*Written at my house in the swamps of the Crescent City
What the hell is wrong with me? I let almost a year go by without blogging and that just ain’t right. A lot has happened over the past 11 months, but this isn’t going to be a catch up post, rather I’m gonna go and give you some vegan insight. Lucky you!
I’ve come to realize that I often try to push the fact that I’ve vegan under the table a bit. Sometimes I’m even apologetic about it. Why? In part, this is due to the fact that I don’t like to put people on the offense (sometimes admitting that you’re vegan will do this for some bizarre reason and no, I don’t announce my lifestyle choice unless I’m trying to order at a restaurant). The reality is, I’m sick of the same old questions and accusations I’ve been hearing for 25 years now. Sure, while I don’t mind answering the occasional curious question or two, if I have to hear, “what the hell do you eat?” or even worse, the dreaded, “where do you get your protein?” it may be time to break bad for me. I wish people would stop being so annoying. These cliché questions have even become t-shirts for fuck’s sake!
Back story: I made the decision to become vegan about a month after my foray into vegetarianism way back in late ’91. My reason had most to do with preventing the suffering of animals. I had always felt disgusted by meat and seafood so it was pretty easy to make the change. I lived in the East Village in NYC and while brands like Daiya, Field Roast and Earth Balance were not even yet a glimmer in anyone’s eyes, it wasn’t exactly a food desert either. I ate a lot of brown rice, black beans, soy burgers at Dojo, falafel and hummus… and what we now call “unintentionally vegan” shit like licorice, graham crackers and jelly beans (and yes, I was obsessive about checking that the ingredients didn’t include casein, albumen, gelatin and the like). I was really young, really broke and I didn’t yet have an expensive wine habit. Black coffee made me feel invincible.
Back then, the books that changed my life: Fit for Life (proper food combining, no animal protein, fruit until noon and/or entire fruit days), Diet for a New America (the first version). Perhaps reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in 8th grade was also an influence. Books were always my everything, and while I’d have my first exposure to the World Wide Web in late ’91, let’s just say there wasn’t a ton of accessible information on there just yet.
Damn, we’ve come a long way, baby! I don’t need to answer your damn banal questions (note: I do however love to help people go vegan, but that’s different. Annoying question people are the type who inevitably then turn around and tell you why your diet sucks). Educate yo’selves! Anything you need to know about the lifestyle is accessible at your fingertips. There are blogs galore. There are local vegan groups on Facebook. Finding vegan options in restaurants is a breeze thanks to Yelp. There’s a whole slew of vegan Youtube channels and looking at the comments there, I’m just amazed at how many teenagers are down with becoming vegan. It’s pretty cool, considering that Millennials are so hell-bent on the irony of eating pedestrian shit like bacon on bacon and duck fat fries. This Gen Xer is digging the Zs coming up and out something hard.
Having access to things that make this way of life more delicious and fun is just so priceless. I’d say I don’t miss the 90s in New York City, but that would be a lie and a topic of another post. There’s all kinds of vegan products available that make eating at home an utter pleasure. While I’m hardly at the Isa Chandler or Vegan Yack Attack level of vegan creations, I sure can follow their recipes! There’s a few things that I make thanks to my own experimentation that seem to make even non vegans pretty happy. I’m especially good at vegan cream sauces and queso (can you tell it’s cheese I miss the most?) I can make these super rich with nuts or low fat with potatoes and cauliflower.
With clothing and accessory lines like Matt & Natt, Vaute Couture, Melissa, Cri de Coeur… Stella McCartney if you wanna get real fancy, I don’t see myself getting tempted by leather ever again. Leather shoes were my last hold out because until the last decade or so, the good non-leather shoes were out of my price range and the cheap ones just sucked. And well… I have a John Fluevog problem and he stopped making vegan shoes unfortunately. But, but… Cri de Coeur is kind of my everything right now.
Full truth: I was vegan for about 16 or 17 years when I decided I needed more food options in my life again, so I switched to ovo-lacto vegetarianism for several years (emphasis on lacto. The ovo part only came into play when hidden in some kind of item because I actually have always been grossed out by eggs). And by “lacto,” I mean cheese. Drinking milk is absolutely disgusting and I don’t recall ever having done so, even as a child because I had a milk allergy.
When I was around 5 years old, I hated cheese and used to wipe it off my pizza (the horror, right?) But I soon fell in love with cheese, possibly thanks to my mom working in a gourmet cheese shop. I acquired a particular taste for Brie, Bleu Cheese and even more mild stuff like Jarlesburg. Suffice to say, I’d loved cheese a long time and although I pretended it was easy to give it up, every time I was faced with my favorite food, that being pizza, well, it was never easy to give up cheese. I made the decision to have cheese again several months after I returned from a trip to Italy where being vegan admittedly made me feel deprived. I had made the decision late one night that I wanted to have cheese again and so I did. I didn’t exactly eat it every day (maybe once a week). I am glad I had around 3 years where I wasn’t 100% vegan. I don’t miss cheese at all anymore.
I can’t lie and say it’s not frustrating sometimes to eat out and have to get really watered down dishes because some chefs don’t have the ingredients (or the desire) to make something up on the spot that’s vegan, filling and delicious. Some days I get downright cranky. Last year I was in San Francisco, of all places (surely a vegan paradise), and ate at a French restaurant (never a good idea for vegans) with a large group of friends. There was not a single thing on the menu I could eat, so I asked the waitress for some help. I was offered “the peach Burrata without the Burrata.” Seriously? You’re going to serve me a peach? And I knew damn well there wouldn’t be a discount for leaving out the main ingredient of the dish. This is where I get cranky. It was late. I was hungry. And had had several glasses of wine. These situations don’t come up a lot, I mean, I try my best to avoid them, but when they do, you can’t help but feel frustrated. And then go back to your hotel room and dive into the overpriced can of Pringles in the mini bar.
Restaurant frustrations are very common here in New Orleans, the city where it’s expected for vegetarians to eat fish. When you say you don’t eat seafood, well, then you’re vegan. And if you god forbid don’t eat eggs or dairy? You may be met with an expression of pity and sincere confusion. When I used to visit back in the 90s, there were 3 or 4 restaurants that I could eat in. I’m happy to report that now there are about 5. Kidding. I do tend to stick to the same 5 places, although there are options at roughly a dozen or so restaurants and about a dozen more will make you something off-menu that may or may not be that great. Like I said, I cook at home a lot. And of course, I travel on the regular so I get plenty of options in cities like Dallas, Nashville, Toronto, New York, SF and Montreal.
I’ll be going home to NY very soon for a short visit and Dr. Cow is on my list (as well as a repeat visit to By Chloe). Vegan cheese shop… who ever would have thought this would be a reality? After New York, I’ll be in San Francisco for a work trip. I plan on eating a lot y’all! Stay tuned…
On a final note, I’m done apologizing for my lifestyle choices. I’m not hurting anyone, just sometimes inconveniencing people. You do you, I’ll do me, as the saying goes. My diet means that my carbon footprint is baby-sized and I’m not directly causing the torture and death of animals. I’m also not supporting the very fucked-up meat and dairy industries in this country either. If you want to talk more about this with me, I’m all open to reasonable discussion but I’m not open to you trying to put me on the defense with your ill-informed bullshit that I’ve been on the receiving end of for 25 years. Ciao!