SPM’s Resident Carnivore Goes Vegan (Almost)
I have the least healthy diet of anyone I know. I've never liked eating fruits or vegetables, and I just can’t bring myself to go more than a few days without some form of fast food. While this is not necessarily a problem for me right now – my metabolism is fast, and fast food is cheap — I know that I can’t eat like this forever.
As the new school year began, I started thinking about ways to incorporate healthier foods into my diet but couldn’t settle on a plan. I’m somewhat of an extremist, so my first impulse was to cut animal products out of my diet altogether and see what happened. After several warnings from friends and family about the real possibility of starving (or going broke) as a result, I decided to experiment with vegan eating for one week. What follows are my results — seven days of hunger, frustration and some pleasant surprises.
For my first breakfast, I have an apple, a banana and toast with jelly. I’m feeling positive. This is so easy! Little do I know, you can’t eat jelly toast for every meal without melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.
For lunch, I have a black bean burrito with rice because I have no imagination and am afraid of vegetables. This is boring. The Spanish rice is from a microwavable bag, and it tastes like tomatoes and preservatives — pleasant and faintly chemical.
7 30 p.m.
I go to local vegan restaurant Green for dinner because my vegan friends all tell me that it’s my best bet at not starving to death. I want to love it there — the colorful interior and the friendly staff are right up my alley — but as soon as I order, I begin to have my doubts. It feels wrong to order chicken parmesan that’s made of tofu, and I’m not sure that I want to know what a “Green burger” is made of, so I get the Thai peanut bowl with crispy tofu. This does not go well. I don’t want to do Green an injustice here. To a normal person that was probably a delicious Thai peanut bowl. Seeing so many vegetables in front of me just sends me into shock. Do people really live like this? I eat two broccoli trees (can I call them that past the age of five?) before giving up hope entirely. My friends still let me get a Tsoynami, which has eggless cookie dough and vegan ice cream. This is actually really good, so I consider it my dinner and eat the entire thing.
I eat two pieces of toast with peanut butter because I’m late for class. This whole-wheat toast tastes like cardboard, and I’m ticked that Nutella isn’t vegan.
I eat another black bean burrito with rice because I have no imagination. Maybe it’s because I’m really hungry, but this tastes better than it did yesterday. Is the secret to veganism that when you get hungry you’ll eat anything? Did I crack the code?
I figure pasta’s a pretty safe bet, so I get marinara sauce and noodles. I also go out on a limb and buy some imitation Italian sausage that’s got the word “Tofurkey!” on the packaging. I’m not thrilled, and a suspicious liquid squishes around in the package with the oddly spotted sausages. I’m encouraged by the sizzling noise that this Frankenstein sausage makes when I put it in a pan, so I decide to go with it. It ends up tasting pretty good, if not a little strange. It’s like what I imagine the really expensive brands of wet dog food would taste like.
I try some Kashi Cinnamon Crumble cereal with vanilla almond milk. The cereal tastes like something you would feed your horse for dessert. The almond milk is what I’m most afraid of, but it’s actually great. It’s just a little bit sweet, and I think I actually prefer it to regular milk with cereal. This Kashi crap still isn’t as good as the commercials make it seem though. I’d like to think that if I traveled the world looking for the most exciting flavors that I could find, I’d come up with something better than cinnamon flavored packaging peanuts.
I eat a steak burrito at Chipotle for lunch because I am weak, and I couldn’t bring myself to spoil a perfectly good burrito with slimy vegetables. I’ve gone rogue. Surely, someone is on their way to snatch this burrito out of my hands and publicly shame me in front of Chipotle’s lunch rush.
After a long day of classes and meetings, I sneak over to In-n-Out for dinner. The long line at the drive thru gives me plenty of time to think about this transgression, but after the day I’ve had, I'm not eating tofu. At the last minute I decide that it’s better to go out in a blaze of glory than quietly fade away, so I get a milkshake too. I eat these secretly in my car, because I don’t want my roommate to see how far gone I am. I come home to find the vegan red velvet cupcakes that she bought me, and I feel doubly sad… not sad enough to turn a cupcake down though.
To please the vegan gods and amend for my wrongdoings, I decide to make a fruit smoothie. I throw in all the fruit that’s in my fridge along with some almond milk. The smoothies turn out hot pink, and I feel the urge to Instagram a picture of them even though I have no iPhone. They’re actually kind of tart, but I feel accomplished so I drink about a gallon of them.
Yet another black bean burrito with rice, but this time with no steak. Now I remember why I ate that steak burrito in the first place, because this is boring. I would buy something else for lunch, but eating vegan is expensive and black beans are not.
I eat leftover spaghetti from Tuesday for dinner. I don’t know how long tofu stays good for, so I’m assuming forever. I am grateful for this strange dog food flavored meat substitute now, because at least it’s more filling than the burritos. I will spend the rest of the night reevaluating this fling with veganism.
All of the jelly is gone so I just eat fruit. I am getting pretty sick of this nonsense.
I’m on the go all afternoon, so I’m stuck eating the almonds that I brought with me in case of an emergency. The most satisfying thing about the almonds is that they’re crunchy, so I try to focus on making as much noise as possible while chewing them.
A friend tells me that Filiberto’s has vegan refried beans, so I go there and get a veggie burrito. Usually, I try to prevent vegetables being anywhere near my burrito, but the whole beans and rice thing is getting old. I’m pleasantly surprised, but not enough to get one ever again. I’m sorry, vegetable burrito- it’s not you, it’s me.
I’m a big fan of Pop-Tarts, so I went online and found out that the ones without frosting (they exist!) are vegan. Alone they’re a little plain, but with vegan butter and a little bit of sugar on top, they taste better than the regular ones. Also, vegan butter does not taste as awful as it sounds.
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Nothing. I am a sad, hungry girl.
I borrow a fancy vegan cookbook from someone who actually eats like this and decide to make a vegan version of a Jewish stew called cholent. Just shopping for the ingredients stresses me out, but once I enlist a Whole Foods employee to help me find about 100 different kinds of spices, I’ve spent half my month’s grocery money and I’m ready to go. I spend at least two hours chopping vegetables and cutting blocks of fermented soybeans for this meal, and I still manage to burn the bottom of the stew. That being said, the dinner is really good— like, eaten and enjoyed by my non-vegan friends good. I feel way more accomplished than I have all week, and I finally got to redeem myself from Wednesday’s cheeseburger fiasco.
I eat a chocolate doughnut for breakfast. All of the fruit is bad by now, and it’s my last day. I look up pictures of healthy vegan breakfasts on the internet while doing this because somehow that makes me feel better about it.
I give that weird Kashi cereal another go. I basically just eat this because I feel guilty about breakfast.
Photo by Josh Loeser
For my last dinner, I eat more spaghetti with mystery meat. Making that cholent took every domestic bone in my body, and I think I may never cook a real meal again- or at least no vegan ones. As my (mostly) vegan week comes to a close, I feel ready to return to my life as a carnivore. That night I go to bed dreaming of fried chicken, and I know that tomorrow will be a better day.
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