I promised I wouldn’t turn this into a vegan blog. Rest assured I mean to keep that promise. However, since veganism is relatively new to me there will be new things to report as I progress. Yesterday I hit the 120 day mark. That’s four months vegan. What’s new at the four month mark? The free food. I’m also approaching my first Thanksgiving since the conversion. I keep dreaming about eating meat or dairy by accident. And The Chef played a trick on me. A cheesy trick.
I am amazed at how much free food I am offered or given now that I’m ordering only plants on restaurant plates. Whenever I order something without cheese or meat and a server presents my order with cheese or meat on it, I have to kindly and politely send it back. Every time this happens I get the replacement for free. Every time.
Last month The Chef and went away for an anniversary weekend. The server at the hotel restaurant made a special effort to have an appetizer modified for me, which was great. I ordered the one vegan dish from the dinner menu as well, and it was great. When it came time for dessert she suggested a cobbler she believed was vegan. I got enormously excited about this because almost all restaurant desserts are dairy-full. She came back from the kitchen with the sad news that she was wrong, which was fine, but then asked the chef to make me a vegan dessert. I didn’t ask for this so it was a complete surprise when she brought it to the table. The bonus? It was free. The Chef’s non-vegan cobbler was also free.
At a breakfast diner I ordered dry toast (that’s how you get it without butter already on it). Peanut butter was offered on the side for an extra charge, so I ordered it. The server brought me a fat handful of tiny individual containers of peanut butter. I couldn’t possibly use them all. When I offered them back so as to avoid all those extra little charges, the server insisted that I take them all and then didn’t charge me for any of them. I had enough free peanut butter as a snack to last all weekend.
The owner of my favorite local Chinese restaurant broke my heart when she revealed that she cannot make any menu item vegan. It was a sad day for me and The Chef since he is unlikely to eat there alone. Within the same month another local dive which previously offered a few Thai dishes along with American cuisine converted to all Thai all the time. We went in. I asked the owner about a vegan option. He made a face and replied that any item on the menu could be vegan by withholding the meat, or I could add tofu to anything for an extra charge. We know this fella; he’s a friend.
I made a face back at him and playfully answered that I know tofu is cheaper than meat. Why the extra charge? I mentioned that I recently had to give up dining with his Chinese competitor because she couldn’t accommodate a vegan. He stood to cash in by absorbing my business but not if I was going to be price-gouged for a cheaper ingredient. Again, he’s a friend — this was all cheerful and pleasant. He stared at me. The Chef squirmed. Then the owner laughed and acquiesced. The extra tofu charge is now null and void, I’m still a patron, and he’s still a friend.
The Chef’s family called to start planning the Thanksgiving feast. I’ve been dreading this. Truthfully, I’ve more or less soured on the American Thanksgiving holiday anyway. Not the gratitude-based observance; that’s a worthy activity any day and every day whether we feast or not. But the traditional Thanksgiving story? It’s a myth. It never happened. The whole thing is a lie. Schoolchildren have been indoctrinated with this turkey guff for over a hundred years but it’s all baloney. Nonetheless, I’m still willing to gather with the family because we don’t do that very often. There’s a new baby I want to cuddle and some old people I want to coddle.
The Chef revealed that I’m now vegan. There was no discernible freak-out but I was not asked to bring anything. I usually make the macaroni and cheese and several pies. I didn’t say I wouldn’t but no one asked me to contribute this year. Vegan shut-out. Vegan no thanks. My sister-in-law promised there would be a salad for me. (This is what carnivores think vegans live on — plates and plates of tossed salad.) They all have no idea how much I’ve improved my culinary chops since I turned vegan but instead of flipping them the bird (hee hee!) and chalking it up to their loss, I’m going to voluntarily cook and share some other things.
I confess I’m bracing for the conversations, explanations, justifications, etc. I guess this is just a hurdle I’ll have to get over. Compassion for their meat-addled minds in part of the practice.
I don’t understand it. I am completely and thoroughly content with vegan life. I don’t miss anything from the carnivore or dairyvore cuisine. I am never tempted to cheat. The Chef’s animal products are always present in the house but I have no desire for them. And yet I keep dreaming that I eat meat or dairy mindlessly, realize what I’m doing after I’ve already ingested it, and then feel guilt or remorse. On repeat. It’s usually with people, dining with conversations going on, and I look down and see my mistake too late. Once it was fried chicken. Another time it was biscuits with gravy. Ethnic food, too. I think there was also an ice cream or yogurt dream. Each time I suddenly realize what I’m eating and feel crestfallen that I did it by accident, or at least without premeditation.
I haven’t figured this out yet. It gets a mention because it’s new business and also because I welcome your insights on this as long as it is NOT the suggestion that I’m repressing a lust for animal flesh or secretions. Nope. You’ll have to do better than that.
Easy to be Un-cheesy
From the beginning I have rejected the fake versions or vegan imitations of animal products. I’ve written about this nearly every time I’ve published a vegan-related post. No fake meat nuggets, no fake nacho cheese sauce, no Tofurky. I went straightly and strictly to whole foods with no interest in transitioning through alternatives. But The Chef is still a chef. He still gets excited about new ingredients. Ironically, he is the interested party.
He’s the one who created tofu-based faux ricotta cheese for calzones. He’s the one who buys and grills seitan as an experiment. He’s the one to bring in or suggest I try a new product, which allows him to try cooking creatively with it. This gives him pleasure and satisfaction as a chef. This is how vegan mayo ended up as a staple in my refrigerator. This is how veggie “burger” patties ended up in my freezer. This is how peanut butter powder ended up in my breakfast smoothies. But ask me if I want to buy or try any faux meat or cheese and my answer still hasn’t changed — no. So he doesn’t ask anymore. He surprises me.
I am gradually learning to love black coffee; closer every day. I have fully embraced nut butters or nothing on bagels. I cheerfully dump apple sauce in my oatmeal. It’s all good, even pizza with no cheese. Cheeseless pizza. Yep, for four months now. No problem. Until The Chef went and bought some vegan mozzerella-style shreds (that’s the product’s actual description) and made me a pizza with it. Homemade dough. Homemade pizza sauce. Homegrown herbs. Home-pickled shallots and jalapenos. And then fake cheese made out of plants. Surprise! Dinner’s ready!
He presented the pizza. He presented the product package. He handed me a plate. I would never refuse a vegan meal he went to the trouble to grow, pickle, shop, and prepare, not even if he put faux cheese on it. So I chomped a slice.
In a word, yum. What a pleasant surprise. I tell you truthfully that I wouldn’t eat it or write about it if it didn’t taste good. It’s good. It does not taste fake or plasticky or oily or chemical-ly. It does not have a weird consistency or smell. It is visually pleasing. If anything it is slightly creamier than real mozzarella. It melted just like real cheese and the edges that touched the pan even scorched like real cheese — all brown and crispy. I loved it. I stood/stand corrected. I even warmed up the leftovers in the microwave this morning for breakfast. Nothing bad or yucky happened to it. I get what the fuss is all about now. I recommend.
That’s it for now … I suspect the next sentiments I’ll share on this topic will be relevant after Thanksgiving. Or not, maybe nothing will happen and it will be months before I bring it up again. Unless The Chef tricks me again before then. In that event, if you don’t mind, I don’t mind.