Saturday, July 17, 2010

One Week Left

I guess I owe this chronicle an update because I finish what I start, damn it! Really, I do. As evidence, I submit to you the simple fact that, with just one week to go in my little experiment, I am still a vegan. That means I have lived over three weeks without ingesting an animal product. The good news? I am shocked at how quickly these weeks have flown by.


The bad news? I really miss meat. Sure, TVP is delicious when it’s prepped and seasoned and finagled, but meat cannot be replaced. If I was committed to making veganism a lifelong choice, I do think I would eventually get over the need to “replace” meat dishes, but since this is only a short commitment and I have no desire to continue it at full speed once I reach my goal, all of this intellectual conjecture adds up to a hill of beans. Probably the same hill of beans I still refuse to eat. Beans are fucking weird.

In the meantime, I wish I had more to report in the way of a valiant struggle. Some kind of arm wrestling match with arugula or a throwdown with okra. I guess turning vegan made me a pacifist toward animals and vegetables alike. I have yet to purposefully cheat in any way, although I am willing to bet something animal-generated has slipped through. I cannot claim with certainty that I do not swallow spiders when I sleep. Also, I kill cockroaches without thinking twice.


I did stumble across a lovely thing called EVOS. If you don’t know what EVOS is, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a slick little restaurant that serves “healthy” fast food. There are several vegan-friendly options in addition to a pretty great standard menu. Their air-baked french-fries are phenomenal, although they seemed to cool off rather quickly. Perhaps all of my panting at the sight of my tray ventilated them too much. Also, EVOS has four different and equally delicious flavors of ketchup because why the hell not.

Unfortunately, not much else has happened on the “trying new things” front, at least in terms of food. What I do in the privacy of public restrooms is my business. Being a poor college student has its drawbacks, believe it or not. How can I worry about maintaining a vegan lifestyle if I already work around the clock?


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Down With TVP?

With four days under my belt, I am starting to gain a bit of confidence in myself. Resisting meat has not been overly difficult. The irritants are few and far between: simple necessities like double-checking to make sure something is vegan-safe. Then again, I live in a silly age where that is considered a valid complaint. Checking labels is a minor vexation when one considers how a caveman used to obtain sustenance. Of course, I have the suspicion that a vegan caveman would not make it very far. Beating soybeans with a club until they yield Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) would be a pain in the ass.


TVP is a godsend. I cannot believe this magic substance has not been given proper exposure. Maybe I missed something, or maybe I’m just the last one to find out it causes dick cancer. Even if it does, it’s amazing and cheap enough for me not to care all that much. For approximately $2.50/lb at Whole Foods, I figured I would snatch a pound just to see if the instant-potato-looking-flakes were swallowable.

After our dubious purchase, my lovely fiancée tinkered in the kitchen forming what I figured would be miserable Asian-style-chicken-finger-mutant-bastards, not because she’s an inept cook, but because who the fuck expects deep-fried chunky cocaine to taste good? Sorry to buck your expectations, but this stuff is phenomenal in terms of meat-substitutes.

Aside from its tofu-like ability to soak up tastes, the greatest thing about TVP is its rigidity. When you bite into a TVP “chicken finger,” it feels like you’re actually biting into something. Not this “tastes okay but goes down like Jell-O” tofu bullshit. I am a texture guy. It’s a big part of the reason I was so picky for so long: if something doesn’t feel right to my mouth I’m not going near it again. That’s why I don’t talk to Chad anymore.


I would argue that going vegan requires a lot of expectations to be thrown out. You cannot expect a meatless burger or chicken patty to taste exactly like the real thing. It shouldn’t. And part of the lifestyle change for the successful vegetarians and vegans I know is getting past that need for those types of food altogether. There are fruits and vegetables and other natural things that just taste good. Tinkering with them and trying to impose a processed taste on them is part of the problem that veganism is supposed to be addressing. As a beginner, I recognize that I’m just not at that point yet.

What I find most surprising about this is what I miss from the realm of animal food. My illicit cravings aren’t for filet mignon or prime rib (although now that I mention them…); my periodic yearnings are for things I shouldn’t, and usually do not, eat in the first place. Depriving my tongue of meat-taste has awoken the deepest memories of childhood excess in my tongue-buds. I want grease and crispy skin and salty fat. KFC, Hardees, Checkers, etc. It sounds amazing and terrible and endlessly nauseating all at once. It seems to be a desire for a quick fix—I am an addict looking for a hit of something that I know will not benefit me in any meaningful capacity.


While I am on the subject of stomach issues, I must confess that a wonderful thing has happened on the way to the bathroom. Not only am I more regularly making the toilet my bitch in ways I never thought possible thanks to what I am guessing is a healthy detox period, I much more infrequently have to excuse myself from an elevator several stops before my floor. My ass is a goddamn secret garden and you are all invited. Smell that? No. You do not.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Honestly, I am kind of surprised I made it this far. “This far” being anywhere past the conceptual stage of my one-month vegan adventure. And you know what? I am doing alright. I must say, when your fiancée is a fine goddamn cook, eating, in general, becomes a lot easier. Don't let me get ahead of myself, however. It has only been a day.

I closed out my over twenty-two year streak of non-veganism the best way I could: by eating lunch at McDonald’s. After a local franchise did me wrong the hard way a few weeks ago—did me wrong even by fast food standards—I took the time to log onto the company’s website to complain. You can only imagine how badly I was treated if an experience with the Golden Arches prompted a customer service complaint from yours truly.


I can’t fault them too much. They made nice. I received an email follow-up and, in a perfectly-timed aligning of corn-fed, beefy planets, yesterday I received a coupon for a free Extra Value Meal by way of snail mail. I jumped on that ship and set sail to the exotic and physically-exhausting land of Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

When I came to, it was grocery shopping time, and I set out with a renewed sense of purpose (that burger was weighing on my lower intestine). From Target, Whole Foods, and Publix, I purchased things like Textured Vegetable Protein and Nutritional Yeast. These things are especially noteworthy because A) what the fuck are they? and B) a year ago I would have eaten my own fart before I put something like that in my body.

It gets crazier. I had veggie fried rice for dinner. Said rice dish contained peas, carrots, scallions and motherfucking tofu. The coolest thing about tofu is that song from DOUG. Which reminds me: I need more allowance. In any event, I ate tofu successfully, and I didn’t throw up. I didn’t even gag. Based on this, I am fairly certain that I am Superman, minus the part where green things kill me, because now I can eat them without getting all sick and/or murdery.


Breakfast this morning was high-protein cereal in almond milk. Almond milk is tricky. It soaks into the cereal rapidly and turns the whole thing to sludge. Not pleasant, soggy sugar-flakes like regular milk. Cardboard slush like wintery gutter-mix.

Lunch was light because breakfast was so filling. I crammed a clementine and applesauce down my gullet and called it substantial. Also of note: no soda to this point in the day.

The afternoon brought the first epic challenge of my experiment. On the way to check my campus mailbox (which was goddamn empty anyway), I passed a full outdoor buffet set up in the breezeway. Burgers. Hot dogs. Barbecue chicken. Cookies. All free. And I resisted! I snatched a lukewarm veggie burger, a pickle, and a half-corn on the cob from the trays and pulled myself away. The poor college student side of me wanted to kick the stubborn, committed side of me in the gums, but luckily I am horribly inelastic.


Dinner was another meatless burger and homemade French fries. Holy shit. Let me tell you something about my fiancée’s French fries: fuck every French fry you have ever eaten until you have tried hers. Which you probably never will. Think about that. That sucks.

But you know what does not suck? Maybe you do, but I'll tell you anyways. What does not suck is that I have made it a full day as a vegan. It has only been a day, but damn it, what a decent, manageable, not-so-terrible day it has been.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oh, Great. Now I Can't Eat Anything.

If you have not seen KING CORN, do yourself a favor and fix that problem. It is currently available on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" list, so queue it up and pop yourself a brimming bowl of-- Actually, no. Don't do that. Don't do that even a little bit.

Prepare to have the safe haven you called "corn" blown up like a slaughterhouse in Dresden. In a limited capacity, corn has always posed an interesting problem, but I have come to learn that it does a lot more than stick around in the toilet bowl. You see, that’s the corn that’s good for you. The bad corn motherfucking kills you.

Since the middle of the 1900’s, corn has been the go-to crop for America’s farmers. And for good reason. The government subsidies are enticing, and farming is, in a big way, what the American Dream is made of. If history has taught us anything, though, it is that the American Dream is also made of indolence and innocent death.


Corn, or more accurately, processed corn, makes food easier to produce in large quantities. From high fructose corn syrup to livestock feed, them yellow kernels is everyplace. During a recent trip to the Publix up my street, I came to the conclusion that it is in many cases more difficult to find food and drink that does not contain corn than does.

And the stuff I love most of all? Red meat? Turns out, I have probably never even tasted the real thing before. That’s right. Corn-fed meat is fundamentally different; it is so derivative of corn that it has a completely different taste than the supermarket schlock I adore.

Scared stiff by the thought of not liking real meat, and simultaneously surprised by the fact that a food documentary had actually shaken me, I took to researching grass-fed beef. To my chagrin, not only is it hard to find, it can be damn expensive when you do manage to track some down. The best advice is the most obvious. Ask the butcher at your local supermarket if any of the meat is grass-fed (they probably won’t have a clue), or ask them who their supplier is. Remember, if he asks if you are a cop, you have to answer honestly.


What this boils down to is a sugary, glistening syrup of doubt and paranoia. Even if I take expensive measures to get my hands on grass-fed meat, how do I even know that the stuff is the real deal? If the sole qualifier is “it tastes different,” I could just as well be munching on a steak cut with laundry detergent.

What if it isn’t the corn at all? What if farmers are contaminating their crops with cholesterol-laden arsenic in order to protest Jimmy Carter’s one-term run as President? It really makes you think.

Just one more ubiquitous ingredient to avoid. Just one more reason to beat meat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Masturbation v. Mastication

I have an unhealthy obsession with flesh. Biting it, chewing it, and sucking it down. I fetishize it, and the time has come for me to take myself to task for such disgusting, deviant behavior. How better to do so than in the most dramatic and potentially public way possible?

My proclivity for porn and puns aside, I am talking about my unabashed love of meat. Beef. Animal-based food products. Okay, so, the only thing more difficult for me than going a day without ingesting skeletal muscle is playing down the homoeroticism of my eating habits. But that may be the least of my problems.

I have never been much for trends (except dayglo-hued slap bracelets), so I have never felt an impetus to jump onto the “health nut” bandwagon. I consider myself fairly well-informed, but in the realm of food, facts and flashy fiction are equally powerless in my presence. I ran out to McDonald’s as soon as I finished Morgan Spurlock’s SUPER SIZE ME. On the way home from returning Richard Linklater’s film adaptation of FAST FOOD NATION, I stopped at 7-Eleven for a hot dog. I have no heart, because if I did, it wouldn’t be moving.

From its finest to its flimsiest forms, meat is something I consider sacred. Not, you know, like Indians do. That’s actually the exact opposite of what I mean. In fact, for every cheeseburger a slumdog passes on, I make it a point to eat three. There is something compelling in the inelegance of a steak. Something profound in beer-can chicken. And I don’t discriminate. If I were to directly translate my standards for beef to a vegan lifestyle, I would munch grass from the dog’s spot under the porch.

The most beautiful side-effect of my menu has been the relative lack of side-effects. I have never been overweight and I am rarely sick. My stomach handles prime rib like Andy Dick handles a sweaty banana hammock full of blow. Except my stomach never convinced Phil Hartman’s wife to commit murder-suicide, so I win by default.

Despite a keen knowledge of the potential ailments associated with my disproportionate intake of meat, I haven’t made much progress. In the past two years, I have successfully added meager salads (spinach leaves, croutons, cucumber, and dressing) to my repertoire, along with a few other leafy odds and ends, but not a single thing substantial enough to stand in as a replacement menu item.

What do I do now? I quit meat. I outright abandon this baby cold-turkey (mmmmmmm, lunch). In order to accomplish this relatively insane goal, I will give myself a couple of weeks to develop a small menu of vegan options, comprised of things that I can manage to choke down. Starting June 25th, I will spring into action, and for thirty days, I will commit myself to veganism.

Thirty days without ingesting meat or animal products of any kind.

Drastic? Yes. Healthy? Probably less so than it seems. Regardless, I think this is the most effective way to shock my system into tolerating, accepting, and eventually liking healthier and generally animal-free food. It’s like Affirmative Action for my arteries.

The real challenge will be to find a way to distract myself from the meat-cravings.