The past week has been a blur. Meetings, international presentations, two seminars with great students, a fine Future Trends Forum session, more family health problems, more planning the next book release, a stack of projects in various stages of realization, and meanwhile COP-26 staggers around with the human race’s future in its badly compromised hands.
I’d like to take a break from all of that in this post. Instead, I’ll write about food and health as I prepare a batch of socca bread. This isn’t a food blog, but perhaps the blog could use more cuisine and cooking posts.
Nearly two years ago I started eating vegan. It began as a part time thing, then grew into my entire diet. Now it’s no longer an experiment but just how I eat. Plant-based food is no longer a pilot project, but an enterprise system, if you will.
The results remain mostly positive. My weight loss has stabilized, down to around 217. Increased weight lifting* probably keeps total body weight from dropping any further. The body feels better than it did two years ago. All evidence suggests the aging, sleep-deprived carcass is healthier.
Folks sometimes ask me how I feel, if I feel differently now. I’m never sure how to answer that, because I didn’t usually find myself affected by various types of food in the past. Well, other than feeling too full, or not full enough, or ill. Some people report feeling energized by certain foods; I’ve never felt that by any kind of diet. So I feel the same.
Nutritional supplements don’t play a role in the diet yet, besides nutritional yeast, which I sprinkle on different meals about one every two days. I haven’t felt weak or tired, except when there’s a solid and unrelated reason, like not getting enough sleep. The family doctor thinks I’m fine and hasn’t recommended any vitamins, etc.
I’m still learning how to vegan, which is exciting. I know much more about some parts of the food system than I once did. The differences between lentils are crucial, now: red for softness, French for their persistent shape and texture, yellow to produce a thick texture. Onions, too: yellow versus white versus red, not to mention green and shallots, each with their tastes, preparations, uses. I make more use of garbanzo beans that I thought possible, from hummus and falafel to cooking them in bowls or roasting ’em from scratch, with a big bowl soaking overnight once or twice a week. I cook mushrooms every day, and while I can’t identify them in the wild, I now am cognizant of portobello vs shiitake vs hen-of-the-woords etc.
Usually I don’t miss my previous diet. Usually. I don’t reject those former foods with horror. Some items appear in mind as fond yet distant dishes, safely blocked off from temptation, like omelettes. The big one I actually miss is fried chicken (and I’m working on a fried oyster mushroom recipe to address that need) in all of its crunchy and juicy glory. Well, I also miss cheeses. Vegan cheese equivalents don’t do much for me.
Vegan “meats” actually work well for me. Mock-chicken varieties do a good job of being chewy and carrying spices. Plant “burgers” serve decently.
Two gaps remain in my vegan repertoire. I’m low on leafy greens, still not finding the right way of spicing them. I’ve been trying to add some kale to other dishes. Otherwise, greens feel like non-foods, or something medicinal. And my meals are still too brown and yellow! And smoothies still horrify me. I’m more worried about the leafy greens.
My biggest weakness is chips. Any kinds, made from potatoes or any other produce. The texture is irresistible.
I undertook this change focusing on learning and health, not from a moral or political drive to preserve animals. I haven’t acquired the latter yet. No evangelical zeal has appeared, either. I don’t criticize people for eating meat or dairy, and I don’t have any interest in buttonholing folks to praise lentils.
I don’t eat out much, partly due to the pandemic. There aren’t too many options, surprisingly, especially given some of my non-vegan dietary restrictions: no tomatoes, no hot spices, nothing acidic. Our region has a lot of animal-raising farms. Indian and Chinese restaurants offer the best options near where we live. A lovely Ethiopian restaurant in town cooks a mean beyaynetu. A local popup cookery offers a nice range of meals using plant-based meats. When I’m elsewhere, options really vary. Georgetown has some good choices, but Houston, Texas did not. Then again, I don’t travel much, thanks to COVID-19.
Instead, I cook. Currently I make 2-3 meals each day, depending on if I’m at home the entire day, and if anyone else home is making or ordering food I can eat. As a learning process I research recipes every day, scanning books, YouTube, blogs, then documenting the results with photos and Google Docs.
That might sound solitary, and it usually is. This is a personal project. My family is supportive, and various members will try some dishes with politeness and tact. Beyond the house, I don’t know what a vegan network or community is. If I post about vegan stuff on Facebook, sometimes some people will comment with cheer or recommendations. That’s about all. Maybe I need to look harder.
As a futurist, I find this fascinating, albeit on a micro-scale. I’ve successfully switched my role between two different, if overlapping food systems. I can see the many changes in sourcing, prepping, and cooking. I haven’t experienced psychological or cultural dislocations, which sounds like a limitation of a small sample size.
Now, from all of that research and cooking, here’s what’s on Bryan’s vegan menu now. I’m happy to share recipes; perhaps on another blog?
Crispy fried tofu
Dal: red or yellow lentil
Mushrooms on corn tortillas
Quinoa with garlic
Sweet potato hash
Sweet potato and kale fritters
SNACKS AND SIDES
Baked potato chips
Green beans, skillet
Potato and sweet potato fries
Gluten free drop biscuits
LUNCH AND DINNER
Black beans and rice (moros y Cristianos)
Curried cauliflower soup
General Tso’s tofu
Ginger sweet potato stew
Mushroom stir fry
Orange cranberry crisp
Red beans and rice
Red lentil “kebabs”
Rice with chickpeas
Rice with lentils
Roasted veggies: brussel sprouts, potatoes, carrots, peppers, onion, squash, shallots (master menu)
Spicy lentil soup
Tofu in lettuce wraps
Tofu with cashews and snap peas
Vegan general Tso
That’s all for now. Happy to say more.
*All of my weight lifting takes place at home, since I hesitate to hit gyms during the pandemic. I’ve got a range of weights plus a pull-up bar.