I have something I need to get off my chest. I've been cheating this Vegan Month. I've been eating meat...in my dreams. Just last night, I was officiating the murder-mystery-themed wedding of my friends when the mother of the bride hauled a magnificent 60-pound sucking roast pig. The party knew I was vegan and, much like their real world counterparts, taunted me endlessly with the meat, handing me platefuls of meat so tender it fell apart in their hands. I gave in and dug into the pork with reckless abandon. My boyfriend woke me up because he thought I was grinding my teeth in my sleep; I was actually just chewing.
I fully recognized that I was in a dream (maybe it was because I saw Freddie Prinze Jr. doing the Macarena in the background) and I knew that I could break veganism there without any real world repercussions. After all, my dream pig was born, bred, slaughtered, transported, and roasted all in the confines of my own imagination.
But I feel like I'm getting into a gray area in this challenge. While dreaming of pork is technically fine (and no animals were harmed in the creation of the dream), it goes against the very spirit of why I'm committed to vegan month. Most importantly: I'm still relying on thinking about old comforts instead of really branching out into new things.
We're almost halfway through the month and I've been thinking about whether I want to continue veganism or some modified diet when this experiment is over. If I do so, lucid dreaming would really help with my cravings and desires. But I also know that there's no comparison to the real thing.
Let's start with the good stuff: Whole wheat toast with homemade refried beans, sliced avocado, and sea salt is the best breakfast, vegan or not. It is delicious, first and foremost, but also pretty filling and energizing, and if you've timed the ripeness of the avocados and have the beans ready in the fridge, it's pretty easy to throw together. I think I'll stick with almond milk for my coffee once vegan month is up—it really does taste good.
After breakfast? My go-to lunch order at Chipotle is a salad anyway, easily made vegan by skipping the meat and cheese. (Pro tip: If you don't get meat on your salad/bowl/burrito/whatever at Chipotle, adding guacamole is free!) That's a big, filling, tasty, healthy and reasonably priced lunch. For dinners, I whipped up a big pot of Kenji's lentil soup with gremolata, which works with Better Than Bouillion (No Chicken flavor). Turns out that the BTB is better, cheaper, and more convenient than boxed chicken stock.
The less-good news is that for the first three days of my vegan experiment I was starving, just completely starving, and a little irritable and sluggish. I had plenty of food, but it didn't seem to matter. Of course, I was recovering from a stomach bug that kept me on a diet that was vegan, but only inadvertently: toast, toast, and more toast, with ginger tea on the side.
Now that I am past that stomach bug and the first few days, I have to admit that I'm still finding it tricky. First of all, in advance of Serious Eats' upcoming Cheese Week, the office is full of cheese. It's probably a blessing in disguise, because cheese is my favorite food and if I weren't eating a vegan diet right now I know I'd eat myself sick every day until that stuff is gone.
I'm finding that Kenji's chart of foods he craves is spot on—my chart wouldn't look identical, but I don't really crave meat as much as cheesy stuff. Pizza's high on the list.
My goal for this coming week is to get my snacking game in order. The bag of almonds I've been keeping at my deskzzzzzzzzzzzzz—oh I'm sorry, my snack life is so boring that I fell asleep. Suggestions welcome!
For me, this second week of veganism was easier than the first. Why? For one, I'm finding that that I'm not hungry all the time, and I feel full more easily. The feelings of deprivation have declined precipitously. I haven't been looking at meat longingly this week...though I have to admit that I have avoided looking at or smelling the parade of great cheeses Vicky and Max have been bringing into the office to photograph (and enjoy). I think they decided to do Cheese Week the week of February 23rd just to torture us vegans-for-the-month.
Breakfast has been pretty easy: either a pumpernickel-everything flagel with scallion tofu spread or a banana with peanut butter. For lunch, I'm feeling grateful for our office location: I have been enjoying the samosas and the fried tofu-wrapped vegetable rolls at a local vegan restaurant, Wild Ginger; the falafel and Israeli salad at Taim; and the cabbage, fried noodle, and mint salad, as well as the roasted cauliflower with pine nuts and tahini at Balaboosta.
Dinner is proving the most difficult. I did make a terrific bucatini pasta with dried porcinis, fresh mushrooms, and shallots. I re-hydrated the porcinis, sautéed the fresh mushrooms and the shallots, added the porcinis and the porcini water, then turned down the heat and ended up with an intense mushroom reduction that functioned as a great pasta sauce when I added in a cup of the hot pasta water.
For snacks I've been eating nuts for the protein. My current favorite vegan treat of the moment is a Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. They are so friggin' good that I don't think I'm sacrificing a thing flavor and satisfaction-wise when I eat one.
One more thing: I am continuing to lose weight and have as much energy as ever. Long live Vegan Month.