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Friday, April 26, 2013

True Confessions of a Reluctant Vegan

Where’s the beef? Or for that matter where’s the chicken, pork, cheese, butter, eggs, and milk? And how can anyone cook anything tasty if these ingredients—my all time favorites—are verboten? I LOVE to cook (and eat).

If you’d told me a few months ago that I’d be trying to maintain a 90-95% vegan eating regimen, I’d have laughed out loud—then turned around to whip up something yummy loaded with animal proteins (think eggs benedict, prime rib, cheese cake). Nonetheless, my husband, Tom, and I have been on the vegan wagon for more than six weeks, and I think (think) we’ll make a year. Our doctor CLAIMS our tastes will change by then, and we’ll no longer want to beg for bacon. We’ll see.

It all started when Tom and I were assigned a new family doctor—a vegan. He suggested we read The China Study, Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell. He also suggested we read and try to follow the 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart by Neal Barnard, MD. Tom met with the doc a few months before me and immediately read and gave a thumbs-up on both books. He surprised the heck out of me when he expressed interest in giving a vegan diet a shot. We’d talked before about our addiction to cheese, noting that meat would be far easier to sacrifice.

Pleading I was too busy to read the books (head in the sand?), I scanned them before my annual physical appointment. And even my limited reading convinced me that a plant-based diet would be good for me. Our reasons are totally (selfish) related to personal health issues. For me, these issues include taking medicine for high blood pressure and cholesterol, worries about Alzheimer’s (Mom had it), and weight. (Did I mention I love to eat?)

However, I was danged reluctant to “go vegan.” Here are five reasons why:
  • We enjoy visits from family and friends. What could I feed them? I had no desire to become a zealot, who tries to force other people to follow her special diet.
  • I take pride in my cooking. My top entrees were all loaded with animal protein: lasagna, eggs benedict, ham and cheesy potatoes, turkey and gravy. And we won’t even mention desserts. Suffice it to say that all my pie recipes started with “butter” crusts.
  • I’m also lazy. It’s always seemed so much more efficient to make BIG batches of soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles and freeze portions to pull out when I’m into writing and don’t want to leave the computer. Vegan meals with their fresh ingredients often entail chopping, chopping, chopping.
  • What about eating out? While I’m no social butterfly, I do visit restaurants with a variety of groups—local chapters of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America, my book club, the neighborhood ladies, my tennis friends. I didn’t want to be a pain in the behind with my “leave off” requests.
  • And, finally, did I mention I LOVE many non-vegan foods. My family could enroll in cheese-aholics.
When I asked our doc if he was a “total” vegan, he said “no”—he couldn’t imagine fresh, summer tomatoes without cheese. He claimed he aimed at a 95% plant-based diet. In his words, we live in the real world—do the best you can and splurge once in a while on the things you miss most. Hmmm. That seemed doable.

Six weeks in, I have to admit most of my concerns turned out to be no big deal. I’ve found many superb plant-based recipes. In fact, it’s become something of a game, a challenge—finding and experimenting with recipes to make them winners. My first pizza attempt fed our garbage disposal. The second rated four stars. Nuts have proven to be one of my cooking saviors. Cashew “cheese” may not taste like “real” cheese, but it’s delicious and a lip-smacking substitute for adding flavor to everything from pizza to soup.   

What does this all have to do with writing and novels? Not much. Except perhaps a willingness to try new things, to experiment can help you grow as a cook or an author. You need to be willing to fail for creativity to blossom. A friend gave me a plaque with this Winston Churchill quote: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” I keep that plaque on my desk.

How about you? Have some of your writing experiments failed but still helped you become a better, more creative author?

Better yet, if you don’t want to talk about writing, send me some tasty vegan recipes and I’ll play with the ingredients.

7 comments:

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
That sounds fascinationg and you are so brave to attempt it. I have to confess Meat and dairy I can take it or leave it. My downfall is chocolate. I wonder if they have Vegan chocolate????
Good luck with it anyway.

cheers

Margaret

Linda Lovely said...

Yes! There is vegan chocolate. I make brownies, a tasty chocolate-pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, etc. I couldn't hack it without chocolate either.

Judith Ashley said...

Oh my, I had two vegans in a training I did a couple of years ago and that was eye-opening because I provided lunch and snacks...as well as eye-opening when one told me that all the machinery involved in raising animals for food by-products (think milk and eggs for one) including transportation to market is the largest contributor to emissions.

We don't eat much meat but every now and then I do have a meat craving. But to do without cheese or any dairy would be the real challenge although I've cut back on that also.

A tasty recipe I use is
1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of black beans
1 cup of garbanzo beans
1 cup of kidney beans

Mix together - let the peas and corn thaw (could use fresh when they are in season). I use an Italian dressing/marinade. In separate small boils I have chopped up avocado, beets, hard-boiled egg, etc. which people can add to the mix when serving. So a vegan can leave out the eggs and maybe add something like artichoke hearts or asparagus, etc.

Linda Lovely said...

Judith, will definitely try the recipe. Our favorite entrees so far are cashew pot pie, veggie burgers topped with cashew cheese (see a trend here?), soups (tomato basil & split pea), spaghetti, stuffed portobellow mushrooms in phyllo dough, and a "stack"--layered from bottom up mashed potatoes, sauteed onions/sweet peppers, portobellow mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, more onions/peppers/mushrooms/tomatoes and cashew cheese.

Sarah Raplee said...

I can vouch for Judith's recipe, Linda! When we meet at her house, she fixes it for lunch and I stuff myself.

We eat mostly vegan also. I had to give up dairy a year ago.

I'm gonna go look up a recipe and then I'll post another comment.

Great post!

Tam Linsey said...

Wow! You are so brave! And obviously dedecated. Good luck for the rest of the year!

Diana Mcc. said...

Eating fresh vegetables and fruits instead of canned, has helped me lose weight and feel good. We haven't eaten beef in 10 years. If we are at someone's house and that's what they cooked for dinner, we'll have a small portion. But that doesn't happen very often. Good for you and your husband sticking to your new way of eating!!