Friday, May 24, 2013

On My Veganniversary (Or, Lots of Made Up Words)

It's my 3 year veganniversary.

I know, because I officially became a vegan the day after the series finale of Lost. Let me clarify by saying that these two events were unrelated, though a part of me would very much like to pretend that I was so bereft without The Island that I somehow couldn't face the prospect of continuing to consume animal products. It's pure coincidence, but ended up being a handy way of remembering when my adventure began.

My path to veganity (which isn't a real word so much as a term that I appropriated from Scott Pilgrim) was both simple and complicated. I didn't make the change for reasons of animal rights, though I have nothing but respect for people who do. It's certainly an added bonus that I've adopted a lifestyle that is kinder to my furry and feathered friends, but I wouldn't want to accept credit where it is not due.

I became a vegan because I needed to change the way I was living my life.

Look, before we go any further, I'm about to get into some self-image stuff, and that's tricky. If you are friend or foe or stranger, understand that I am neither expert nor authority. If I were, "M.D." would follow my name and you'd be reading this in a book that would probably feature a picture of me surrounded by puppies dressed as vegetables or something because taking serious posed photographs makes me very uncomfortable. I'm not commenting on anybody's feelings or lifestyles but my own. So.

I'm an emotional eater with a side of food-related impulse control. I know, I know. Stop bragging. But it's true. As a sensitive, highly anxious kid, I learned pretty early on that food brought a lot of sensory satisfaction and afforded me a feeling of control that I didn't seem to have over other things in my life. I never starved myself, and I didn't really binge eat - not in the traditional sense, anyway. But I did toss any and all regard for my health aside.

The way my brain typically reacts to food can best be described as follows: Candy tastes good. Thus, eating some will make me feel good. Where some would make me feel good, all will make me feel really good. Feeling good is the opposite of feeling bad. Ergo, I should probably eat all of the candy. Everyday. Forever.

Cut to me at 23, unhappy as a person could be, both emotionally and physically. I was two years into a job I  hated and, instead of dealing with my feelings, I went for the instant gratification of comfort food like a champ. Everyday. Forever. My clothes didn't fit, I felt sick almost all the time, and I was too afraid to go to my doctor for any reason at all because a voice in the back of my head told me there was no way that I wasn't at least borderline diabetic.

"I need to change something," I told a friend desperately, probably as I realized I had hit my personal bottom. "I don't know what, but I need to change something."

I had done Weight Watchers in college, but it didn't work for me. I'd do really well, then slip, feel like I failed, and surrender to the guilt. I flirted with the idea of cutting out sugar for awhile, and maybe even experimenting with being a vegetarian.

A series of tweets (thank you, internet and Olivia Wilde) led me to Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Diet. It broke down vegan philosophies and examined the politics of the food industry in a really gentle, logical way. The book didn't tell me I was living my life wrong - it just presented another option. It was the right message, presented in the right way, at exactly the right time.

Now here I am, 3 years in. To commemorate the occasion, after the jump are a few things I've learned.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On That One Time It Was Easter (Or, Not That Time I Explained 4/20 to My Mom)

Remember when it was Easter?

Fine. It was sort of a month and a half-ish ago, and shame on me for not posting about it in a more timely manner. However, it's either this or the story of me having to explain to my mother the significance of 4/20, and trust me, this has the potential to be more useful.


Remember when it was Easter?

I am delighted to say that I have a gigantic and wonderful family. When you're Irish, Catholic, and American, this typically means that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter (the Big Three, if you will) are major affairs full of food, family, and fun (also, alliteration).

The former of that trifecta of holiday F's got a bit trickier when I became the first and only vegan among meat and cheese loving relatives. First off, let me say that everyone has always been very supportive of my choice, and I love to cook, so contributing a dish that I can eat to the potluck affairs is more fun than frustrating. But it's a little intimidating too. There's some skepticism that accompanies the idea of veganity. Were there a standard information pack for beginners, the phrases, "So...what do you eat?" and "Yeah, I had a vegan cookie once and it tasted like cardboard. But it's cool that you're doing that," would be listed under, "Things You Will Hear Constantly for the Rest of Your Life." When I make something to bring to a family gathering, it is with the knowledge that a combination of genuine curiosity and politeness will prompt most in attendance to at least try it. There's added pressure for it to be good, lest I set back the cause.

I know. It's a rough life. Fortunately, there are sites like Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Post Punk Kitchen, to which I turned for a simple and super delicious recipe for March's Easter brunch. I ended up going with the Raspberry Jam Swirl Crumb Cake, making a few modifications along the way. Recipe and pics after the jump.