Reluctantly Vegan

Peeps, I know nobody said it was easy, but being vegan is really tough for me. It frustrates me because my boyfriend breezed through those 30 days, and here I am not even two weeks into it and already struggling. This morning, as I grabbed my vegan spreads from the refrigerator, there was my boyfriend’s mom’s smoked salmon right next to it… and goat cheese. COME ON.

If I didn’t have that stuff in my refrigerator, would life be easier? (Well probably, because it’d mean I’d have a place of my own.) I don’t know, really, I think the cravings would still be there.

Also, for three consecutive nights now, I had nightmares in which I was either at school (?!), out in the city, or at an assessment center (!!) trying to find some vegan food and failing, and just being so hungry and stressed. It really was no fun at all, and today I woke up frustrated and annoyed. Then the salmon and goat cheese temptation happened, and at breakfast I said to my boyfriend, “I don’t think I wanna be a vegan.”

“You don’t have to”, he said. “If you want, you can have some of that cheese.”

“No, I can’t. I promised I’d do this for 30 days. If you can do it, I can do it.”

“Okay then.”

“But… but I want cheese.”

“Well, maybe you’re just one of those people who can’t say no to those evil foods”, he said, knowing full well that hitting my conscience is pretty much the only thing even more effective than hitting my pride.

“Cheese is not an evil food”, I mumbled, but without great conviction. I know cheese production isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for cows, even though it’s not necessary to kill them in order to get the cheese (actually that would be kind of counterproductive, with the exception of rennet production, but that’s so gross I don’t even want to get into it).

Spoiler alert: I didn’t cheat. I ate my vegan breakfast and later my vegan lunch (which was actually delicious). Yet the cheese cravings didn’t go away, so I told myself I should maybe figure out where to get non-evil cheese from. And I did some research on milk production and dairy cows.

Another spoiler alert: Don’t do that unless you’re prepared to feel more than a little sick. I really had no idea about a lot of this, and I’m starting to think it may be easier to find meat from (formerly) happy animals than milk from happy cows. Really. Wow.

My cheese craving is not fully gone, but it’s definitely less than it was this morning. I realise there’s much I don’t know, and most of it I don’t know because in the past, I often chose not to be informed. I chose not to watch Food, Inc. or Earthlings, or any other documentary dealing with where we get our food from and what processes are involved. Why? Because I figured once I knew, it’d be tough to eat meat without a bad conscience.

Well, damn it, maybe that’s exactly what needs to happen. Because the more I realise how little I know about where my food comes from, the guiltier I feel. I can be informed, but I often choose not to, because it’s just way more convenient that way. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had no idea what I was eating? I mean not just in terms of animal cruelty, but also food additives and things like that. Wouldn’t it be nice if I went through life never wasting a thought on that? Too bad I started thinking about it… and I’m beginning to feel like there is no way back from that. So at least for the next two and a half weeks that are left of the challenge I’ll be, however reluctantly, vegan.

After that, who knows? I really cannot picture myself as a vegan full-time. I also really cannot see myself going back to never thinking about where my meat or my dairy comes from. My aunt has a few chickens and occasionally brings by a carton of eggs. I know those are happy animals, but does that mean that those eggs will be the only animal product I can eat? What am I going to do about my conscience? What about the fact that (damn it) I love the taste of cheese but I now know a whole lot about the dairy industry that makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it?

At this point, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen after day 30. I’m not an animal rights activist, I don’t believe all animals are smarter than us and I really just don’t see myself as one of those people that try to make others feel bad about what they’re eating. I just wanna be normal. But how can being normal entail shutting yourself off from a lot of really bad truths?

Any thoughts are much appreciated, of course – from vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and omnivores alike 🙂

The Vegan Experiment

In December, my boyfriend randomly said, “You know, next year I’ll eat only vegan food for 30 days.”

I must have just stared at him blankly. “Why?”

“I dunno. ‘Cause I can. I just think it’d be interesting.”

“Well… uh… have fun with that?”

I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see how one could possibly be vegan and happy at the same time. And yet he did it for 30 days, and that impressed me so much that I decided to follow suit. I’m on day 5 and I’m fine. Well, I mean, my friends just ordered pizza and of course there’s no vegan pizza at the takeout, so I’ll be sitting here with my hummus and crackers and stare longingly at their cheesy pepperoni pizza slices… but apart from that, I’m totally fine.

So why am I doing it?

Curiosity. Sheer curiosity. My boyfriend loves a good steak or pizza as much as the next man. And yet, on day 31, when he had his first slice of cheese, he pulled a face and said it wasn’t as great as he remembered – and proceeded to steal bites of my tofu scramble. The next day, he drank one sip of coke zero and said he was certain it must have gone bad. It tasted like it always did, but cooking and eating vegan means he barely ate any artificial flavours or flavour enhancers for a month – somehow that seems to have shifted his taste. He hasn’t tried steak yet because he’s worried he won’t like it anymore. And he still experiments with tofu, almond butter and amaranth. I want to know how that could happen. I want to see what happens if I do it for 30 days.

But what about meat?

Well, I’ve never really been much of a meat eater. I went vegetarian once and stayed that way for two years. Well, pescetarian – I was convinced I couldn’t live without fish. Apart from bacon and, occasionally, meatballs, I didn’t miss anything. I don’t even really know why I started eating meat again – I guess I became bored. It was also a period where I worked out a lot and that made me start craving red meat. Maybe a protein thing? But really – I’m the pickiest meat eater ever. I can’t handle bones in my meat, or fatty bits, or anything that is not the tenderest of tender filets. Even before this, I often went for the tofu option in asian restaurants. So meat’s not the issue.

Okay, what about eggs?

Eggs, okay. I love me some breakfast scrambled eggs. And no, we haven’t managed to make tofu taste exactly like scrambled egg, and I don’t think it’ll happen either. But the thing is that breakfast eggs are easy, which is why I eat them often. Now that they’re out of the equation, I usually go for oats or whole grain cereal with a milk substitute. Or tofu scrambles. Or both. It’s really not a big deal that I can’t have eggs – at least not for 30 days. It’s a bigger deal that I can’t have any cake because of that – but you know, cake’s not that great for you anyways.

So then – milk products?

Yeah, those. Cheese in all its variations is the main reason I was convinced I could never, ever, ever eat vegan. I LOVE cheese. Cream cheese is a staple in my diet, and really delicious smelly cheese is one of my favourite indulgences. But again, that’s what I ate and it was easy and convenient. Now I get creative with what to put on my bread. Hummus has basically replaced cream cheese as my go-to spread. I may not like that I can’t have cheese, but I love that I get to discover what else there is. I mean – I just had no idea about all the things vegans CAN eat. I’ve already expanded my horizons a lot – plus, I now read labels, and that means I just will not be eating some things again – not even after the 30 days. Do you have any idea what’s in our food sometimes? Wow.
Also, milk itself: I never need that back. I definitely prefer almond milk or oat milk in my cereal – I never really liked the taste of milk. In my coffee, I just really don’t care. Soy is fine, I don’t taste a difference, and in chai latte, I actually much prefer soy milk. So that’s not something I miss. At all.

Well, what DO you eat?

More vegetables than I did before. More fruit. More oils, I think, but of course no fat from red meat or butter. A lot of whole grains, creative dips and spreads that often contain almond butter and soy yogurt, and, of course, quite a bit of tofu. But not just tofu and not all the time. So far, eating vegan is definitely making me be healthier. Almost all takeout food, pastries, chips, pretzels and other snacks contain at least some egg, lactic acid, buttermilk, powdered milk… you get the idea. (By the way, did you know the water in olive jars often contains some lactic acid?) Chocolate contains milk, unless it’s the really dark kind. The bag of chips my brother bought the other day had 2% buttermilk in it (?!). Gummy bears contain gelatine, which is… well… not made from plants. So what being vegan means is that I usually just say no to junk food. Mostly because I know there’s something in it that I’m not allowed to eat. Sometimes because have no idea what’s in it at all.

No matter how I feel about vegan food after the 30 days are over, there’s something I do know: I want to keep this way of looking at food – checking labels, being conscious about what I eat and when I eat, rather than absent-mindedly nibbling on salty pretzels (there’s egg in those, by the way). And until I get to decide, there are still 25 days of meat and dairy abstinence. I’ll keep you posted!

Grad School: Epic Odysee

So, I’m in SAN FRANCISCO!!! I gotta say, it was a really long arrival day with some bumps and a very tired Ari by the end of it. When I was waiting for the BART at the airport to get me to Daly City to get a cab from there to my home in the dark while being ubertired, I got really sad and homesick and just wanted to go back asap. But once I was in my rented room, I could not have been happier- the people are really nice and warm and welcoming and my room is bright, clean, big and has a spacious walk-in closet. It looks like a very typical American suburban neighborhood (which, in my case, means it looks like awesome).

And since it’s gonna be grad school from here onwards, it’s gonna be my new series in a wider theme. From how to get settled into your new city over student-friendly grocery shopping to finding the best public places to meet people, go partying or just having a good time 🙂

Groceries

So, first day. Fighting jetlag and starving stomach by exploring the neighborhood. Guess what’s right around the corner? A shoppingmall! And they have everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from Victoria’s Secret to Forever 21 to Sephora OPI nailpolish to Chipotle and Godiva Milkshakes and Starbucks and oh so much, I was overwhelmed and super happy. Then came a downer- the only grocery store within walking distance is a Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice, conveniently located store and I can be lucky to have it so close by but when I pictured my future grocery shopping, I thought of New York’s Pathmark. You know…the broccoli au gratin and isles of ice-cream flavors and unhealthy stuff I know I shouldn’t eat but love anyways… Nada! Instead I was confronted with organic and healthy everywhere and and gluten-free fries, nuts and isles of fruits and vegetables. Should be my choice of consumption but it’s also a big question of money and since I wanna cut my budget short, I need to be picky at times. TJ has really friendly stuff and a healthier variety of microwaved and precooked foods (picture instant noodles with dried organic meet..yay). Their cosmetics section was also quite small but that might only be my branch.

So, today on my third day, I decided to take faith in my own hands and looked up nearby Safeway stores only to find out that there was one within walking distance…or so it seemed. “Hey, let’s walk 2 miles to that store” said noone in San Francisco ever. Cause the locals know about one phenomenon I blatantly ignored: The hills! What should have been a 20 minute walk, took me almost an hour through suburban neighborhoods wher

e every street looked the same and all the houses were equally nice and yes, oh, a palm tree but oh, shoot, also a steep hill, how far am I really willing to go for this stuff?! Turns out- pretty far. 2 miles, 60 minutes and 6 steep hills far, to be exact. I gotta say though- that Safeway was exactly what I was looking for and I could have spent hours in there, I was instantly happy and felt relegated to New York last year but only for a few minutes because I was completely aware of the fact that I would have to carry everything back again. I think crossing by the Ice-cream isle without getting any was the hardest part of the day.

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Wheeere is the safeway? I only see fog, hills and houses

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More Fog, hills and houses

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FOUND IT!!!

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Happiest version of myself I could possibly be 🙂

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So yeah, my legs are tired, my body is aching from the heavy bags but it was still very much worth it because I know I have a bunch of Rica A Roni’s downstairs (and cooked with meet and some fresh vegetables, it’s really not that bad).
Stay tuned for more stories because tomorrow I’m going downtown!

Cheers and go grocery shopping!

Ari

Countdown Series: 21 Days

Contrary to all confusion and challenges thrown at me, I managed to sort things out and do go to study in SAN FRANCISCOOOO. As you can imagine, I am the happiest person on earth.

My flight will depart in exactly three weeks from now, so that gives me 21 more days in ye old Germany.
To raise general excitement, II decided to count down with you. The COUNTDOWN SERIES will reveal one thing each day that I am looking forward to in the States, San Francisco or the year in general. Some of the things you might now, some stuff might remind you of happy memories, others might make you curious for the US and I bet somewhere in between you’ll wish I’d turn down my USA-crazy…. may the odds be ever in your favor.

21 Days- PEPPERMINT

Everywhere! Seriously!! There is Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Cookie Scout Mint Thins, Peppermint Cupcakes, Lady Liberty Mint Ice-Cream, Choco Mint Ice-Cream, Mint Cookies-And-Cream Ice-cream, Skinny Minty Ice-Cream, Junior Mints Ice-Cream, Cool White Mint Ice-Cream (and those are only the Turkey Hill Flavors…), Grasshopper, York Mint Cookies, Mint Oreos… heck even Thin Mint TEDDY BEARS from Build-A-Bear! Rumor has it that Dunkin Donuts now offers Chocolate Mint Coolattes and Starbucks has its seasonal Peppermint Mocha?!?!?! Oh my! Bottomline: I am a HUGE fan of peppermint and chocolate. The artifical but nevertheless beautifully intense green and the rich brown melting together to any of the following dessert tips and beyond just ensures my day to become a happy one. As you can tell- I’m in love already. 21 days!

 

Cheers,

Ari

Summer Strawberry Happiness

Summertime!

31°C and sunshine in Bavaria. I’m loving it.

Also, I might have just gone a bit crazy in the supermarket and bought a bit over a kilo of strawberries… and then I might have just eaten about a third of those in ten minutes…

Just saying, strawberries are the best thing about summer!

strawberries summer happiness

I should actually check out some strawberry recipes for you guys, now that I think about it. Stay tuned, I’m on it!

– J.