Today, I have a guest post by someone really special. It’s none other than the head of my IT Department – that’s right, my husband, Eric. What marks the occasion? He has accomplished something really great. As I mentioned in my previous post, Eric recently joined the ranks of us vegans for over 40 days. He decided to give up all animal products for lent. It has been wonderful seeing him go through this experience over an extended period of time – not a small feat for Mr. BBQ. To tell you the truth, I will miss my vegan buddy – it’s been great exploring new vegan restaurants together, getting excited about the one vegan dish on the menu, and most of all seeing him truly enjoy vegan food.
Eric, take it away -
How I Survived 46 Days as a Vegan.
In a not so very distant period of my life, I simultaneously worked as a meat clerk at the grocery store, was enrolled in an elective course about meat processing and butchering at UC Davis, and prepared meals almost exclusively from recipes found in The Barbecue Bible. I stored bacon grease in my fridge and was on a quest for the perfect rib rub. So when I recently decided to give up not just meat, but all animal products for 46 days during Lent, you might suspect that the most difficult part would be fighting off cravings from the scent of a gloriously smoked tri-tip. And while I did have some vivid dreams the first week, that strangely resembled an Outback Steakhouse commercial, the most challenging part did not come from any meaty or cheesy temptations. The real challenge proved to be the endless explaining to others about what being vegan fully entailed.
So you are giving up meat, but you can have fish right? No, fish are animals.
What about shrimp? Nope, still an animal.
What about eggs? No, that comes from an animal. I’m not eating any animal products.
So can you eat some of this cake? Does it have butter?
You mean you can’t eat butter either? What can you eat?
This past week I completed my Vegan Challenge and I can confidently affirm that the answer to that last question is PLENTY. For me the “what to eat” was never really an issue.
First, my wife is already a vegan and is truly a wizard with recipes not of the flesh. If you have spent any time on her blog you know she can work magic with a colander full of seasonal vegetables and a handful of those lost “ancient” grains from some rarely patronized bin at the food co-op.
Second, my fridge and pantry are full of interesting and nutritious foods with names that many have never heard of, few can pronounce (and this spell check doesn’t even recognize) like maca, acai, quinoa, and cacao. For us open minded eaters this keeps our taste buds happy and those essential nutrients and vitamins flowing through our bodies.
And third, contrary to the carnivoristic image I have thus far painted of myself, and thanks to Maria, I was already eating several completely vegan meals per week and consuming far less animal-derived food than the average American.
During my adventure I ate pizza, “pastrami” sandwiches, and bowls of hearty chili. When we would eat out, it was often a difficult challenge, but rewarding experience to find something vegan or vegan-adaptable on the menu. I found myself trying dishes that I never would have given a second glance. On the road I relied on www.happycow.net to find the best vegan fare in each city, and was delighted to find several unique eateries I would have passed up in the past. I even enjoyed a burger from a 100% vegan “fast food” joint in San Diego (drive thru window and all). Places like this totally blew away my misconception that vegan or vegetarian only restaurants were for people who do Yoga, wear hemp shoes, and know nothing about a well rounded meal.
Great tasting food was easy to come by, however, calories were far more difficult. This is good news for those trying to lose weight, but bad for those of us trying to add or maintain whatever pounds we have. I found that the volume of vegetables was sufficient to fill me up, but when meals consisted of less calorie-dense food, I would get hungry much sooner. I’m pretty sure I lost a couple pounds through the whole ordeal. I had to train myself to eat more often, especially on days when I went cycling or running.
Many critics were quick to point out the nutritional shortcomings of a vegan diet. The claims and warnings I heard varied according to the level of knowledge (or supposed knowledge) of the dissenter. From the naive and concerned “how will you survive without protein?”, to the condescending and ignorant “you are going to die at an early age!”; I heard it all. The truth that I’ve arrived at is that the healthiest eater is not the vegan eater and not the meat eater… it is the informed eater. If you are vegan you probably should be taking a B12 supplement. If you are eating ground turkey and potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you probably need to take a different kind of supplement (it’s called a salad!). When it comes to nutrition, Make sure you do balanced research and always keep your mind open to new and different information. I saw my flirtation with veganism as an opportunity to tune into my body and see how it ran on a different mix of fuel. I realized some key advantages. I saw my skin improve and noticed more energy throughout the day. However, I also learned that too many legumes will upset my stomach and large fruit smoothies equate to insulin spikes.
So what have I concluded from my Lenten sacrifice? Am I still a vegan? If not, what did I eat to break the streak. In short: no, and cappuccino. The longer version is a little more complicated. I am continuing to eat a lot of the fun and crazy superfoods that have been introduced to me. On the road yesterday, I even went out of my way to find a vegan, macrobiotic lunch. (I’ve found that veggie joints offer higher quality lunches without the added cost of meat and the afternoon crash). I will continue to enjoy some of my favorite animal foods, but I will do it less frequently and stick to the highest quality products. I’m glad I took this opportunity to learn something new. It’s helped me understand the challenges that my wife and other vegans face while revealing many of the secret treasures of their lifestyle. My sacrifice was small in comparison to what I gained. I challenge each of you to taste the world from a different perspective.
Back to me -
Speaking of a Vegan Challenge, I hope all you locals participate in this one. It’s the 1000 Vegan Cupcake Challenge, taking place during the 6th annual Sacramento Earth Day next Sunday, April 22nd. It’s organized by the Sacramento Vegan Challenge, a group dedicated to supporting and “challenging” you at all stages in your vegan paths. The group provides information, resources, as well as hosts and supports local events related to all things vegan.
For this challenge, 1000 themed cupcakes will be prepared with the help of 10 local bakers. There will be guest judges, including the featured guest and author, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, the author of The Joy of Vegan Baking, and money raised will go to three local charities. So stop by, enjoy the fun, and get some cupcakes. I hear they will have cupcakes for everyone; gluten-free, sugar-free, you name it, they’ll have it.
For event details, visit the event website.