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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Five Reasons To Be a Vegan, and Five Not To

To be:

1. Good solid hunger. As a vegan I get hungry a lot more often than when I was a vegetarian, and also more ravenously. I like this a lot. (This is due partly to my slight masochism when it comes to keeping my body healthy and fit, and partly to the zeitgeist of the twenty-first century, according to which thinness equates beauty.) I like it because hunger is a signal that my body is efficient in processing the food I give it, that it is better able to empty and clean itself. And besides, when I'm really hungry, baby carrots dipped in hummus are a treat fit for the gods.

2. Soy chocolate milk. It tastes better to me than regular chocolate milk. It's light and only slightly sweet and doesn't do a wild dance in my stomach.

3. More time in the kitchen. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but I love to cook -- and that includes the prep work of peeling and chopping. I'm in love with my Wusthoff chef's knife that I bought two years ago with a gift card my parents gave me for Christmas. Mincing garlic, slicing tomatoes, cubing potatoes are simply a pleasure now. Also, I love the challenge of converting recipes that contain dairy and eggs into vegan ones. I made some really nice waffles last week with soy milk and maple syrup and mineral water as the liquid ingredients.

4. Dark chocolate. It doesn't contain milk products and therefore has an intense, pure taste and the most wonderful smell. I eat it a lot these days for dessert and very seldom crave sweeter, creamier or more elaborate confections.

5. The planet. Self-evident.

And not to be:

1. Flatulence. I think I may be treading into "too much information" territory here, but to me this is the main drawback of being a vegan. I love beans and lentils and eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables and my colon has a field day with them.

2. Family's dismay. My mom had just gotten used to the idea of my being a vegetarian -- it took four years -- and stopped pestering me to eat barbecued pork on the Fourth of July and turkey at Thanksgiving. (Just a bite! For protein!) She even bought textured soy protein for me and deep-fried it (!!) coated in egg and bread crumbs. And then I spring on her that I'm not eating eggs (or dairy) any more. She tells me I can be healthy even if I eat eggs and cheese. Okay, I say. I bite my tongue really hard because I don't want to start the animal rights argument yet again. She rolls her eyes and grabs a pen and her shopping list and asks me, "So what will you eat?" "Your killer eggplant spread," I say. She makes a killer eggplant spread. I see a tiny grin on her face.

3. Biscuits and scones. I can't imagine baking these without butter, cream, eggs. And a biscuit hot out of the oven... (big, deep, very deep sigh).

4. Ordinary restaurant menus. I've discovered I have two (if I'm really lucky) options when I go out to eat with my family: angel hair pasta with marinara sauce and the portobello mushroom burger without the cheese. And fries, sadly, delicious crisp fries. And no, taking my family out to a vegetarian restaurant isn't an option. My sister and father would go, but my mother, despite her best intentions, cannot hide her dissatisfaction with a vegetarian menu, doesn't eat what she orders and on the way home insists we stop for Chinese food or chicken tenders.

5. Cheese. My favorite is white cheddar. There are many wonderful artisanal cheeses out there now and I feel just the slightest pang that I'm not able to taste them. But I have no regrets.


Blogger madness rivera said...

Are you a full force vegan now? Great for you, C.

And listen, I think flatulence should be on the "To Be" list. First off, it's funny. Secondly, a loud and active is a happy colon.

I think the restaurant option is one of my bigger challenges too. Especially with a group of people. I don't want people to make a conspicuous deal out of my eating habits just so they can complain that I'm high maintenance later. Nu-uh. Which is why I eat a lot of my own food before I go out to a BBQs or out to eat. I also stash a lot of stuff in my purse. It's kind of embarrassing at first -- for those around me too -- but they'll get over it. I pull out salad dressing and soy creamer. At birthday parties, I pull out my own treats. Those that know me, and have all done what your mother does to you,are just use to it now.

January 05, 2006  
Blogger Marigoldie said...

My one "not to" comment is not being able to indulge in roadside stand food, like when you're driving cross-country. And it's hard when you're traveling in the developing world, where animal rights is nowhere near a priority. My vegan boyfriend lived in Africa for a while and a family there killed a chicken as a gift to him. He had no choice but to eat it. I don't think I could do that, though.

January 05, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

My wife, oddly enough, can cook in an idiomatic vegan way. Back when I kept kosher, she learned how to deal with all kinds of food restrictions, including rules about "contamination by contiguity." We've now had vegan guests over successfully five or six times, and we've never had an "oh, no, I can't eat that" moment. My wife is proud of herself; for her, it's like achieving fluency in French.

January 06, 2006  
Blogger Rebel Girl said...

I am not a vegan but one of those fish-eating vegetarians (pescatarian?) - but I do like to follow dicussions about food and diets, the hows and whys.

When I was pregnant, people seemed more than concerned about my continuing veggie-ness - and many thought that after I had the kid, I would -for some reason - start cooking meat for the little tike!

My son keeps looking for vegetarians wherever we go now - it's one of his first questions - and it's now a part of his public identity too - it's what he offers about himself after his name and age. ("I'm Louis. I'm three. I'm a vegetarian.")

Meanwhile we have discovered that one of his current faveorite literary heros - Doctor John Dolittle (thanks JKC!) is a vegetarian. You can't, it seems, talk to the animals and eat them too.

January 06, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

You're very brave, Madness, to bring your own food to parties. It's kind of cute, actually, to picture you digging into your purse for soy creamer and salad dressing.

Marigoldie -- your boyfriend's choice to eat the chicken is really admirable. But people, especially when they're so generous with you, come first.

Jonathan -- I love the comparison between mastering vegan cooking and achieving fluency in French. Your wife has good reason to be proud.

Rebel -- the way Louis introduces himself is so funny and sweet. How interesting that he considers being vegetarian such an important part of his identity. (I try to hide my vegetarianism/veganism as much as I can to avoid animal rights discussions.) But then again, you are what you eat, as the saying goes.

January 06, 2006  

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