So I’m going Vegan. Hell, I’ve gone Vegan.
This post has taken a long time to write. I really wanted to think this one through. After all, what caused this change, all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere? Me, omnivore extraordinaire, lover of all things haute cuisine (aka pretentiously cooked food), giving up meat and cheese and crème fraîche and butter?
What the everloving fuck?
While Vegan and Vegetarian cookbooks have been coming into our house for a while, and we’ve been discussing cutting a lot of “unhealthy” (read: heavily processed) food out of our lives, I’ll be honest and say it was a single, simple, selfish thing that made me really start considering a Vegan diet.
“I love fine dining. I love cooking complicated, extravagant dishes. How can I cut all the wonderful meat, cheese, eggs, etc out of my diet and still be able to cook and eat wonderfully pretentious meals?
Then dinner was at a local restaurant called Café My House.
Needless to say when the opportunity presented itself, reservations were made and a meal was had. Their five course sharing plate with wine pairing was simply one of best meals I’ve ever had in my life… and it was completely meat and dairy free.
(Side note, this is the greatest cocktail ever created. You need to go this restaurant just to have this drink.)
Reading through these cookbooks, and thinking back on that dinner at Café My House, I started to see that all the crap I’d ever heard about vegan food is exactly that. Crap. Before me were wonderful, delicious recipes. All made with a complete absence of animal products and a completely different way to look at cooking.
This, in turn, caused me to think about the health, environmental, and humanitarian issues with eating animal products. I realized that these three items stood tall above my wanting of a super fancy dinner. I really started to take a good, hard look at Veganism.
The health issues have been studied and studied, and it’s been proven, time and again that a diet which includes meat, dairy, and processed foods can be severely detrimental to your heath. The China Study is the largest of these and pretty much solidifies the idea that a whole foods, plant based diet is the way to go.
The environmental issues are well known. If you want a good introduction to the issues of food and its impact, especially here in North America where fast food and convenience is thought of as a god given right, the documentary Food, Inc is an excellent starting point.
Humanitarian issues? We all know, or at the very least, have a vague idea of what goes on in abattoirs. In reality, there is so very much more. To put it mildly, we humans are pretty terrible with our treatment of the species of this planet. Yet we just turn a blind eye because business is business and people gotta eat. If you need a simultaneous punch in the head and gut and a kick in the ass to drive this point home, check out Earthlings. The trailer can be seen here. A warning though: it’s a super hard watch and the trailer alone (which is all I managed to get through) will put you in a grey mood for at least a couple of days.
After weighing all this I thought: Fuck it. I’m going to do this. I’m going to cut meat and dairy out of my diet.
And you know what? It hasn’t been hard at all. In fact, it’s been downright easy.
I’d always thought that giving up meat and dairy from my diet would be next to impossible. I thought it would be akin to a junky trying to kick heroin. I pictured myself shaking and sweaty, craving steak constantly or sneaking mouthfuls of cheese when no one was looking.
Since I made the decision, the week between Xmas and the New Year, I’ve eaten meat and dairy twice. The first was my sons birthday; we ate at Beckta (which was reserved in November of last year). A few days later I had a pulled pork sandwich which ended up wreaking total havoc on my insides. After that sandwich, I’ve had no meat and no dairy*.
I basically dove head first into Vegan cooking. The food we’ve been preparing, with the help of cookbooks borrowed from the library, and Vegan blogs on the Internet, has been nothing short of phenomenal. I think we’ve only repeated a couple of dishes. I find it fascinating that I’ve been able to replace every dairy based garnish, sauce, and cream with whole food options. I no longer have to resort to, or rely on, highly processed “food”. I’ll put it to you this way: I love making food for scratch and I now make pretty much every garnish, sauce, cream, “cheese”, etc from scratch… with no animal based ingredients at all.
So here we are. There is more to write, of course. Much more. And I’ll get to it in good time. For now, I’ll pause and catch my breath.
* The dairy thing is not completely true. I should mention that for most of January I was drinking coffee with half and half in it. My reasoning here was that there was about six litres of the stuff in the fridge – yes, I drank that much cream in my coffee – and I didn’t want to just up and waste it. So once the cream was done, about a week after the pulled pork sandwich, I was done with it (I was also using it to make crepes/pancakes/waffles for the kids so it went pretty quickly).
Strangely, this had another effect: other than the odd soy latte here and there – like one a week – I pretty much cut coffee out of my diet. I don’t really like the taste of coffee on its own. My “coffee” was pretty much lots of cream and lots of sugar and a bit of coffee. I do like soy lattes so once the half and half was gone, I set about figuring out how to froth soy milk without buying a machine. I failed. You just cannot froth soy using any of the methods found on the Internet.
Paying five or six dollars for a soy latte every day and/or paying whatever is being charged these days for an espresso machine did not appeal to me in the slightest. So I basically gave up drinking coffee every day. Caffeine isn’t good for you anyway, so I may as well cut way, way back while i cutting everything crappy out of my diet.
Funny thing. The other day we made fajitas. For the kids, we made chicken and they had sour cream and shredded cheese (I’ll touch on this in a forthcoming entry). For us it was fried portobello mushrooms, cashew cream, and home made, fire roasted tomato salsa. Cleaning off the table, I took the spoon from the cashew cream and licked it (yeah, I’m that person) before I put it in the sink. Without even thinking about it (seriously, I was on auto pilot) I then took the spoon from the sour cream and licked it and… holy shit did it taste simply fucking gross. I can’t even describe how disgusting sour cream tastes now that it’s been removed from my diet.