Perspective

When I was a meat-eater, I couldn’t fathom being vegetarian. It just didn’t seem possible.

Then I cut out red meat and pork, but I couldn’t imagine not eating chicken or fish.

Then I stopped eating chicken, but the choices for most vegetarians, it seemed, on menus when we went to restaurants was so limited, I thought that’s it, I can’t possibly cut out fish entirely.

Then I stopped eating fish. But I couldn’t see myself going vegan and the prospect of switching to a gluten-free diet seemed impossible.

Since then, our family has cut out eggs entirely, mostly cut out dairy (we occasionally eat a small amount of goat cheese), and we’ve cut out gluten almost completely. We are constantly hearing comments like “but you still eat meat sometimes, right?” or “do you eat fish?” or “so, you never go out to restaurants?” to which the answer to all of these questions is NO! 

No, we don’t eat meat; that’s what being vegetarian means. It doesn’t mean we don’t eat red meat, or we don’t eat meat on Thursdays or we don’t eat meat but we eat fish (that would be a pescetarian, not a vegetarian). In fact, we don’t drink the milk of animals (unless almonds are considered animals) or eat cheese (generally). And we don’t eat eggs (which makes baking a challenge). All of these things combined is what being vegan means (some people include not eating any animal products and include honey in this — we’re not quite that hard core).

But that doesn’t mean we don’t go to restaurants. Because there are lots of other vegan people, too — they’re just not generally thought of that way. Indian food? In India, meat is expensive, so most traditional dishes are made with just vegetables and spices. Hence, there are tons of vegan options on an average Indian restaurant’s menu. Also Thai food, Vietnamese food…we’re planning on trying Ethiopian food sometime in the near future. American food? No, that’s not generally very conducive to veganism or vegetarianism. Ethnic, and particularly Asian food? Yes.

I’ve thought a lot about the reactions of surprise and shock and disbelief to our diet and it is related to my own preconceptions about my dietary choices over the years, and I think what it comes down to, what people are actually saying when they say “I could never be vegetarian” is that sounds really hard.

And the truth is, it’s really not.

Sure, for me, the progression from being a meat-eater to vegan was probably over the course of about 15 or so years; it was a gradual process of dropping this item or that item. By the time I dropped chicken and was onto fish, it was only when we went to restaurants, and the biggest concern I had at that point was where the fish was from and whether it came from potentially toxic waters so eventually, dropping fish was more of a “I don’t want to deal with checking where the fish is from so I’m just not” decision than an ethical or health decision. But, now that I’m here, it’s not hard at all. And it’s a lot healthier, too. I used to have chronic stomach and digestive issues that magically went away when I stopped eating dairy and wheat. We make more of our food, so we know what goes into it rather than buying food from the frozen section. And it tastes better, too. I wouldn’t go back to what I was eating before in a second.

The point is it’s a matter of perspective. Like thinking I am okay designing WordPress themes, but I’m not really a developer, then I can build and develop themes, but I could never do a plugin, to actually building my first WordPress plugin and realizing it wasn’t really that hard — certainly any harder that doing a theme.

The only thing keeping you back from doing anything at all is your own voice inside your head saying I could never do that, it’s too hard. Hard is relative. The hardest part of “hard” is thinking it. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Awesome, simple and fast stir fry

I just made a really awesome stir fry with some ingredients we just had lying around the house. I don’t consider myself a good cook (or, really, much of a cook at all), so I was surprised at how good this came out, considering it was sort of a “well, this sounds good” process of throwing things in the frying pan (I guess most good recipes fall into that category). I didn’t measure anything and it’s all to taste anyway, so I’m not going to include amounts of anything, just what I used (which is also to taste).

  • Tofu
  • Bell peppers (I used frozen bell peppers that were cut into strips — would be even more tasty with fresh bell peppers)
  • Tomatos (I used what we had — grape tomatoes, cut in halves)
  • Corn (again, frozen, but fresh would be more awesome)
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar (a small splash)
  • Chile oil (small amount or to taste)
  • Garlic (minced or freshly pressed — I used minced from a squeezy tube)
  • Ginger (minced or fresh, grated — I used fresh, grated with a cheese grater)
  • Brown sugar
  • Peanut oil

With the frozen ingredients and literally no prep time (other than cutting the tofu into bite-size pieces), the whole thing took about 15 minutes to cook.

Fry the tofu in the peanut oil until golden. (I could have let mine go for a bit longer, but I was hungry and started adding in the other ingredients before the tofu was fully golden, which would have added a few minutes to my time, but it wasn’t a problem at all.) Add the soy sauce (enough to coat the tofu). Add the bell peppers. Add the tomatoes. Add garlic. Add ginger (I just grated it over the frying pan). Mix it all up. Add brown sugar (I used maybe 1Tbsp for one bowl of awesomeness). Add the rice vinegar and a little more soy sauce.  Add the corn and mix everything up. Serve when the corn is cooked through.

 

Veganaise

I am not vegan.  Or, at least, I never considered myself to be.  Even when, a few years ago, we were forswearing just about all forms of food that you can generally buy at an average grocery store for the sake of our son’s digestive issues when he was a baby (this included no eggs, dairy, gluten, nuts and anything else that tastes good), I didn’t consider myself vegan — at the time I would still, occasionally, eat fish or other things off the restricted menu when we went out to eat.

Things have shifted more into the being-a-crazy-vegan department of late.

It all started when I tasted some amazing homemade vegan sausages at some event at my son’s school that were made by one of the parents in his class.  That made me think well, if he can do that, I’m sure I can find a similar recipe and do it, too.  This led me to finding an awesome vegan sausage recipe.  Then came the fantastic black bean burger recipe from the Veganomicon.  Later, we tried the chickpea cutlets, also from the Veganomicon.  Pretty soon, I was making some kind of vegan meat thing on a regular basis.  This coming from the guy who insists he can’t cook and blows something up when he’s in the kitchen (although, I still succeed in getting at least some of the ingredients all over the front of my shirt when I’m making one of these items).

Lately, we’ve made some of the breakfast recipes from the Rabbit Food Cookbook, which has a surprisingly normal-tasting French Toast (considering it’s made without eggs), and actually-pretty-good eggless waffle and muffin recipes.  If we don’t need eggs for cooking, that led to the concept, well, do we need eggs at all?  Sure, you can’t make scrambled eggs without eggs, but with tofu you can at least make scrambled something.  So out eggs went.

That leaves cheese as the only thing left on the vegan no-no list.  Having formerly been employed as a cheese cutter at Whole Foods, giving up cheese is not an easy task.  Certainly on the list of foods that are procured through inhumane means, cheese probably ranks low on the list.  Lately, we’ve been eating a lot of goat cheese, not because it’s any less dairy than cow cheese, but because goat cheese does not contain lactose.  The problem with giving up cheese is that vegan alternatives to cheese are uniformly horrible, and often aren’t strictly vegan either.  Many “vegan” cheeses contain casein (a protein that comes from milk) or rennet (an enzyme produced in a mammal’s stomach).  I don’t imagine that cheese will be completely leaving our diet anytime soon, but, even so, the amount of food we make that has cheese in it, these days, is much less than it was maybe 5 or 6 years ago.

However, the real sign that we may be turning to the vegan Dark Side is the subject of this post’s title.  For years, even when making vegetarian dishes, we only used mayonnaise when mayonnaise was called for.  Vegenaise just sounds weird.  And certainly not very appetizing.    (Also, as it turns out, it seems to be spelled wrong — when I started writing this post, I assumed it was spelled Veganaise — you know, like the vegans.  Turns out it’s Vegenaise.  I’m not sure what a vegen is, but I’m keeping my original post title because Veganaise is more descriptive…)  However, with the last empty carton of eggs tossed dutifully into the recycling — and with it, the vow to never get eggs again…probably — came the first appearance of a new vegan condiment in our refrigerator: Vegenaise.  Is it edible?  Well, we will see…