The inconvenience factor

It is hard (for me) to be vegan and not feel like I’m either a) inconveniencing people or b) trying to stand out. I don’t intend to do either, but most of the time, I feel as though I am doing both. My most recent example happened this evening. I was out with a group of women¹ at a pizza restaurant. Scanning the menu, I knew I would not be able to share food socially with anyone at the table (inconveniencing people). Then I felt the need to apologize for that (standing out). Then, I had to ask my waitress to “hold the bacon” on my salad (well, perhaps that wasn’t so egregious).

And restaurants are actually the easy part- they deal in special requests all the time. Eating at other people’s houses: much harder. You don’t want to be “that” guest- the one your hosts have to go to extra trouble for. This weekend we went to our friends’ house for dinner- vegan friends!- so we felt easy, not trouble at all. But the vast majority of my friends and family are not vegan.

Is it just part and parcel of any special diet? Perhaps. But it feels more uncomfortable to me to be dogmatic about veganism than it would if, say, I had a gluten or a peanut allergy. In the case of veganism, I’m making a conscious choice to inconvenience others for what amounts to my own pleasure. My sister Beth and I chatted about this (she is pescatarian and gluten-free) and her approach is to stick to her diet unless she feels she is burdening someone. Seems like a fair and relaxed approach to me.

People have been asking me whether I’ll stick with this after January. Short answer: no. Long answer: yes, in part. I think I’m going to try a partial-vegan diet, such as VB6 or vegan five days a week. I don’t want to go whole hog (embrace the pun) back to animal products; I feel so healthy right now and am not yet ready to give that up. At the same time, I can’t envision being a strict, 100% vegan; I don’t think there’s anything wrong, either health-wise or animal rights-wise, with occasional animal products, carefully chosen. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s what I cooked this week:

Thai Coconut, Coriander and Broccoli Soup by Donna Hay (via Epicurious). This was delicious but a bit too spicy for the kids (sigh). I replaced the water with vegetable broth and served the soup with a bit of shredded unsweetened coconut. Perfect for winter- warm, healthy, and satisfying. Grade: A

Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower Bites by Rhea Parsons (via One Green Planet). We already have a go-to roasted cauliflower recipe that we love, but this blog is not about sticking with the old, tried-and-true things.² This recipe is supposed to remind you of hot wings. They were indeed hot- even for Graham, which is saying something- but I found them fairly addictive. I’ll be making these again and will use less hot sauce. Grade: A-

Walnut Banana Bread by Mark Bittman. I usually love it when recipes call for unusual ingredients, but in this case, the cooked brown rice (!) had a strange and not wholly pleasant chew. It’s hard to get banana bread wrong IMO, but this recipe did just that. Grade: C-

Curried Tofu Scramble – a method, more than a recipe, and one that works well. The curry powder lends a surprising sweetness to the veggies and tofu. If you’re anti-tofu, you could just as easily throw in chickpeas or other sturdy beans in its place. See recipe below. Grade: A

Curried Tofu Scramble
modified and adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

1 pound extra-firm tofu
1 T. sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Sri Lankan Curry powder
3 big handfuls spinach leaves
6 oz. broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed

Drain any water from the tofu, press it between a couple of paper towels to release excess moisture, then crumble into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, add the garlic and onion, and sauté for just a few minutes, until they soften up. Stir in the curry powder and then the tofu and broccoli. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the tofu is thoroughly heated and broccoli is tender. Add the spinach and stir for a minute or so, until it wilts and collapses, then stir in the salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want a brighter curry flavor to come forward, sprinkle with more curry powder. If the flavors aren’t quite popping, add more salt a couple of pinches at a time.

Serves 4 to 6.

* * * * *

¹Moms, to be more precise. Fellow kindergarten moms. Moms that I don’t even know that well, around whom I was trying to be “winning.” Not sharing a pizza with these moms = antisocial = not winning.

²That would be a sad blog indeed.

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