Thursday, April 15, 2010

The end of Lent, lessons learned, and a few pictures along the way

This post's been a long time coming, and I'm sorry to keep y'all waiting. Just been gripped by a case of lazy, and been busy doing other stuff.

The long story short - I survived Lent. It was easy. VERY easy. I went through 40 days of vegan eating with variety, imagination, and ease of transition. I won't say I didn't have cravings for omnivore food, but they were fleeting and easily put off. To be honest, I was more interested in thinking of ways to use my local produce in the next night's meal than to worry about pining over chicken livers or a good steak. Not that I don't like those sorts of things, but it wasn't causing me any undue distraction.

It was interesting to see it from the other side. Though I've never really agreed personally with the reasons most undertake vegan living, I certainly empathize with them and respect them for being very personal moral doctrines. I've already talked before about the sort of weird tendency of society at large to feel the urge to evangelize vegans back into the fold, so to speak. I got plenty of that from friends and relations. A lot of it comes from simple misunderstandings, and a lot of it comes from folks who grew up as kids who hated their veggies served by parents who maybe didn't know how to make them appealing.

The best thing about my vegan experience, and one that I would suggest the whole experience is certainly worth, is learning how to color pictures using the crayons in the box you may not use as often. Let's face it, America's a pretty red meat reality. Most folks aren't just omnivorous, but they're also pretty plain about it. My origins are actually pretty laughably sad, because I used to be a very picky eater if that can be believed. It all changed once I reached college, but some folks just don't break out of the mold easily. It's one thing to learn that veggies can be tasty, but another thing to just fully take the plunge. Having almost all of my food delivered by my local CSA helped a lot. Before this, I had only the most passing and vague idea of what it was to eat by the seasons. Now, it's in my blood. Right now I can feel it inside me, this weird ticking clock that KNOWS when tomatoes are going to go from being milquetoast abominations into being orbs of the most amazing flavor (June in case you're wondering) Eating by the seasons made me appreciate the seasons more. Of course the irony here is that Lent is positioned squarely in the midst of the waning winter, so it was creative, shall we say, to celebrate that in food. Still, one day I remember busting whole turnips with the greens into a south Indian-inspired dish that only existed in my head. It felt good. It felt sexy. There's a bit of pride in knowing that you can be a part of that celebration.

So that's a lot of rambling for me to basically tell you obvious things. Eating a vegan diet for Lent makes you a much better connoisseur of vegetables, I think. Shocking stuff huh? When you start eyeballing a sack of collard greens the way some folks eye a steak, you start to commit your perverse imagination to bringing about the types of things that you otherwise would treat as an afterthought. An accompaniment. A side dish. It's that sort of thinking that makes me respect vegans who keep it real. There's honest food to be made for a vegan diet. I've made it. I've eaten it, and it's good. Is this my clarion call for you to abandon yon omnivorous habits and take up ascetic living? Naw. But I'm confident that not only does eating vegan give you a full perspective for all sorts of cooking, but it also has legitimacy in and of itself.

As for how the fast ended, let me go ahead and say that I caught an itch for sushi in my final 48 hours and made plans to debauch myself. Easter Sunday I had a fantastic multi-course sushi romp, which I enjoyed every minute of. I didn't feel liberated or rescued, it was just something different and appreciated, sort of like the change of seasons. Kind of fitting I think.

I'm sure that some of y'all are "blah blah too long didn't read where are pictures." I realize I had a few snaps I never posted, so here's a brief gallery of other vegan eats I had during Lent:

Sweet potato & roasted red pepper flautas with avocado, cilantro, onion, and salsa verde

A vaguely-Japanese udon noodle bowl with broccoli, marinaded tofu, carrots, green onions, shitake mushrooms, and cabbage.

This one was amazing. The soup is called Sopa de Grao com Espinafres, which is basically chicpea & spinach soup. Extremely rib-sticking and rustic food from Portugal. The bread, also Portugese, is a demi-cornbread called Broa.

I cheated and got an out-of-season tomato because I wanted to make taboulleh, which is an arabic salad made with bulgur wheat, tomatoes, parsley, herbs, and served in a romaine lettuce leaf. Funny, I could resist meat and animal byproducts, but I got my pride crushed by an out-of-season tomato from Mexico that honestly was only average. Still, the itch was scratched.

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