As I write this I only have a day and a half left in my vegan month. I could say who's counting, but I have to admit that I am. Every day that has gone by this week I have felt a little like a prisoner counting off his sentence by making an X on the wall— a vegan X, but an X all the same. But all the X markings don't negate the pleasures and satisfactions I have enjoyed on my vegan adventure this week.
Last Saturday, we were invited to a dinner party given by a novelist friend who happens to be a really good cook. I debated all week about whether I should give her a head's up about my vegan regimen. Jamie made a suggestion for how to handle it: eat something before you get there in case there's no vegan food available, but don't put the hostess in a position where she has to make something special just for me.
So I had some fine vegan mushroom-and-other-vegan-stuff-filled dumplings at the all-vegan Peacefood Cafe and a slice of a shockingly good peanut butter cheesecake made with tofu a couple of hours before we arrived at the dinner party. The host ended up serving a vegan hors d'oeuvres before we sat down, leftover baked squash that was delicious while everyone else ate shrimp with avocado, and some chickpeas and rice for the main course. For dessert, most people ate macaroons and fruit squares, but I got fresh pineapple. Another dinner party vegan disaster averted! I'm sure that combined with the dumplings and cheesecake, I ate too much food altogether, but I still didn't have that uncomfortably full feeling I usually have after eating lots of meat and pasta at a restaurant.
Lunch has been a lot of vegetarian dumplings, mushroom spring rolls, sautéed pea shoots, eggplant in garlic sauce, and scallion pancakes from various restaurants near the office, so that hasn't been a hardship at all. And I usually bring home the leftovers from these meals to eat for dinner, so they do double duty.
Last night I went to Balaboosta with one of our investors. He had the short ribs and this delicious version of a chicken schwarma sandwich that chef-owner Einat Admony makes as an appetizer at dinner. I did look at those two items longingly, but there's so much great vegan food to be had at Balaboosta that I was thrilled with my dinner: hummus with whole chickpeas served with a mortar and pestle, delicious hot pita breads topped by za'atar, lentil pakoras, fried cauliflower (even without the yogurt, fantastic), a Yemeni pizza sans feta, and an eggplant bruschetta I took one bite of. I also took home leftovers for tonight's dinner and I walked out of the restaurant completely full and happy.
So how do I resolve the marking off the calendar bit with the sheer enjoyment I've derived from eating vegan meals like that? That's for next week's column to explore. Stay tuned.
About the author: Ed Levine is the founder of Serious Eats.