Eating Meat (Unintentionally)

I have eaten a piece of meat unintentionally on two separate occasions.

The first time was one piece of chicken at a Chinese restaurant. I wasn’t paying attention and took a bite thinking it was my orange tofu dish, but they had given me my partner’s orange chicken instead and her the tofu. I didn’t notice until after swallowing. It didn’t affect me too much as we quickly switched after the first bite.

The second time was at another Chinese restaurant, but this time a more classy, and less Americanized version of a Chinese restaurant. I ordered a spicy tofu dish labeled as vegetarian. I even told the owner I was vegan, and she said her daughter was too, and we talked a lot about it and how she had a lot of vegan options on the menu. I started eating my spicy tofu, and ate maybe 1/4, or 1/3 of the dish and noticed some chewiness. I took a piece out of my mouth and realized that it was ground pork. (I should mention that I was two strong ginger margaritas in at this point). I alerted the waiter who then went confirm with the chef that it was in fact pork.  I began crying and couldn’t stop, and felt really awful. They said the chef didn’t speak English, and had made the tofu dish the way it is traditionally prepared in his country, which is with ground pork.

This was my favorite new restaurant at the time and I never went back UNTIL over a year later.

About a month ago is when I finally went back. I spoke to the owner about what happened and she apologized profusely. She said that none of the chefs that were there at the time were still there and she oversaw the preparation of everything I ordered to ensure my meal would be vegan, and she even made me a dessert dish herself.

Again, yes, it sucked to eat actual f’n meat. But, sometimes you have to forgive and forget, and remember, it’s NOT THAT SERIOUS!

Another year has passed

Wow, I am really terrible at this blogging thing. However, I finally feel I am ready to be vocal about my passions. Do I care less about what people think about me? Yes, every year that passes, I care less and less about other people’s judgments.

What has changed? I have learned to stop caring about being perfect, but in a different way than I first mentioned in my blog post almost 2 years ago titled “Perfectionism”.

For example, I said in the post that I would no longer have the veggie burger at a particular restaurant that has egg and milk in the bun and felt bad about eating it one time knowing that the bun wasn’t vegan. I’ve changed my mind. It’s not that serious! I would never eat an egg, and I will never drink milk or cheese, but the same burger I mentioned 2 years ago is in walking distance to my house, is quick and convenient, and I’m not in a f’n cult, vegan police are dumb, and I’m an adult. No one is going to make me feel bad about that.

If the burger place offered a vegan-friendly bun, would I get it? Absolutely, everytime. I did ask them about it, but two years later, they are still not going to change their bun, and my single protest won’t help. But, unfortunately, I can’t promote their delicious veggie burger to the vegan groups I am in because it’s not completely vegan (the patty is completely vegan). Too bad for them, because I could get them probably about 50 new customers. Next time I see the owner, I will ask again though and explain that I want to promote their burger, but in the meantime, I’m going to eat the burger as is with no mayo.

 

Besides that, during my journey, I’ve discovered a lot of hacks, have tried to inspire others, and have still not met my goal of eating a more whole foods plant based diet. But, I will continue to learn and try and progress. And this time… I really hope to write regularly, and not go a whole year between postings.

One Year Later

This month makes one year that I’ve been vegan. I have stuck to it completely, unlike this blog (oops).

There were a couple accidents in which I inadvertently ate something non-vegan, but I don’t count that as it was not my choice. It has gone by so quickly. How could I not continue to be vegan. I am actually somewhat of a selfish person. However, being vegan is probably the most unselfish choice I have ever made.

I can’t foresee ever choosing to eat animal products again. I’ve been exposed to far too much information. I overloaded myself with information on purpose to keep myself motivated. If I were to eat animal products, I would not be able to forget the connection between my food and the animal’s life. No taste is worth it.

I have been an unhealthy vegan for this first year. My goal for this year is to continue being plant-based of course, but to also focus on the “whole-foods” part that some follow. We shall see.

Vegan Popularity and Social Anxiety

When you find out about something new, you start seeing it everywhere. It’s hard for me to figure out sometimes if it’s because you’re looking for it now, or if you are seeing it more because it’s more popular, and hence, the reason why you found out about it in the first place. Veganism is definitely an example of this for me.

I had heard about vegans before this year of course, but it wasn’t until I went vegan that I began seeing it everywhere, and from what I’ve read and experienced, it seems that the amount of those interested and living it is increasing.

It is very difficult to find information on the amount of vegans in the United States and beyond. I’ve read that the Generation Y (Millennials), which is the generation I belong to, has more vegans than generations in the past, and I’m sure that’s true, but I can’t find any hard evidence.

Recently, I attended a documentary premier (PlantPure Nation) in Houston. Houston, fourth largest city in the U.S. with a population of over 2 million, and over 6 million if you count the surrounding areas, sounds like a rather populated city. Imagine my surprise to attend this movie premier, showing in only one theater, on only one screen, in the center of town, at a perfect time of 7:30pm, and to not have that movie theater packed. It sucks really, for lack of better words, and also as a way to really describe the suckiness of it.

So what is it? Does Houston really not have enough vegans to fill a theater of 300 seats? Or is it something else?

I have a confession. I’m afraid of other vegans and of new people. I’m afraid to be an activist. I’ve never been the type to make my presence known, as I don’t want to offend anyone, and try to live as peacefully and aware as possible. However, I wore my recently bought, and first, vegan t-shirt, in hopes that the t-shirt would make it easier for me to engage in conversations, but alas, it barely worked.

For one, there just wasn’t many people there early. The theater has a bar area, and there was only a couple people in and out before the movie, so I just sat and talked to the bartender (not about veganism, but just everyday conversation). For two, once a few people came around, I just didn’t know what to say. My t-shirt got me one conversation, but it was short-lived. In general, I have difficulty initiating and holding conversations with a new person or group of people, regardless of whether we have the same beliefs.

So, yes, the theater was half-full, and yes, no crowd showed up early to really have a stance or a true networking event, but was it because people were afraid like myself to let their presence be known? I hope so. I hope there are more vegans out there in my amazing city that are just as afraid as me to connect with others in real life. But how the hell do we connect if we’re so afraid?

My first t-shirt, by the way, says “Vegan Mofo” across the front in big letters. Not sure why, but that is the shirt that spoke to me above all the other choices on Etsy.

Obsession

Are vegans obsessed with veganism?

When a person becomes vegan, whether it be overnight or over a period of time, a new world opens up that you did not know existed in any dimension. It’s literally a loose connection that is suddenly connected and ignited like twisting an inactive lightbulb into it’s place only to have the entire room illuminated, allowing you to see things that you didn’t know were there before the light appeared. It’s probably like finally hitting your stride in mediation, from what I’ve read.

It’s fair to say that a “before and after” event such as this would be life-changing. Once the connection is truly made, a feeling of time lost appears, in which a thirst for more information occurs. It’s like learning how to live daily life again, in a kind of way. Especially if your life is centered around eating like mine was and is still. It is kind of a big deal!

You have to relearn what to have for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snack. You can’t just grab the same ole, it has to be completely new because most products have a touch or more of animal products. You can’t just pull into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or drive-thru or your previously favorite restaurant and feel confident that you will be able to eat more than a basic salad and raw carrots and celery as your main and only dishes (I’m talking to you B-Dubs).

So, others may view you as being obsessed, because you must eat, live, and be vegan as it consumes your daily life in every way. Especially if you are a passionate person. I wanted to be as agreeable as possible, and not offend anybody as I always have been, and how I thought I would continue being in my early stages of veganism. But the more I learn about veganism, the more I want to tell the world and share the knowledge and hope that others can make the connection as well. The problem is, many are like me and know that once you make it, there is no return, therefore they put it off as much as possible or completely. I get it. I did the same. But look at me now, an “obsessed” vegan.

Bad Vegan Food

Not all vegan food is good. And I don’t mean that all vegan food isn’t good for you. Hopefully, you already know that. But there are some vegan products out there that you hope are not the first item a vegan-curious person tastes, because it will give a bad rep to all other vegan food.

For example, in the weeks just before going vegan, I purchased some Beyond Meats Beast Burgers at Whole Foods. I made burgers for my partner and I, and we both felt the burgers tasted “off”. My partner commented that perhaps someone who hasn’t had meat in forever would be the only person that could enjoy it. This was sad for me. I had been reading about Beyond Meat, and was excited to try their “meat”. After tasting it, I felt disappointed that it wasn’t a better substitute for meat. It was okay until halfway into the burger when I could really taste the offness of it. I’d be curious to try it now that I have been meat-free for a while, but I don’t think it will make a difference, because now I realize it’s trying to taste like meat, and that’s the problem.

Today, we tried Field of Roast Frankfurters. I had read many reviews of the product, and could not find a single bad review. However, I have to give it a bad review. I’m glad to see that so many people like it, just like Beast Burgers, but it’s not for me. I threw away the leftovers. It just tasted off.

Do I not like faux meats in general then? Not always. Meatless burgers are my go to staple food that is highly satisfying everytime (but only the right ones). I also enjoy soy chorizo in which I’ve only tried two brands and Helen’s Kitchen is one that I remember. I have enjoyed tempeh and seitan, but not everytime. It depends on various factors. I usually am never offended by tofu, unless it wasn’t prepared properly (must thoroughly dry tofu!).

I used some of these products as a crutch at first, feeling like I needed something meaty in a dish or I wouldn’t be satisfied. However, I’ve gotten a lot better at using vegetables like sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, eggplant, squash, lentils, black beans, quinoa, etc. to make items feel meaty and complete. I also use extra firm tofu for many dishes. I find it completes a dish while still maintaining the elements of healthy and fresh.

For meatier tofu: Pour boiled salted water over sliced tofu, dry with towels completely, toss dried tofu in cornstarch, and then pan fry tofu in olive oil before adding to a dish.

I’ve also found that I enjoy vegan burgers most when I can recognize all of the ingredients, and the first few ingredients are grains or vegetables. My absolute favorite burger patty is Amy’s Kitchen Sonoma. It doesn’t taste meaty per se, but it’s not supposed to. It is deeply satisfying between two buns with some veganaise, chipotle hot sauce, creole mustard, chopped jalapenos, pickles, arugula and salt & vinegar chips.

In conclusion, I am not a fan of meats that are trying to taste like meats in general, and I worry that these products hurt the image of vegan foods overall.

Benefits of Veganinsm

Yes, there are benefits to becoming vegan. The biggest benefit for me is the weight that has been lifted off of my shoulders. I feel more of a connection to the natural world, and don’t feel the guilt that was gnawing at me before. I feel clean and have a clear mind.

One of the first questions people ask when they find out about my lifestyle, is “How do you feel? Like do you feel better? Do you feel healthier?”. I have found this answer difficult to answer in the past. I feel better of course because I’m no longer contributing to the man-made creation of life and death on a mass scale, and that feels f-n incredible. That is the purpose and single reason I am doing all of this and have changed my life. But what they really want to know, is how has the diet part affected my health, i.e. have I lost weight, do I have more energy, do I think more clearly, do I sleep better, is my skin better, are my nails and hair better? Yes for some of those questions, and I think so for the others, but I don’t know if I just think that because that’s what I’ve heard.  I didn’t feel all of those benefits right away. I’m not sure if it’s because my body was adjusting or if it’s because I hadn’t yet begun taking vegan supplements. I can answer those questions more easily now though, now that I’ve reflected and have truly adjusted to the lifestyle.

There are more benefits as well:

One thing I’ve happily noticed is that I rarely have to take my seasonal allergy medicine. I’ve been tested and I’m allergic to all weeds, most grasses, a couple trees, and many molds, which leads to year-round allergies. I haven’t taken any anti-histamines in the last couple months, which is great because it was costing $30 a month. I’ll have to update once I get through a year to see if this is a lasting effect. August 26th, 2015 UPDATE: I have felt the need to take my allergy medicine one to two times per week recently. I probably could do without it, and sometimes I take it because I feel slightly congested and am worried that I am low on anti-histamines before I go outside for some type of event. However, this is still a huge change from taking a stronger allergy medicine daily. (I have a need to take the anti-histamine only, rather than the ones with added decongestant, i.e. Allegra vs. Allegra-D. The great thing about this change is that the purchase frequency and amounts of Allegra-D are regulated because it’s used to make methamphetamine, hence I no longer am ingested a product such as this) 

I just feel better all around, less aches and pains to where I don’t take any pain-reducing pills. Another great thing is that I can’t remember the last time I had a headache or migraine. I used to pop ibuprofen like candy to treat my headaches and body aches, and it has been months since I’ve taken anything besides my daily vegan supplements. I still get neck pain, but don’t feel the need to take a pain-reliever. I go to the chiropractor every few months for any adjustment for that is needed.

Another benefit is no more need for medicine for an upset stomach or heartburn. Pepcid AC Complete was my favorite. Haven’t felt a need to take anything like that since I went vegan.

Possible TMI tidbits below, but necessary for those to know that are thinking about making the switch, or have switched and are feeling the same thing:

One more benefit that is possibly TMI. I am experiencing less effects from my menstrual cycle. I won’t go into it, but it is a fact.

Non benefits? Yes, just two. First is that I’m am generally less thirsty. I’m not sure why, but I would be thirsty in the middle of the night all of the time, even with drinking water at night before bed. No longer happens. Second, the TMI piece, is that I seem to have more gas if you must know. However, there is very rarely a smell. Smells like roses? Not quite, just no smell most of the time. Not all the time, but most of the time. I’m happy to put up with these small things though.

Perfection

It’s okay to not be perfect. I’ve eaten food thinking everything was vegan, and then later found out that it wasn’t. Or, sometimes decisions are made only to be questioned later.  This has most often occurred at restaurants, of course.

On one of my first trips back home for a wedding, I ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant at which I frequently visited for years before becoming vegan. I ordered the vegetable fajitas and asked them to not cook it with butter. I ate it, along with plenty chips and salsa. I consumed 8 ramekins of the salsa at a minimum because I was so hungry from not being able to eat much at the wedding (and from all the free wedding drinks)! I later found out that both the beans and the salsa (the salsa!!!!) were drenched in lard. Who puts lard in salsa? Therefore, I went out of my way to avoid eating any animal products at the wedding only to have a PIG FAT FEST afterwards.

Another example: I ordered a veggie burger when I was out eating in Houston with my visiting family. I asked questions ahead of time, and found out I couldn’t eat any appetizers due to the milk and eggs in the batter of all of the fried foods, but could have the burger (no mayo) and fries. I patiently waited for my burger and fries, getting hungry, watching everyone eat a bunch of appetizers like fried pickles and fried mushrooms. Finally, all of the main dishes started coming out. But then, the owner came to the table to let me know that the burger bun and the spinach aioli dressing that goes on it were both not vegan. The burger bun was made in house (so it was the only bread available) and contain both eggs and milk, and the aioli was made with butter. She said they were remaking the burger without the aioli, but what did I want them to do about the bun situation? I wavered for a bit because at this point I was so ready to eat, and I had “burger” on my mind. I ended up getting the bun. I beat myself up about this for a while, but all I can do is bring my own bun the next time I go to the restaurant.

Another example: I went to a crawfish boil for the last time this year. First point to make is that a strict vegan wouldn’t go to a crawfish boil. This has been a difficult situation to avoid as I’m from Louisiana. I’ve been to about 8 crawfish boils since becoming vegan, and it’s been terrible and it sucks, and I’m now trying to quit as much as possible. I obviously haven’t eaten any crawfish or vegetables boiled with crawfish, but it’s the mere fact of participating in this ritual. Anyway, I’ve learned to request that the veggies be boiled before the crawfish, that way I can eat more than just crackers at the crawfish boil. So at the last boil I went to, my friend boiling went through all of the trouble of boiling the vegetables first (even though he only was boiling one sack of crawfish). My partner even had picked up what she thought was vegan sausage for the boil. I looked at the ingredients, saw there was egg in it, so I threw it away (because nobody else wanted it of course). Boiling is a long process, so we all sat around, drinking, talking, and waiting. Finally, the veggies were ready! I even had brought peanuts so I could have hot boiled spicy peanuts! I went look in the pot and my friend had put regular sausage in the pot with the veggies 🙁 I was incredibly sad to see it, as I thought my friend would have understood why that was not ok, especially after he saw me throw away the non-vegan sausage. Again, I had to make a decision. I ended up eating the veggies, but I won’t ever allow that to happen again. I’m going to watch everything going into the pot. When he boiled a few weeks after, I stayed home. Again, I will try my best to not go to crawfish boils as much as possible.

I do consider myself a strict vegan, and I know situations demonstrated above in which I bended would be considered not strict (and not vegan). Veganism isn’t a cult or religion or the law. You can decide how you want to live your life and you shouldn’t have to fear the vegan police. I do the best I can. There have been times when I haven’t asked whether fried restaurant foods (like fries, tator tots, mushrooms,etc.) are fried in the same fryer as meat and seafood, because there is nothing else for me to get on the menu that would be satisfying. This is definitely an ethics issue that I struggle with. Sometimes I might mess up, but overall, my “little protest” is saving the lives of animals and reducing animal exploitation overall. Before becoming vegan, I was eating an abnormal amount of meat.  One thing I will never bend on is eating a slab of meat. That will never happen on purpose.

Some vegans are very aggressive and I get it. Once you go vegan and do research, it begins to pain you about all of the violence against animals in the world and you become less tolerant of the mass murder around you. However, at the same time, this aggressiveness can scare off potential vegans from becoming vegan. This is honestly the daily struggle.

Burning-Mouth Fogging-Glasses Painful Spicy Fajitas

I’m from South Louisiana and I like spicy food. Cliche, I know, but I don’t just like spicy food…I like painfully spicy food. No, I don’t have a death wish and I’m not a masochist, but spicy foods provide me with an adrenaline-pumping shot to my entire being that makes me feel alive and happy. I always know I’m at the right heat level when my glasses fog up. My dining mates find it funny to watch when this occurs, but it’s hard for me to see them laughing at me through my completely fogged up glasses or hear them laughing over the sound of my pounding heart, so I don’t mind.

My favorite food is Mexican, and Mexican food also happens to be one of the most vegan-friendly foods (when you replace or remove the cheese, sour cream, butter, lard, and meat, of course). With Mexican, you can easily add avocados and/or use a cheese or sour cream substitute to give any dish a creamy taste, as I did with this recipe. You also can add some type of umami flavor to replace the flavor that animal meat would add such as mushrooms, soy sauce, vegan steak sauce, and vegan Worcestershire sauce (regular Worcestershire is normally made with anchovies).

I discovered a love for cooking after I stopped following recipes. So, no recipe, and I can’t really tell you how much of each thing I put in it. It’s more fun and liberating that way. You don’t even have to keep reading at this point. Just go in the kitchen, saute vegetables of your choice, and then put it in a tortilla with toppings of your choice. Easy.

My no-recipe recipe:

Please note first, I like my vegetables cooked very, very, extremely well and caramelized for fajitas. This is a personal preference and not recommended, but does explain the very dark color of my fajita “meat”.

How I made it:

Added coconut oil and olive oil to a cast-iron pan. I ended up adding more of both oils as it cooked, but don’t get crazy like me because I added more than necessary on accident.

Sauteed onions and chopped peppers (Used multi-colored bell pepper pieces, jalapeno pepper, habanero pepper, anaheim pepper, and canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce). I didn’t discard any of the seeds of the peppers except for the anaheim pepper because it’s not a spicy pepper so I didn’t see the point.

Added spices including cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper.

After this cooked down and began to caramelize, I pushed it to one side of the pan, and then used the now free side to saute sliced portbella mushrooms in vegan Worcestershire, soy, and steak sauce. You can and probably should just do this in another pan, but I didn’t so I’d have less dishes to wash. Again, personal preference. I also added the same spices to the mushrooms for no apparent reason.

Fajita Meat
Fajita Meat

Heated up a tortilla on my gas stove burner. Heated up canned black beans.

Made guacamole by mixing one avocado with the juice of one lime (I really like lime. Do not add this much lime.) Added generous salt and chopped red onions.

Finally, I placed all the finished products on the tortilla and wrapped one side like a burrito for easy eating. (Added a bit of vegan sour cream and Tabasco’s Chipotle Hot Sauce on top before wrapping.)

Fajita Wrap Before Wrapping and Devouring
Fajita wrap before wrapping and devouring

 

Last thing I see before I lose my sight
Last thing I saw before I lost my sight

 

D….F’N….Licious

Veganism

I live a vegan lifestyle. Wait, don’t leave yet! I know it’s the dreaded word. I used to feel the same way. I heard the word vegan and I shut down and ran away. I couldn’t understand how someone could be so dumb to deny themselves delicious, life-altering, and deeply satisfying food. It was mind-boggling and I felt sorry for their lack of understanding of living a good life.

I have long considered myself a foodie, and others also have recognized my knowledge and passion for food. When I first made the change about three and a half months ago, my coworkers and friends laughed because surely I must be joking. Once they realized I was serious, they kind of backed away because surely I must be a having a mental breakdown or have been abducted by aliens or influenced by a cult. Finally, after a few weeks, it was accepted, but understood by everyone that this was a quick experiment, and it would be over soon, even with my insistence that I didn’t feel that way.

My family has taken it the hardest, but it’s understandable as they live in and I was raised in Southern Louisiana, where animal-based food is ingrained and celebrated in the culture. I moved to Houston over 6 years ago, so they blame the “big city” life for the change. My grandpa said my little personal protest won’t help anything, and how can I turn my back to the way I was raised, but he and other family members have now accepted it, even though they don’t understand it.

Every since my grandpa mentioned it being my “little personal protest” I realized he’s right. I know he meant one person can’t affect change, but I have to admit that I haven’t been extremely vocal about it (in order to not offend anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable). However, it gets harder literally every day to hold in my relatively new realization and not tell the world about it in hopes that I can affect a greater change, even if it is just one person.

Hence, if this blog can reach just one person through a google search of a random topic, and change that person, this would be the ideal purpose of me taking the time to write this blog. It takes a lot of buildup to make the change, but once the connection is made, it can’t be undone (or rather, you don’t want it to be undone).