Tag Archive | vegan

Something to Put a Pickle On

I want something to put a pickle on.

That’s my whine every night as I ride home on the crowded #3 bus.  At least it is ever since Jeff and I decided to eat vegan.  I’ve never said it out loud, this pickle prayer, but if I did, it would sound ridiculous.

Why are you eating vegan?  That’s the question everyone asks.  If I had a better answer to that, then this whole thing would be going better.

Animal rights? Um, nope. It’s shameful, but I don’t particularly care about animals. No, I don’t gun the gas when I see a broken-winged bird in the street.  But I can’t pretend that my vegan experiment stems from a crystallizing moment when I stared into the eyes of a gorilla at the zoo and just knew.  Actually, the fact that I willingly visit zoos probably points away from a deep communion with the animal kingdom, Amiright?

Health benefits? Another great answer, but also false. I’m fairly reckless with my health. Exhibit A: I run home in pitch dark during the winter.  Exhibit B: I don’t always wear sunscreen because GREASY.   I think the China Study is compelling and believe that animal products spell big problems for our hearts and the size of our asses, but none of that is as compelling as a tasty hunk of brie or milk chocolate.

So, basically, I agreed to go vegan for all the wrong reasons.

First, I wanted to beat Jeff.  I knew he’d be more moderate in his approach.  I, knowing nothing of moderation, planned to out-vegan my husband and raise my fists in victory.  On day four he caved at a business meeting while I was home eating quinoa and asparagus.  Victory was mine in less than 96 hours.

Second, I love talking about food.  And of all the conversations I’ve started about food– including ones with an opening salvo about my anorexic and bulimic past– nothing gets people more riled up than talking about plant-based eating.  Ooooh eeeeeh, I’ve heard some mouthfuls on this.  Vegan enthusiasts at work stopped by to give me tips on new ways to eat beans.  Ardent champions of meat stopped by with their sausage McMuffins to taunt me and describe their grandma’s thick-cut bacon.  Friends expressed their concern when I posted a picture of vegan cheese on Facebook:

Nachos.  "Nachos." Not chos.  Not chosen to be eaten because vegan cheese is puke.

Nachos. “Nachos.” Not chos. Not chosen to be eaten because vegan cheese is puke.

(I was trying to make nachos.)  I liked the attention.  I liked the discussion about the ethics of eating, mindfulness about food, and the health benefits of food choices.  It was enjoyable to watch other people froth at the mouth in defense of their own food choices.

(For the record, I’m not judging others.  I’m too busy grieving the loss of cheese in my life.)

Third, I’d been in a rut for a while with the chopped/cobb/Caesar salad routine, so it was a novelty to order the hummus with pita toast points and carrots.  I started eating an avocado every single day.  I replaced my afternoon yogurt with nuts and a mango.  I wept with joy when I found something called Soy Chorizo at Trader Joe’s.  Now of course I’m in a vegan rut.  I’ve eaten a criminal portion of beans over the past twenty eight days.  Lentils now remind me of the mushy hairballs I’ve pulled from the pipes in my sink. I had a crisis of faith when all the avocados at the store were rock hard.

I’ve put pickles on the black-bean-and-corn “burgers” that Jeff has perfected.  Folks, it’s not the same.  Think about putting a pickle on a loosely packed pile of beans and corn.  See? Not appetizing.

I’m willing to stick with vegan eating for all kinds of morally muddy reasons.  But please, someone, help me find something to put a pickle on.

Please.

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On Failure

Blank-Screen

I’m failing pretty regularly this year.

I had a secret wish to go a little vegan-ish, especially after Jeff bought us the Thug Kitchen cookbook.  First dish out of the gate I substituted chicken for tempeh.  In my feeble defense, our grocery store didn’t have tempeh.  (I like to think of chicken as simply “meaty tempeh.”)  Beyond the utter vegan failure, the pozole I made tasted weird. It had a weird citrus-y aftertaste and I was starving after I ate it.

Fail.

I wanted to do yoga five days a week.  My current average, 2.5 weeks into the new year, is once a week.

I vowed not to yell at the kids.  But then Simon spit in my face, and I blew a gasket.  (Is there anything more degrading that someone spitting in your face?)   That was January 1 at 10:00 A.M. Here we are at January 13: He’s still spitting and I’m still yelling.  (Seriously, why does he have to spit in my face?)  I’m pretty sure I’m going to yell EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I wasn’t going to spend any more money on books because I have approximately 12 at home waiting for me to crack open, and there’s always the library where books are free.  But then I went into the cutest bookstore EVER and well, it would be rude to not support a local independent.

I was also only going to read books I love and dump ones that didn’t speak to me.  So far I’ve finished one that I H-A-T-E-D, one I tolerated, and one that I’m still on the fence about. Fail, fail and fail.

There’s something freeing about it, though. It hasn’t killed me. It’s knocked my aspirations from lofty to manageable. I’m falling into territory that has paralyzed me for decades. I’m actively researching the answer to one of the most terrifying questions ever asked: “What if I fail?”

Oh and this one: I was going to work on my book everyday!  But there have been plenty of days (of the 13 in this year alone) when I simply could not face it.  Days when it feels too risky to open my manuscript because I’m afraid it will sour my mood and make me more yell-y, even without Simon doing a raspberry once inch from my face. On those days, I write other things– blog posts, essays, computer code for the app I’m developing (which will tell you if your outfit is cute or makes you look like a bloated soccer mom from 1989).

I’ve done a lot of things right, too, though I can’t name any right now. Oh, wait, I held the elevator open for someone I don’t particularly care for.  I bought Thank You cards (that I’ll probably never write).  I folded some laundry. I slept all night on my side of the bed. I told someone the truth about a favor she asked of me, the truth being that I didn’t want to do it but was willing to explore how much her request enraged me.

There’s plenty of good when I go looking for it.

I also read this inspirational piece. It made me think about J.D. Salinger writing stories from a foxhole in France during World War II.  Sure, he was already published before that, but he didn’t know he’d ever make it out alive (can you say “Battle of the Bulge” survivor?), and still he wrote and wrote and wrote.  Presumably because he had to.

I’m starting to think that my failures are no big deal.  Neither are my audacious proclamations that I will be vegan/a published author/a yogi/a coupon clipper.  Both are effluvium.  Not more true than anything else about me.

My working hypothesis about what happens if I fail is that it changes nothing.  Simon will probably still spit on me, there will be laundry to fold, thank you cards to not write, and a new day with a shockingly white blank screen.

Either way, I’ll be there.

Introducing My Spirit Animal

Last night, I was bone-ass tired in the way I get when Jeff’s out of town and my kids have had too much sugar. So naturally, instead of going to bed, I tried to get in touch with my spirit animal.  Only problem? I am not sure which animal is my spirit animal.

All summer, I obsessed over my spirit animal.  Having never been much of an animal lover (more of an “animal tolerate-r”), I thought getting in touch with my spirit animal might make me more gentle or spiritual or in tune with nature. Maybe I would be less of a shrew to my kids, since they act like animals most of the time.

Plus, it might help me become more vegan if I could connect with the right animal.

I took a few on-line quizzes that purported to identify my spirit animal.  One of them said my animal was the hawk, which I rejected because hawks are too aggressive. (See war hawk; I am more of a dove, and I would consider the phoenix for the symbolic potential, but no hawks.)  Also, I think hawks look like buzzards.

I knew I needed more cuddle potential out of my animal.

Another quiz said my animal was a wood cock.  Seriously.  I am supposed to connect with a wood cock?  For obvious reasons, I went back to the drawing board after that quiz.  (Can you picture me ambling into a Cracker Barrel perusing the gift shop for a statuesque wood cock? I bet the only place I can find a statue of a wood cock (which looks like a stupid little duck (see why animals love me?)) is at an adult bookstore in downtown Detroit.)

Wood cock was out.

Prior to taking the quizzes, I rejected the following animals based on a simple distaste and/or disdain for them:

  • Albatross
  • Platypus
  • Starfish (not sure that’s really an animal)
  • Parrot
  • Hyena (though this one probably belongs on my short list judging by my laughter)
  • Beaver (we’re just not going there)

Here’s the runners-up list:

  • Hippo (because big mouth)
  • Domesticated pot belly big (because how cute?)
  • Sheep (I read they have no teeth and that sounded cool, plus I like wool)
  • Camel (hydration is a challenge for me)
  • Flamingo (because pink and skinny legs)

But, it came to me the other day at a make-shift petting zoo in downtown Chicago. I locked eyes with an animal forced to stand in a 4 ft x 4 ft pen so that little city children could feed her pellets of food.  We had a connection– I looked into her eyes as I was dousing myself with hand sanitizer– and it was clear.

My spirit animal is the Llama.

Llama Llama-- my spirit animal

Llama Llama– my spirit animal

Llamas are very social creatures that are also very intelligent. (Hello? Chuck Woolery, we have a connection!)  They are great pack animals and stick together in herds.  And those eyelashes.  Are you kidding me? I can’t believe I missed it all these years of reading those Llama Llama books with my children.

This is the first step of my spiritual enlightenment.  I feel really good about connecting with the animal kingdom through the llama.  So please don’t offer me any llama burgers or llama-fajitas, because I am not eating my spirit animal.

Have you spent valuable time and resources discovering your spirit animal? Is your animal memorialized as a figurine in Cracker Barrel’s holiday collection?