The new year is already happy because I got a good night’s sleep. The days of staying up all night to ring in the new year are gone. New Year’s Day gave me an extra weekend day this year. I value three-day weekends too much to waste one of them sleeping off a binge. I want to luxuriate in every extra minute to fill with all the things I want to do with a bonus day off. So in the early morning moments of New Year’s Day I processed my dream, reached down the pet the cat sleeping between my ankles, and got up to make coffee. My first thoughts as I measured and poured, “Hungry, I am.” Then I smirked. Of course I’m hungry. It’s morning and I’m vegan.
Yep. Still vegan. Toast a bagel, open the blog.
I passed the sixth month mark in December. I’m closer now to the seventh month mark on January 11th. This is significant because I made it through the winter holidays and I’m still vegan. I didn’t cave or weaken or backslide or slip up. Most vegans cite the holidays as the worst trial and tribulation of the vegan lifestyle. All the parties, all the family gatherings, all the business events, all the cookies, you know the drill. But as I am wont to say every time I brag about a milestone, it didn’t just happen. It took effort and practice. So far the biggest challenge is still not the food, it’s the conversation.
The Endless Loop
“Oh wow, you’re still doing that?” A family member at Christmas lunch.
“So how long do you have to do this?” A friend at a business party.
“I’m sorry.” A colleague at another business party.
“Can you eat fish? Can you eat eggs? Can you eat honey? Can you have eggnog? Can you have butter? Can you have cheese?” “Why not?” Friends and family alike, every time food was prepared, served, or planned.
“So what can you eat?” Everyone, all the time.
“What about your spouse?” Another colleague.
“What about your kids?” Same people who ask about the husband.
“Are you finding enough to eat?” An in-law at Thanksgiving.
They also apologize for eating meat and dairy in front of me, which makes no sense to me because I am staunchly non-confrontation and non-judgmental during meals. I guilt no one. I make no faces. No snarky jokes. No complaints. No lectures. No discussion of anyone else’s plate at all. But they are voluntarily sorry nonetheless. There is a popular vegan pod-caster who likes to say, “Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to the cow.” I don’t say this either even though that’s hella funny.
I really thought that once I scaled the vegan conversation the first time with each group, I wouldn’t have to keep doing it because no one would want to keep talking about it. I’ve tried to be patient each time I’ve explained it, assuming that once the initial hurdle is cleared everyone will lose interest. That hasn’t happened so far. Everyone keeps asking, even folks who’ve heard all the answers before. I want to talk about something else, y’all. Really, I do. Vegans get accused of being obnoxious because no one can be in the presence of a vegan without hearing about veganism. In my experience so far, it’s not the vegan initiating the endless loop of Same Stuff, Different Day.
I mentioned in November that I took food to share to the Thanksgiving meal. No one ate it but me. I saved myself the trouble in December and took my own plants to the family Christmas shindig but didn’t bother with a large quantity. No one cared. No one complained. I also brought my own wine. No holiday merriment was compromised.
Like Coal in the Stocking
At the Dirty Santa gift exchange I ended up with an assortment of Christmas candy. None of it was vegan so I re-gifted it. A coworker gave me a box of chocolates. The Chef enjoyed them. Pumpkin bread was baked and delivered from a local politician. A giant plastic ornament filled with truffles arrived from a vendor. The ubiquitous tin of Danish butter cookies. All on the vegan naughty list, so all passed on to others. But look at the bright side — all the holiday weight not gained by me!
Roll With It
There were some positive moments. We invited some friends over for dinner. They would bring the meat. We would cook the sides. The wife learned how to make vegan dinner rolls and brought them along with the massive cooked ham. She googled it and surprised me. They were divine. Even the omnivores agreed. Another set of neighbors invited us for snacks and cocktails on Christmas Eve. The wife sweetened the invitation by promising she’d put out some plants for me. Ah, the warm embrace of inclusion.
Coping at Copeland’s
When the office party was planned for a Cajun restaurant I stalked the menu online so I could be prepared. There were no vegan items on the menu, not even salad that could be modified. This was a national chain eatery. I knew they must have vegan patrons somewhere in the U S of A. I called the restaurant a day ahead to ask about options so I could make it easy on the server and reduce the spectacle at the table. I got transferred to three different people before I got an answer but it was worth it. I received two recommendations. The one I chose turned out to be yum-diddly-icious, in the words of Ned Flanders. That’s damn good business, y’all.
Meal Deals On Wheels
The Chef and I went to the food truck fest again on the downtown square. None of the trucks offered plants without an animal accompaniment, but one hibachi truck had a tofu entree on its menu board. I asked about it. They were out of it. (That means they didn’t buy it because they didn’t figure anyone here would order it. Trust me, nobody is selling out of tofu in small southern Mercyburg!) But the nice fellow at the window agreed to grill up some vegetables and add some Japanese-style noodles. Score! Food truck folk continue to be effortlessly agreeable to modify-on-the-fly.
Make Better Luck Than Good
Instead of a full meal The Chef prefers to dine on a buffet of homemade small-plate stuff on New Year’s Eve. Finger food. Savory snacks. He usually makes some kind of cheesy dip thing, chips, wings, etc. and we graze. He wanted to keep the tradition alive so I let him grill and melt and do his usual thing. I made crispy cauliflower bites with avocado faux-ranch dip.
When I was growing up I never heard of eating special foods on New Year’s Day. My family didn’t do that and since I can’t remember ever spending New Year’s Day anywhere but at home, I didn’t know other people did it either. I was an adult — well into my 30s — before I learned that people cook and eat “good luck” food on the first day of the new year. My friend from Oklahoma told me it was black-eyed peas. My friend from Virginia said there also had to be something called hog maw. The Chef says yes to all of the above but there must also be greens and cornbread.
Skipping the hog maw, greens and peas are easy to make vegan. Cornbread? Not as easy but it can be done. Yes, it means without eggs and without buttermilk. It can be done. In the early days of my conversion The Chef bought me a vegan cookbook. The family gave me another for Yule. Both books have chapters on baking without eggs and tried-and-true substitutions for milk products. I’ve got a slew of vegan blogs I follow as well; good for hints on what NOT to substitute. I volunteered to do the vegan cornbread. I’m not going to lie. There is a MacGyver feeling that comes over you when you bake something impossible.
So after six months, almost seven, all is still well. I am still healthy, wealthy, and wise. Still happy, peppy, and medium-sized. My bones haven’t cracked. My organs haven’t failed. Nothing fell out, collapsed, or broke down. Still doing everything I did before, with the exception of consuming animals. Still active, still thriving, still laughing and loving and looking lovely. These are my resources, so help yourself:
- Minimalist Baker
- Oh She Glows
- Pickles & Honey
- Vegan Richa
- Vegan Yack Attack
- Sprouted Kitchen
- The Minimalist Vegan
Get well. Be well. Practice on.