Going Vegan: easier (and harder) than it looks…

So, as I began this new chapter of my life, I decided to give myself some leeway – basically, I’m taking the transition to going vegan in steps. I didn’t see it as any big change to go back to being vegetarian, but I know vegan will be tougher, so I told myself it would be ok to “cheat” at the start… to take my time making the full transition.

That being said, I’m still making an honest effort from the start, just not beating myself up for making a mistake. (Wouldn’t this be a good way to live in all transitions?) I went grocery shopping just for a few things last Friday. (I started a weekly delivery service for an organic produce box this past week also, so I don’t need to get too many things at our regular grocery store.) We are out of almond milk and bananas, and I grab some extra tomatoes (still early in the local produce season for them) and look for “extras” I might want over the weekend. Saturday was Alabama’s spring scrimmage (A-day game!) and the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, so I knew there would be a decent amount of tv-watching on Saturday. (We can discuss my love affair with college football and a few other sports in a later blog post…)

I prepared for the games in the best way: I allowed myself beer (trying to cut back, but still allowed, especially when watching sports), and I bought a couple vegan “alternatives.” I do not plan on eating the “fake” things long-term, but in the transition, I know that vegan “cheese” might help me succeed. So, I bought vegan “Mexican cheese” shreds and two vegan frozen pizzas. I was very excited to see Food Lion had two different vegan pizzas, by the way… one plain “cheese” and one with veggies. (If you are not familiar with NC grocery stores, Food Lion is a lower-end or “regular cost” one, typically. I knew Whole Foods and probably Harris Teeter would have vegan pizza, but my local Food Lion has impressed me with its selections of specialty foods!

I think I’m set for the weekend festivities! I grabbed a “pick-your-own” six-pack of beer – choosing a few favorites and a couple new things. I leave the store thinking that going vegan will be easier than I thought. I can still drink beer and eat pizza while watching football – awesome!

Saturday afternoon I sit down with my first beer selection and start to preheat the oven for the pizza. Duck Rabbit Milk Stout – I know there’s not actual milk in it, so it should be fine, right? Wrong. I do a bit of internet research… it has lactose, meaning it is not vegan-friendly. Crap. And I should have known better. It is called milk stout… obviously for some reason! Ok, one mistake… not bad. I move on to one of my favorites: LoneRider’s Sweet Josie. That one should be fine, whew! (It is actually two days later I see that this variety is clarified with gelatin… arg.) Going vegan is harder than I thought… so much to think about!

At least my happy vegan pizza is in the oven. I bought the two varieties by Bold Organics, and I’m trying the plain “cheese” first. It cooks easily and tastes great! Halfway through I notice my throat feels tight… my right lymph node is VERY swollen. I actually pause the game to go look at the pizza box in my recycling bin. The very last ingredient is organic red chili spices. Damn. Maybe I should’ve mentioned earlier a month or so ago I developed an allergy to jalapenos, other chilies, and possibly green peppers. The veggie pizza lists the same spices. There goes my easy football-watching food. This may be harder than I originally thought.

Well, maybe that will lead to more healthy tv food – not the worst thing. (I am still going to try Whole Foods for another brand of vegan pizza, too.) Meanwhile, it’s Monday and I have my monthly meeting at a local sports-bar for an arts festival I help organize. Looking at the menu, I see four vegetarian options: house salad, greek salad, grilled cheese, and black bean burger. House salad would work, but just lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and cucumber – not awesome dinner considering I had that plus hummus for lunch. Greek salad without the feta? I don’t like olives so we’re down to lettuce, banana peppers, and onions… hmm, house salad is looking better. Grilled cheese? Not going to work. Black bean burger? I ask… it has eggs in it. Really? Eggs? Arg.

At least I have looked up beers ahead of time! I debate between Red Oak and LoneRider’s Shotgun Betty – decide on Shotgun Betty then to remember I was going to get Highland’s Gaelic Ale. Oh well, there’s always next time! I drink my beer, eat a side of sweet potato fries and think that this is going to be tougher than I thought – or I’m going to be eating a TON of crappy salads. I guess I need to choose my restaurants more carefully, too. I am in charge of this meeting; maybe we’ll move it somewhere better next month!

In the meantime, I’m trying to plan and think ahead to being out of town Wednesday-Saturday this week. I’m taking some healthy foods with me (and preparing myself for salad). More updates from the road!

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