A At the end of my 42-day vegan trial, something strange happened. I celebrated with an Egg Salad Sandwich ($ 4.99) from the Mitsuwa Marketplace – one of those fluffy Japanese-style sandwiches made with light, jam-like egg yolks and egg whites, coarsely mashed with mayo and lightly squeezed between slices of pillow-shaped white bread. It tasted like a synthetic version of Tucker & Bevvy’s chickpea puree, a vegan copy of the traditional egg salad sandwich. The hard protein in Mitsuwa didn’t taste like anything from nature to me. It was like chewing soft pieces of plastic. I liked the copy better.
So the process ended – with mixed results and mixed feelings. I am sorry to announce that I have failed to set a flawless record. I gave in 15 times over the course of 126 meals. At one end of that spectrum was failure a can of Lifesaving Kirkland Salmon from Costco. On the other side, a decadent pastrami-flavored flank steak from Hau Tree. At every meal, a chorus of dissenting opinions roared from the vegan ether. Fifteen times. I am a loser.
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I swear that the aisles of grocery stores on earth are not lit by fluorescent tubes, but by omniscient vegan health centers. There you will find a selection of vegan snacks such as S’mores biscuits, LesserEvil cheese puffs or Vegan Rob’s cauliflower sorghum chips that taste like an angel offer: âEat, kid. Don’t you like Pringles? âWhen I walk in, these halos darken as if to say,â Stick everyone together, there’s a cheater in the store. â
âSorry,â I ask a worker. “Do you have vegan pie crusts?”
âIt could be,â he says and disappears in a nimbus of freezing fog as he reaches for a Wholly Wholesome organic wholemeal cake bowl. âYes, the label says that there are no animal products. Oh wait it says it was made in a facility that uses animal products. Are you okay with that? “
After a long pause I answer: “Yes, why not?” As I swipe my card through the till reader, a visual image of this facility flashes in my head, each conveyor belt a MÃ¶bius strip with pie crusts on one side and cows on the other.
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On Monday I had a great bowl of vegan tomato veggie ramen at Junpuu on King Street. It was so flavorful that I was surprised by the simplicity and generosity. Dried tomatoes and fried onions are ground into a paste with oil and mixed with a vegetable broth. The ramen are chewy and comforting. The bowl is layered with charred kabocha, bamboo, zucchini, green beans, spinach, red pepper, and eggplant. What a perfectly balanced dish.
On Tuesday, my wife Rachel made a cauliflower carrot curry soup, mashed to perfection, with some olive bread and oat milk butter.
On Thursday there was a quick and dirty tofu-avocado sandwich from Ba-Le (please keep mayo and butter) with pickled carrots, daikon and coriander. It was light, greasy from generous servings of avocado, and satisfactorily high in carbohydrates.
On Friday it was a Katsu curry plate from the Peace CafÃ© with tempeh representing the meat. The batter was light and crispy, and the tempeh itself resembled a tender, salted chicken breast.
Did i miss a day? Oh right Wednesday.
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“You have a nutritional problem,” says my doctor after reading my test results. My 42 mostly vegan days are finally over. âYour numbers have crashed, and I mean that well. These numbers are fantastic. I would not have expected such a drastic change in such a short time. I would like to see you continue this diet. It’s not a genetic problem. It’s the food. âAfter years of struggling to keep these numbers under control, watching them drop and then skyrocket, I seem to have found the right diet, but it’s necessarily an extreme one. âThe diet has to be sustainable,â she continues. “Don’t worry if you get off track every now and then, there has to be a certain balance.”
That’s it. I’ll be a flexitarian – a diet waffle. Although those six weeks have recalibrated my eating habits and tastes, the fact remains that despite my best intentions, some of my purchases occasionally go into animal products. I will have to do my best to choose humane, environmentally sound, and healthier options. But nobody is perfect. As steady as my resolve may be in the face of my delicious, newly discovered vegan options, it will buckle from time to time.
On the Wednesday in question, I had a beef fillet, medium rare, generously seasoned with salt and pepper, with a few fingerling potatoes and green beans sautÃ©ed in olive oil.
Fail. What a tasteless word. But if you season it well, add a few humble sides, and cook it carefully, it will be served well.
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