girl’s body at heart). Fat girls like me know that when two fat girls come together there is nothing like bonding over delicious meals. I opted for that outcome, and I’m still not sure if I regret it or not because it is very rare that I find people I like enough to hang out with and give up my hermit introvert time. It has been particularly rare here in Northern VA. But I do know that I don’t want to do it again.
Of course since I’d messed up the morning, I messed up the night, too. Got a bunch of packaged assorted baked goods like coffee cakes and twinkies for dinner (since I was still pretty full from our huge lunch). Next day I did really well all day until I met my mom for dinner during her layover at the airport and could literally not find one thing on the menu I could eat as a vegan. Thought “fuck it, I already fucked up yesterday” and got a cuban sandwich and fries. That wasn’t filling and later I got Taco Bell.
Since I ate after 12:05 AM that night, the next day I knew I would probably screw up (I wanted to be able to start officially that day and if I ate after 12:05 AM then in my mind I have already screwed up that day). I got mozzarella sticks and curly fries from Arby’s, and 2 Krispy Kreme donuts at lunch. Had a small thing of ice cream at dinner.
I’m not elaborating about all of these mess-ups because, unlike the first few last week, I was not in all of this turmoil over the decisions to veer off course. I kind of just fell into my old ways which are a lot less conflict-filled and to me a lot more boring.
Every time I ate non-vegan food, I did have the presence of mind to evaluate whether it was worth not being a vegan. Every time I thought it wasn’t. Especially when I remembered what I’d seen in Vegucated.
So I am now back on track and it feels more permanent. Again, I think this is because of the moral and philosophical reasoning behind what I’m doing.
-I got a vegan sub from Subway. I looked up the ingredients on their website first to be 100% sure everything was vegan. They have a link specifically intended for people with allergies, which I am finding seems to be the easier method to get people/businesses making your food to tell you the truth about what’s in them. I got a 6-inch veggie sub on italian bread, with avocado and oil & vinegar. I also got barbeque chips with it, which were vegan. It was decent, but I’ve never loved Subway in the first place, so I wasn’t expecting too much.
-I went to Starbucks the other day and realized when I went in that I wouldn’t have another chance to eat breakfast/lunch for a while, so I decided to ask the woman taking my drink order if she or anyone else happened to know if any of their baked good DIDN’T have eggs or dairy in them. She told me that was a good question and she wasn’t 100% sure but she thought they all did; she confirmed this with the other two people working with her. She said, “Why, allergies?” and I said “No actually, I recently became a vegan and I figured I’d check and see what I may be able to eat here now.”
To my surprise, all three of the employees were very interested in this. The woman said, “If you don’t mind me asking, what were your reasons for deciding to do that? Health reasons?” I told her no, actually, that my main motivation was animal rights and animal welfare related, but that weight loss and health benefits were a positive by-product. She said, “Oh, you’re going to get me going. That’d be why I would do it too” and the two other employees joined in, particularly interested in “how you got your protein”. I’m by no means an expert yet but realized that this flash-chance to plant the seeds in peoples’ minds was really a huge part of what this whole thing was all about. I rattled off as many sources as I could think of off-hand–tofu, tempeh, seitan, chickpeas, beans, legumes–I quoted a lot of informational sound-bites I’d heard before: “actually, you’d be surprised at the plethora of protein sources available to vegans; you really don’t need to eat meat for protein at all”. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say and even seemed to have looks of actual contemplation about the choice, like I told them something they hadn’t known and maybe that would start to soften their knee-jerk stances.
This fascinated me, both because random strangers at a Starbucks were interested enough to take the time to ask me about it as well as the obvious barely even surface level depth of information they all knew about veganism. I guess I have always known a tad more than the average person does about it because I’ve been interested in it for a while now and so done brief research. But most people don’t clarity on even those basic, intro-level facts about veganism that I’d learned. It made me realize that those three people must not know anybody else who were vegan, or else they wouldn’t need to be asking me about it. I doctored my iced coffee with the soy creamer from TJ’s I’d brought in my purse, and stopped to show them that they could even get creamer that tasted like real cream and was actually–in my experience–even better in iced coffee than regular creamer. They were interested in that, too, because they had wondered whether soy milk or cream tasted okay in coffee drinks. I told them I’d tried soy milk in in iced drink before and it was disgusting, but that soy creamer was different–that I couldn’t be vegan if I couldn’t have decent cream in my coffee. They told me to stop by and let them know how it was going, and I will!
Bottom line for me, though, is that Starbucks doesn’t offer any baked goods that are vegan-friendly. Lame. One of the guys put out a couple of types of fruit & nut bars that were vegan for me, and that was nice of him. But I’m not going to go to Starbucks and get a packaged granola-y bar. Oh well! As long as I can get my iced hazelnut coffee, I’m golden. I do wish that Starbucks provided soy creamer as well as regular creamer, but I know that’s a long-shot.
-The other night, after a long hike/swim with the dogs, my friend Karen and I decided to get dinner together. I suggested a restaurant by my house called “Cafesano” which is sort of a Mediterranean-themed place with brick oven pizzas, wraps, paninis, salads, dips with pita bread, pasta, etc. I’ve been going there with my family, Max, and a few friends for–God–years now. But I’ve never gone as a vegan, so I was anticipatory about what I’d be able to find. I did know that they had falafels so if all else failed I could get that over salad.
I had a few moments of thinking “fuck it, I’m getting the pizza I love” which has fresh mozzarella and fresh-shaved asiago cheese on it. But I knew I didn’t really want to do that, so I got a falafel wrap and we split an avocado dip with tortilla chips. It was yummy and filling and 100% a dinner I would’ve gotten (and probably did get) before I knew it was “vegan”.
What I found annoying, though, was that when I went up to order, I asked the woman taking our order if the pita had any milk or egg products in it. She had a completely clueless look on her face and said “Umm, I don’t know, best not to try it and assume yes!” I asked if there was anyone else back there who might know, and she said, “They’re all really busy…I’m not sure so you shouldn’t push it! There probably is some sort of egg or milk in it; it’s in everything else!”
How annoying. Pita normally does NOT have milk in it, and definitely not egg, but I asked to make sure because of my experience at the Ithaca Farmer’s market (in which I was told the pita had milk powder). I looked at Karen to see what she thought, since she used to be a vegan and babysits for a vegan family. She told me she thought it was ok and that the family eats pita all the time. So I thought, you know what? I am never going to be able to know when I get food out 100% that these products are NOT in them. The most I can do is ask and use my best judgment. In this case, I highly doubted the pita had any milk in it since that is not typical of pita. In the case where I ordered Chinese food with my Aunt a couple of weeks ago, even though I was told the egg rolls and dumplings had no egg or milk, I should probably have used my judgment to figure out that they likely did. But if I never eat ANYTHING out without 110% certainty about the ingredient list, I won’t be able to eat anything anywhere, and I know I will get too frustrated and abandon ship.
It is striking to me to experience the utter lack of knowledge that most people in the restaurant/food industry (is that a thing?) have of simply what’s in the food they put out. Veganism is not a new thing, and apparently the movement is growing; it’s easier now than it ever has been to find vegan options: http://blog.farmsanctuary.org/2013/06/postcard-from-the-road-were-on-a-roll/ . It’s still really not that straightforward, though. So far in my experience, the road is still very bumpy and full of lots of roadblocks. I feel like I am forging a trail and that’s not how I felt when I was a vegetarian–the path had been cleared for me long before I attempted to take it and so all of these confusing, ambiguous issues were never even something I had to worry about.
-Last night, my aunt and I went to this AWESOME restaurant called “Busboys & Poets” in Shirlington right near her house. We’ve been going there for years but, again, this was my first time going as a vegan. I was WAY excited because this restaurant specializes in vegan and vegetarian cuisine. I’d say at least half their menu is vegan, but the dishes are meant for everybody–it’s not like they’re just some lame alternative to the real main events. I haven’t had so many options out somewhere since I started this, so I was like a kid in a candy shop.
I ended up settling on vegan nachos for my aunt and me to split, and a vegan pizza. Both had Daiya cheese, which I’d never heard of, but figured I was going to have to try eventually and what better time than now.
At first, I was borderline blown away by how good the nachos were. But after about 10 minutes of eating and talking I started to notice a strange flavor which was the cheese. Once I noticed it I couldn’t stop paying attention to the taste and comparing it to real cheese, and I grossed myself out. I had to stop eating because it was making me feel nauseous. My aunt–who is not a vegan but ended up making all vegan selections–thought it was good and thought I was being dramatic and ridiculous. I probably was let’s be real. But I LOVE, love, LOVE me some cheese on nachos and pizza. I just don’t know based on that experience if this whole fake cheese on nachos thing is going to work for me. But I am willing to give it another try.
Then my pizza came, and it looked fucking amazing. It was daiya “mozzarella” with green peppers, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, fake pepperoni, olive oil, garlic, and oregano.
So good. It was a great mock pizza. That is to say, all of the ingredients and flavors came together to really resemble pizza.
My cousin-in-law–Kate–texted and asked me if it was as satisfying as real cheese. My answer: HELL no. I’m not going to be one of these health-nuts who lies to everybody and themselves and says “oh my god, I started eating healthy, and it was like, click! No cravings! I don’t even want junk food! I taste <insert previous food addiction here> and it grosses me out now!” There will NEVER be a day when I couldn’t crush a hot, saucy, melty, oozy extra extra cheese pizza dripping with grease and mouth-watering deliciousness. I know that. But is that worth this?
For me, the answer is a resounding: No.