A co-worker asked me last week, “Are you EVER going to fall off the wagon?” She meant the vegan wagon, and she meant would I ever do it intentionally, which I suppose isn’t a fall. I’d have to jump off the wagon if I was getting off on purpose, right? She was frustrated. The office staff forgot my birthday. She wanted to quickly remedy the situation by running out for an edible treat but due to the vegan constraints, couldn’t think of anything appropriate (that I don’t already eat every day or every week). Her solution was for me to cheat in order to enjoy a treat. I told her it wouldn’t be a treat, and since I’d abstained from meat and dairy for this long it would probably cause some unpleasant intestinal consequences.
She was not happy. She needed an easy fix. Everyone in the office was upset about forgetting my birthday and she was tasked with the remedy. I wouldn’t jump off the wagon to make it easier. It was a perfect example of the non-convenient scenarios vegans face every day (not just birthdays). There aren’t a lot of easy fixes. All of them require extra effort. If I’m exhausted and cranky at the end of the day and don’t feel like cooking, quick and easy vegan take-out isn’t an option here in Small Southern Town. If I don’t feel like cooking I have to eat ingredients. If I botch dinner (it happened earlier the same week), there’s no quick and easy way to recover. We can’t just say screw it and order pizza.
Eating vegan every night requires planning, which I typically do on Sundays. The Chef shops for the ingredients on Sunday or Monday. We stick to the menu not only to keep from wasting food purchased in advance but to keep from wasting my planning efforts. I can sub in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if disaster strikes but as for running out and grabbing something quick and easy, nope. It’s just not part of the lifestyle. Grabbing heavily processed convenience meals, even if they are accidentally vegan, is almost worse than eating ingredients. Even before I turned vegan we didn’t eat fast food, and once you’ve been off that shit for a while you DEFINITELY can’t go back without unpleasant intestinal consequences. We also try use all the food in the house every month, which means planning meals around leftover ingredients to avoid rot and expiration dates. Zero waste is a hot topic these days. I’d be happy to achieve zero waste food, much less all the rest.
At the end of January I ruined dinner. Total fail. I must have misread a measurement somewhere. The Chef was on his way home from a late class, tired, hungry, and fighting off a cold. I was standing in the kitchen with a sauce, two garnishes, but no main dish. The main event was ruined. Because it was the end of the month I had no extras of anything to sub in. No cans, no boxes, no pre-made fixes. Hell, I couldn’t even make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; the only bread left in the house was rye. I could have started over and made something else from scratch but you see the point I’m making; nothing quick and nothing easy. The Chef had cheese and crackers for dinner that night. I had hummus and crackers. That’s vegan life. Most of the time things work out just fine but when they don’t we can’t always solve the problem with the same ease as before I jumped on the wagon.
As for my birthday, my co-worker rallied. She went home that night and wrote me a poem. Yep, my coworker wrote me a poem. We’ve known each other about five months; barely friends, and she wrote me a poem. That’s the equivalent of botching dinner but then starting over from scratch, y’all — not easy and not quick, and certainly not pre-made or pre-packaged for convenience. The benefit of everyone forgetting my birthday is that I didn’t get a Hallmark card. I got a handwritten poem. I hope they forget every year.
The rest of the country is preoccupied with the Superbowl today. We’ve got other priorities. It’s the first shopping day of the month so we’ll be restocking fresh food and staples. If I screw up this week I’ll probably be able to solve the problem creatively instead of with crackers. Non-perishable surplus from this week will be applied to the meal plans for Weeks Two, Three, and so on (see Monday below for an example). Lunches will be leftovers. For the sake of transparency, here’s The Deliberately Inconvenient Dinner Menu this week:
Monday — Quinoa tacos with beans and guacamole, from Minimalist Baker. I’ve made this a bunch of times. It’s one of our faves. We will have some uncooked quinoa left in the package, which will become another meal on Week Two or Three.
Tuesday — Baked sweet potato and squash (like a fancy casserole), from Minimalist Baker.
Wednesday — Garlic sesame noodles, from Pickles & Honey. Same deal if we don’t use all the noodles; the next week or so will see another noodle dish.
Thursday — Cioppino, from Pickles and Honey.
Friday — going out with friends, restaurant to be determined.
Saturday and Sunday — The Chef will handle it. I get those nights off.
I didn’t use either one of my vegan cookbooks while planning this week because my apology tulips are sitting on top of them and the container is antique pottery and so super heavy anyway and now filled with water so even heavier and it’s round and fat and hard to hold and easy to spill and the cat will attack if lowered to any level in leaping range and ohmyglob something around here ought to be easy. I opted to cull from some of my favorite food bloggers instead. It’s kind of like ordering in, only the ideas and recipes instead of the actual food.
When am I going to fall off the wagon? I have no plans to leap or step off. If I lived in a more progressive city with quick and easy vegan options and vegan take-out and all the conveniences afforded non-vegans, it might save me from eating crackers for dinner every once in a while but truthfully, I probably still wouldn’t spend the money to have it easier and faster just because planning is a pain in the ass. The Chef and I are already talking about ploughing up part of the backyard this spring to grow food. We’re obviously reconciled to not having it easy. My coworker also searched out a vegan chocolate bar so I could have a treat. Vegan chocolate is regular chocolate without milk. With sea salt and almonds, and some poetry sprinkled on top, it was way better than cake.