It is official. I have challenged myself to one month of veganhood from April 8th to May 9th, 2013. I’ve probably given reasons and, while cruelty-free eating and the environment are important, it is mostly just for my own interest and health. I get bored – I try something new. When I first lived on my own without a meal plan in second year of undergrad it was then that I discovered a love for grocery shopping. There was always something new and interesting to try, labels to read, nutrition to contemplate. At the time I was extremely budget conscious (think $20-25 a week) so mostly I perused and occasionally treated myself to a fancy new pesto or pomegranates on sale. Those days are over for the good and the bad: I no longer stick to such a tight budget but I also don’t revel in the process of selecting each grocery item carefully like a prize or an adventure.
Perhaps I’m hoping for veganism to bring a challenge and a feeling of adventure back to eating and preparing food. I am hoping it will help me to refocus and try new things. Every nerdy vegan-wannabe needs their own library of animal-protein free literature so I took to amazon and today I received my first bundle of green-eating goodness: Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran, Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and The Daily Vegan Planner by Jolinda Hackett. The first is a how-to guide of veganism in the real world (I’m hoping there is such a thing…) and the second two are cookbooks.
Reading online can get depressing because the more serious you get about eating “right” the more you find out that you can’t eat anything at all. Palm oil is a big oil and fat replacer in vegan diets because butter and lard can’t be used. Except – guilt trip from a veg website – orangutans die during its harvest. How about quinoa (a great source of protein)? Nope. Us evil richies are pricing Bolivians out of the market for their own crop. It can all get extremely overwhelming so I’m going to stick to the basics:
1. no meat or animal-derived proteins
2. no dairy (eggs, cheese, butter, milk, whey, or casein)
3. switching sugar brands because Rogers uses bone char to whiten their sugar
4. no honey…I think…I’m undecided on this one
5. no gelatin
Just because I haven’t totally transitioned yet doesn’t mean I can’t get a head start. I explained in my last post of this nature about trying almond-based dairy replacements with good results. This week I’ve grabbed almond coconut milk in both the sweetened and unsweetened varieties to compare. Since butter will soon be on the shun list I decided to try the veg-blogger obsession buttery spread Earth Balance. Apparently it holds its own in baking and spread on toast (yes, yes it does) but the difference between this option and margarine is still a bit blurry for me. Initially I thought it avoided transfat that ends up in margarine from the hydrogenation of oils (what makes the vegetable oils firm) but that turned out to be false: EB has 0.1 g transfat for every 10g serving (or 1%). Not huge but all transfat is bad fat. I went for the original anyway but might try one of their alternatives without the trans next time.
Earth Balance: if you had 0 transfat it would be an unequivocal switch – it really is a creamy, tasty spread and fills in for butter like a jealous understudy.
Mountain veggie burgers: There is clearly crack in these things (crack is dairy-free, right?). Seriously – I would pick this over a real beef burger any time. Ever. That isn’t to say it tastes like the ground and seared muscle of a dead cow because it definitely does not but you wouldn’t miss that taste if you could have a Mountain burger instead. BEST. FIND. YET.
Vega one: right on the metaphorical heels of my best find yet was something way less impressive. It is a shake to help those nutrient-deficient vegans bulk up on vitamins and I decided to do it in vanilla chai flavour. I’ll have to admit that I cheated because I mixed it with milk instead of soy or almond milk because, well, I have milk to finish! Regardless, the package recommends mixing it with 1 to 1.5 cups of the fluid of your choice and then shake. While the taste is pleasant and less vitamin-y than anticipated I’d do at least 2 cups of liquid if not more. It starts off a bit grainy and, if you let it sit for 15 minutes, it takes on a pudding-like texture. I only got through about half.
Vegans: 2 yum points of a possible 3