No, it’s not giving up cheese. Or bacon. Or half-and-half. (Truth be told, I barely miss the first two. Half-and-half: that’s another story.)
It’s not forgoing eggs. (But I can tell you right now, if I could add one thing back into my diet, it would be eggs.)
To understand what is hardest for me about veganism, you’ll need a sense of my typical day.
During the week, I head to work early in the morning. I return home in the evening, just in time to eat dinner, nurse the baby, and put the big kids to bed. I am lucky: I come home to a home-cooked meal, prepared by my husband or our au pair. This is also by necessity. If it weren’t this way, I wouldn’t get to eat until 8pm at the earliest, which might seem quite reasonable to many of you, but when I’m trying to get to bed by 9:30 (with lights’ out by 10), an 8pm dinner is just too late.¹
Since going vegan, unfortunately, I no longer have dinner waiting for me when I get home. Instead, I have walked in to find grilled flank steak, roasted chicken over green beans, cheeseburgers, or sausage and greens soup. These are all foods that I would have devoured just weeks ago, and they are happily consumed by the other members of my household (minus the baby). Unable to eat these foods, I scramble to throw together a dinner. Some nights this is easy, if I have the raw materials ready to go, or if I have leftovers from something I cooked on the weekend. Other nights, vegan dinner prep might take a half hour or more, time that I don’t have to give.
The low point of my vegan week arrived when I came home to the smell of freshly baked bread. I felt like Winnie the Pooh, eager beyond measure for his honey pot.² Alas, Graham had followed a recipe that used milk. To be ravenous, and to follow my nose to a loaf of homemade bread (still warm), and not to be able to eat any because of a diet of my own choosing? Torture.³
In the short term, I will have to be more diligent about buying and prepping over the weekend, so that weeknight dinners come together easily. Over the long term, this feels like a pretty big strike against veganism. Graham won’t be going vegan
any time soon ever, and as long as my schedule remains this busy during the week, I’m not sure I’ll have the energy to be the lone vegan. It’s a bummer, really. I haven’t made any decisions about how I’ll eat after January, but I do know that I feel great, I’m eating far more vegetables and legumes than I normally do, and I’m actually enjoying what I eat. Stay tuned…
Here’s what I cooked this week:
Curried Spinach and Tofu from Mark Bittman. This is vegan saag paneer, and I was skeptical before making it (given how much I love saag paneer). YUM- surprisingly delicious. I ate this four times over the course of the week and never tired of it. Grade: A
Creamy Thai Carrot Soup by Minimalist Baker. My kids liked this and had fun guessing the secret ingredient (peanut butter). I thought it was fine, but I think I’d take regular (PB-free) carrot soup over this one, nine times out of ten. Grade: B+
Mushroom Nut Burgers by Mark Bittman. Bittman rarely leads me astray, but this one doesn’t do justice to mushrooms, or to veggie burgers more generally. The flavor was decent, but the texture was off (too wet). I’m on the hunt for a better veggie burger recipe. Suggestions? Please leave them in the comments! Grade: B-
Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. These were a big hit when I brought them to work. I think they are slightly oily but the flavor is delicious. See recipe below. Grade: A
Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from “The Microbiome Solution” by Robynne Chutkan
2 c. almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 c. organic raw honey
1 teaspoon molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Add the almond flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and mix well. Add the honey, molasses, vanilla, and coconut oil o the mixture. Process until it becomes a dough. Transfer to a bowl, add the chocolate, and mix. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are set and the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
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¹Yes, I am incredibly unhip. I used to make fun of my parents for having this exact same schedule, and now I can’t function any other way. But since I know I’ll be up with the baby at least once, if not two or three times, each night, if I don’t at least aim for a 10pm-6am sleep schedule, I’m sunk.
²This allusion further confirms my first footnote.
³In a #firstworldproblems kind of way.