Saturday, February 1, 2014

Interview with a New Vegan, Part Two

A few months after I started my job, my mom and sister came to visit me and take me out to lunch. I introduced them to my colleagues, including our part-time admin, Carrie. My sister was immediately taken with Carrie: her music festival wristbands worn as accessories, her dark, square glasses, her enthusiasm for all things arboreal. Since that first meeting, Carrie has become part of my family. We spend so much time together, we've started ordering the same coffee in the morning: an almond milk latte with one raw sugar. We stand side-by-side at the condiment bar, finish our drinks with cinnamon and chocolate, and share one wooden stir stick like an old married couple. She and my sister send each other silly snapchats and like each other's posts on Instagram. She even came to my mom's book club's Christmas party this year. Carrie is one of the most adventurous, open-minded, positive people I know, so when I started discussing the vegan challenge, she was immediately intrigued, and all in. Carrie and Christian came to veganism from very different places, so I was excited to hear how different their experiences would be.


Dinner Peace: How are you feeling?

Carrie: I feel great! The first 2 weeks were rough, but I was PMSing. I was so exhausted and I thought, “Is this what it’s going to be like?” But, there were a lot of variables. Now that’s behind me, I feel clean, more energetic, really good. I feel much more motivated to take care of myself. The more I eat vegan the more motivated I am to be active and exercise, to be healthy.

DP: What made you decide to try being vegan?

C: When I first became a vegetarian, I thought I would just try it and see what happens, and now I love it and it’s great. I wanted to try being vegan to see what that would be like. The timing was perfect with the holiday madness - overindulging. I wanted a way to cleanse my body.  It seems silly, but it’s a new year, so why not try new things. I like how it’s made me focus on what is in the food that I eat. Reading all the ingredients, I’m more conscious of what I’m putting in my body. I’ve been really involved with the organic garden at [Berkeley], and this makes me feel more connected to the food that I eat. When I look back at the past few months, I realize that I would sometimes go a whole day without eating vegetables. This is really motivating me to pay attention to what I eat.

DP: How is it living with someone who’s not vegan?

C: Overall, its really great! Patrick does most of cooking, and I was worried about keeping him from stuff, but he’s so supportive. We buy all vegan food, go shopping together, and cook stuff. We’ve been doing a lot of stir fry stuff at home; it’s amazing, but I’m sick of rice. Basil, spinach, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, onions, garlic, pea sprouts. I’ll make a salad, Patrick will make a stir fry and he loves sauces, so he makes a spiffy sauce, and I’ll make a delicious spinach basil salad. It’s delicious, amazing, healthy, and I can’t believe it all happens in one dish. I want to find the time to experiment with vegan cooking. I didn’t cook a lot until recently, so I want to challenge myself to cook vegan at least once a week when this is over.

DP: Mark Bittman, the NY Times Magazine’s food columnist, eats vegan until 7:00 pm. Maybe something like that would work for you.

C: I love brunch, but I have to force myself to eat breakfast. By the time I get hungry, I am too into work to eat anything. Dinner is where I splurge, it’s my favorite, so something like that could work well for me.

DP: Do you feel like being vegan has changed your social life in any way?

C: There have been a couple times when we would go out. We went to brunch, and there was nothing on the menu that was vegan.

DP: Yes! Brunch is the worst. You can get fruit and toast for $12, and you think, “I could’ve just made that at home.”

C: Exactly! So, I went to the lunch menu, and they had a veggie burger, so I decided to get that. But then Patrick pointed out that it might have egg in it, and I was so hungry and annoyed - I got so mad at him I had to leave. Or, every time we go to Homeroom, it sucks to only have one option, even if it is a really good option. And I love pizza - vegan pizza just doesn’t really interest me. I have a really intense relationship with cheese.

DP: When I was younger, my mom and I used to go to this art house movie theater across the street from a French restaurant. We would see all the Oscar nominated stuff, and the films you couldn’t get at the regular theaters, and then we’d get dinner: soupe à l’oignon, coq au vin, moules frîtes. When we became vegan, there was absolutely nothing we could eat, so we stopped going. It’s still something I miss, and there’s an element of mourning the food you used to have.

C: Before I became vegetarian, I always said, “Oh, I could never do that. I like meat too much.” Now, the thought of eating meat is disgusting, so I don’t know. It’s interesting watching your body go through the struggle of not getting what it’s always had.

DP: How have people responded to you as a vegan?

C: People think it’s ridiculous, “I can’t believe you would do that. You love cheese so much!” But overall, people have been pretty supportive. You just have to constantly remind people of it. I had my cousin over for dinner. We went to the store, and he kept suggesting stuff, but I had to tell him I’m vegan over and over. People kind of don’t get it.

DP: What have you gotten out of this challenge?

C: It has helped me focus on being healthy. Kickstarting a healthier diet, specifically incorporating fruits and vegetables into my life. I’m planning my meals, and I want to be more conscious of when and how I eat dairy. On our road trip, we were visiting Patrick’s friend in Colorado, and he made carrot and kale juice. The flavor is really strong, but it’s good. It’s take a little while, but your body starts to recognize it’s good - waking up your taste buds. We consume things so mindlessly, you don’t have to try to taste dairy and meat, but vegetables are so good. I just want to focus on that.

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