It’s April 15th! Today marks the halfway point of my month of veganism, and friends, I have confessions to make.
I feel like I should have some before-and-after pictures for this project, but I’m pretty sure that I look and feel exactly the same. I’ve heard many people say that they felt so much better once they started following a vegan diet, but I am not one of them. Part of the magic in other people’s stories, I think, is that the change in eating habits was very dramatic. They went from eating a junk-food diet, with plenty of fast food, meat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and very few vegetables to a diet loaded with fresh produce. In my opinion, just eating more fresh produce is a powerful way to improve your diet. And if you fill up on healthy stuff, you’re more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to eat junk. It turns out my parents were right.
Vegan or not, I have a pretty healthy diet, so I’m not expecting dramatic results from this experiment. What I am discovering is how hard it is for me to be publicly vegan, knowing that I haven’t committed to a vegan lifestyle for the long haul.
Let’s start with the easy part: the food I eat at home. It’s been pretty easy for me to stick to my vegan experiment at home, especially once I found some vegan probiotic foods to keep my belly happy. A few changes to my routine have made it easy to eat vegan meals and snacks. I’ve been rotating through different non-dairy milks, enjoying the variety of flavors. I’m tinkering with the cashew cheese recipe, which really does satisfy my craving for something cheeselike. I think I’m getting closer to a good ricotta-like version of the cashew cheese, and I’ll post the recipe when I’m happy with it. And finally, I’ve been eating a lot of tofu, trying different recipes and making notes to myself about what I like best.
But eating outside of my home? I have failed to stick with my vegan intentions. Failed, with a capital F. I crumbled almost immediately, which is embarrassing. Last week, my friends Anne and James were in town, and we went out to eat at Genghis Grill. I love their red curry peanut sauce, which isn’t even vegetarian! Whoops. I think it has shellfish in it. To be honest, that is the sort of blip on my vegetarian radar that I’m willing to ignore. I would prefer that it was vegetarian, but eh—I can’t get myself too worked up about it. After Genghis Grill, we went to Tutti Frutti, a new frozen yogurt place in town, where we proceeded to mmm and ooh our way through the various samples. It was totally delicious, and totally not vegan.
The next day, I had two hours of work meetings in the afternoon, and at the end of that long block of listening to other people, I was tired and hungry. I brought some snacks with me to the second meeting (cashews and dried cranberries), but when the pizza showed up, covered in melted cheese, I…I ate it. Three pieces of it. And yes, it was delicious. I was certain to avoid the pizzas with meat on them (which was the majority), but it was definitely a vegan fail.
Finally, on Friday afternoon, I was feeling bored and tired at work and without even thinking about it, I grabbed a piece of chocolate from an open bag, unwrapped it, and bit into it. Then I thought, Oh, crap. Because sure enough, it was milk chocolate. I like the flavor of milk chocolate, but it’s supposed to be off-limits this month. Off-limits, not melting on my tongue in a flood of sweetness.
So what’s the common denominator here? I think there are two: social situations and work-related fatigue/boredom. The level of preparedness that I would need in order to avoid dairy when I’m not at home is high. I’d have to know which restaurants around town have vegan options or will let me custom-order a vegan meal. I’d have to know where to find vegan desserts around town. At work, I would have to be ever ready to say no to dairy, even when I’m tired and hungry and want to catch up with my friends while we sit around eating pizza.
But I think there’s an additional layer of complexity here, which is that I don’t feel like a true vegan. I’m not ready to come out as vegan because I haven’t committed to veganism beyond the end of this month. I feel bad inconveniencing people during these dairy-free days, and that’s very different than how I feel about not eating meat. I am totally willing to insist that my friends and I eat in restaurants that have good vegetarian options. I won’t go to a steakhouse or a barbecue joint, because what’s the point? I don’t want to patronize restaurants that glorify meat-eating, and I don’t care to be the only vegetarian in the room at those places.
I am willing to keep trying, for the sake of my project, to find ways to eat vegan food when I’m not eating at home. It’s tough, especially outside of a big city. Perhaps it would be easier in Austin than in College Station, but I won’t sit around bemoaning my fate here in small-city, conservative Texas. I’m going to keep trying, and I’ll report back at the end of the month to let you know if I made any progress in this domain. For now, I will leave you with a few photos of my weekend, at home and out and about.
Vising Chappell Hill, Texas for the annual blue bonnet festival
Fake blue bonnets at the festival. I think blue bonnet season arrived early this year because of all the rain we’ve had this winter.
Grazing cows and horses as seen from the car.
Sunday morning at home, prepping Roma tomatoes for slow roasting