A week on, the "Vegan Initiative" has struggled some, has taken some hits, but I know that you all would appreciate an update anyway, so let me get you up to speed.
The first two days were a breeze--Apple, banana, and kale smoothie for breakfast, avocado toast for lunch, whole grain pancakes with honey, almonds, coconut, and fruit salad for supper the first day, English muffin with peanut butter for breakfast the second day, followed by tomato soup with avocado and sales for lunch, and a wonderful dinner at P.F. Chang's (a vegan's best friend) consisting of vegetable spring rolls, Ma Po Tofu with broccoli, and Vegetarian Fried Rice.
Man, we were cruising. And then it happened. And it happened after a vegan lunch of teriyaki tofu at Kumo for lunch. Put simply, my daughter got a job. After nearly six months of searching, my daughter got a job in her field, a good job with good benefits. And my family tends to celebrate such occasions with food.
So off we went to an upscale Italian place we like, a great place...until you look at it through vegan eyes. Basically, everything on the menu, except for one salad and maybe a couple of sides had meat or cheese as part of it, and usually both. At that point we were off the chain. I had s charred romain salad with some kind of Italian bacon even I'd (a food snob) never heard of of. The pizza I followed it with had a different salty, cured meat, as well as an unpronounceable cheese, and that was kind of how the evening went.
By the next morning, I was eating half of a sausage biscuit with my advisees, and the whole initiative was in serious jeopardy. By evening, though, a patron saint had intervened, a New York Times food writer named Mark Bittman, who has articulated various versions of the same eating plan, one of which I grasped as a life raft to get me back on board. My other patron saint of eating, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, offers a similar vision.
In short, here's what these guys say: eat real food, not processed food, and eat mostly vegetables. And don't eat too much. Bittman even offered a few years ago, a fairly specific way to approach this. He recommended being "vegan before 6PM."
And that is what got me back on track. See, if I can eat two of three meals each day inside a fairly rigid structure like veganism, and then have the flexibility to branch out for the third, well, I can work with that. And have. Since.
By Friday, I was drinking an apple smoothie for breakfast and a falafel rider at Ankar's for lunch. At night, both Thursday and Friday ( and Saturday) I was eating more expansively, but even then, meat and cheese were embellishments, not the main focus. That is what happens when you look at what you're eating, which is the main epiphany here. Look at what you are eating, and you may stop eating some things.
And don't miss the message here: while it may be easy to dismiss veganism as too extreme (something I do myself), the larger message remains. If you are eating Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Its, frozen processed entrees or "fresh" foods that are loaded with chemicals and preservatives, you are killing yourself in ways that you don't need to, in ways that don't enhance what you put in your mouth in any way except convenience. Alcohol,tobacco, a great burger, whatever, may hold great pleasures that I will not deny; processed food kills you secretly while adding no joy.
Today, I made fresh tomato sauce, soaked the insecticides off of grapes in a water/vinegar solution, made a carrot/ginger/curry/coconut soup, put together a vegan "tuna" salad of chickpeas, walnuts, lemon juice, etc. In preparation for a week of eating. Vegan eating can taste good. And tonight, it doesn't matter. I think I'll make a fish sandwich from the fresh cod at The Fresh Market.
Because, as Meatloaf once said so eloquently, "Two out of three ain't bad." And a week in, that's where I am.