August 24, 2008

...And the Meat Goes On...

In response to my last post, I received a comment from Tuco, who blogs at Veggie Karma ( Aside from the fact that I was delighted that someone other than three or four of my very closest friends and family read my blog (hello, you are still out there, aren't you?), he recommended a book to me. The book is "Breaking the Food Seduction" by Dr. Neal Barnard. Never one to resist the siren song of a book, I ordered me a copy. And boom(er), I'm a vegan. Dr. Barnard (a real medical doctor, lest you think I've been sucked in by some quack) offers some very good information as to why certain foods are addictive. Having long been under the spell of meat (actually, sizzling, flavorful animal fat) and the high of all highs, chocolate, what he says is quite interesting. There are actually compelling biological reasons why this is so. I'm NOT a weakling loser with no self-control!

Last week, before I got my hands on the book, I suspected that full-on vegetarianism was in my not-too-distant future. In the interest of using up what I had before taking the final plunge, I thawed out a chuck roast that had been in my freezer, intending to cook and eat it over this weekend. The plan was to stick it in the crockpot Saturday morning before heading out the door for an all-day meeting, and come home to a delicious, savory, high-fat pot of ambrosia. But something bad happened on Friday -- my copy of Dr. Barnard's book arrived, and I began reading. Having lived largely as a vegetarian for the past couple of months... well, that pot roast just didn't appeal to me. And, harkening back to 20 years ago, I tossed it. And with it went all the remaining meat in my freezer. There wasn't much, but out it went.

Dr. Barnard's prescription for overcoming food addictions and regaining health is a high fiber, low-fat vegan diet. It sounds extreme, but in truth I was mostly there anyway, what with my new-found vegetarian ways. I'd already stopped eating dairy (which means that me and my beloved Joe broke up, but that's another sob story) and I've never really enjoyed eggs, so in truth there wasn't much standing between me and a full-on commitment besides my shaking knees and quivering resolve.

Saturday morning I had a small moment of panic -- what would I eat that very day? The meeting I was attending would be catered, but surely you know that catered food is designed to feed the masses, and while there is often a nod to vegetarianism on the menu, vegans are left to their own devices. So I threw open my kitchen cupboards and did the best I could. A can of chickpeas, some diced red pepper, a few cloves of (be still, my heart) roasted garlic, and a couple of chopped Kalamata olives found their way into a bowl. I stirred in some fresh mint and sliced green onions, tossed in some left-over brown-and-wild rice pilaf from the other day, made a dressing out of balsamic vinegar with a touch of cumin, and lunch was ready. A sliced tomato and some carrot sticks on the side rounded out my lunch. Everyone else ate those ghastly cream cheese pinwheel sandwiches while eyeing my salad with lust. I did not share. And here's the best part -- I have some left over for today.

After the meeting, I went shopping. I came home with stuff to make this most amazing of meals. I rinsed a couple of cups of your everyday green lentils, and put them in a pot with some onions and a quart of home-made tomato sauce (not my home, someone else's), and topped it off with enough water to cover. Then, in the middle of all that, I buried a block of smoked tofu. Yes, they make such a thing, and yes, it was a risk -- but what the heck. To round out the flavors, I tossed in about a dozen cloves of that roasted garlic. (You can buy it in a jar in the produce section of the grocery store -- go get some!) Once everything was cooked I fished out the block of tofu, diced it, and stirred it back in. Being a lentil fan, I knew it would be good. But... as my young friend Leticia would say, OMG! It's smoky and savory and deeply satisfying. If this is what vegan eating is all about, I'M THERE!

Seeing as how this fit of veganism came on me all sudden like, I'm scrambling to get a plan in place. I often get home from work at 7:00 or later, and who wants to cook that late. At that point I'm hungry and I'm looking for something, anything, to deep-fry. So planning ahead is a good thing. Which is why I also came home with a few of those frozen fake-meat burger-like discs that look like hockey pucks. They were intended as strictly a fall-back measure, but I had one of the "chiken" patties last night on whole grain bread with some sliced tomatoes, and God help me, it was good.

I'll try not to go all Remo Williams on you (innocent bystander: "You killed him!" Remo Williams: "He was dead already -- I smelled hamburger on his breath.") but I'll probably be a bit more of a pain in the ass to cook for. If you invite me over, I'll be happy to arrive with a pot of something wonderful to share.


SeƱor Bozo said...

"I'm NOT a weakling loser with no self-control!"

Among those who know and love you, not one of us ever thought that was true!

Good luck on the vegan adventure!

Anonymous said...

Timing is everything. My corner of the world is quiet for a change and the silence lead me back to your blog. (Mea culpa! Mea culpa! How many times is it I lost the e-address?!

Joy! Joy! Jiggy joy ...

Your journey is a wonder to behold, my little Tofu. At no part of your path is there weakness and the static only appears when you overestimate the value of self-control (and you are not alone in this trap.) Just think about the dynamic. You're in a conscious quest of self-discovery. Discovery is an adventure ... think Lewis and Clark, 1492 #%&^^ sailed the oceans blue. It's a leap and control is at best an illusion, at worst a trap. Continue to go for it.

You're my hero and your writing is your true voice - strong and clear. Joy to the World.

Your loving friend,
Steph - still a carnivore, but respecting your vegan ways (which is not to say I will not continue to make sport ...)