While off from work during Christmas week I opted to fill it with late sleep-ins, idle thinking, catching up on my movie rentals and a slew of other must-dos. One of the movies I finally got to watch was Forks Over Knives. It’s a documentary that sheds light on the relationship between disease and animal-protein consumption, and how a plant-based diet is much more beneficial to your health. I had heard about the movie when I attended an Ayurvedic cooking lecture a few months back. This was definitely an eye-opening film. It lends itself to the scientific side of food and how it works inside your body. Most importantly, it makes you question your government and what it literally feeds you in policy and on your plate.
I was now full of all this knowledge that should have moved me to do something, but I wasn’t sure what that something was. So I went about my omnivore ways for the next couple days, but only to feel this gnawing feeling that something just didn’t feel right—Let’s just set the record straight before I go any further, I’m not a hippy, I don’t have issues wearing leather (although I do have issues wearing real fur…I know, contradicting), and I don’t yet really know much about animals’ affect on the environment—What was needling me in the pit of my stomach was that there are so many other options and ways to live your gastronomic life, yet our government promotes a very specific carnivorous one. So to rebel, I suppose, I decided to try a plant-based eating lifestyle. I went off and created my make-shift one-month plant-based eating experiment.
Making homemade almond milk was probably the most satisfying experience of it all. Guess it had something to-do with having the power in my hands to create something from scratch that was healthy and whole. As the days drifted on in with the cold, my body did somewhat crave creamy and dairy foods. While I am not a cheese or milk junky, I missed splashing some milk in my watery oatmeal, I missed sneaking a hunk of Pecorino straight from the fridge to accompany my last sip of pinot noir, and I missed butter—real fattening butter, the kind that fills the nooks of my sesame toasted bagel, makes my pie crust dreamy, and adds beautiful sheen to my sauces. I won’t sit here and type that there weren’t any slip ups, because they did happen. But, for the most part I prevailed.
So here’s the thing – what makes converting to plant-based, vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian diets tricky, is that it shortens our list of options. And in the world we live in today, options are what we thrive on. While there was a plethora of non-animal protein options out there like soy burgers, vegan cheese, seitan, and vegannaise, most of it felt and tasted fake to me. I’m wise to know that there are a ton of brands to try, so what may taste bland in one, may taste superb in another, but for the most part, vegan meat / dairy copycats could not replace the flavors and textures my omnivore mouth was used to. I’ll admit, my main mistake at first was trying to literally replicate meat and dairy flavors (that’s almost impossible). I had to step back and reevaluate my goals with this experiment. And so I refocused my brain to look to incorporate more plants and less animal protein. Once I stopped trying to mimic meat and cheese flavors, eating plant-based became much easier.
Surprisingly savory and zen discoveries…
Roasted cauliflower! Best discovery during my experiment. I had always been indifferent to broccoli’s white cousin. Steamed it has no personality whatsoever, but roasted, heck that’s a real freakin’ brown umami flavor-party. And then there was Kale! it was everywhere—braised, sautéed, and baked—“I put that shit on everything”. You have a hangover? have a kale smoothie. You have trouble going to the bathroom? munch on some kale chips. You have aches and pains? rub some kale on that sucker. Kale to any plant-based eater is like what windex was to the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Tea drinking became a popular ritual. Since I couldn’t have my cafe con leche—my tastebuds felt utterly offended with almond milk and soy milk in my coffee—I became a meditative tea drinker. Instead of trying to replicate that bold yet soft taste of milk and coffee I tried something completely different and so far it’s been pretty zen and tasty. I’m trying out the Teavana tea brand and it’s quite smooth. Any diehard tea drinkers out there? What brands and flavors do you like?
Chole’s Kitchen Cookbook was my savory savior. I made her ‘orange you glad I made crispy tofu’ (her take on chinese orange beef) and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe how much flavor was clinging to my crunchy fried tofu. Another great one that even FunnyGirl—who’s so not a fan of tofu—liked, was the stuffed shells with arrabiata sauce. This cookbook made it even more clear to my foodie brain that flavor is where it’s at and most of the time you need more than just salt and pepper to entice your taste buds.
And the verdict is…
My experiment ended a few days ago and I’m back to eating animal protein. But, I must say, I’ve come away with a wealth of knowledge and a new re-energized outlook on eating my veggies and grains. Even though my experiment is done with, my body and mind are still craving veggies vs. meat / poultry, which in my book is a great thing. I even went to Trader Joe’s last night and still naturally gravitated towards more grains and plant-based foods—love that. I’m more aware of my arteries, my heart, my lungs, my stomach and muscles and how they react to the foods I eat. And above all, I’m now much more conscious about what i’m putting in my body, and best of all, not in the calorie-dieting kind of way.