I am not a vegan! Whew, glad I got that off my chest. I needed to assure you of my status as an omnivore before we begin.
Seven days a week, my kitchen puts out vegan meals. Breakfast is usually cereal and soy milk or oatmeal with jam. Sometimes I have a bagel; vegan, of course. It’s because my wife is a vegan that we keep vegan items and, because we’re not real estate moguls, we’re not wealthy, either. So we tend to eat the same thing.
Every once in a while, when I’m feeling in the mood, I purchase a carton of eggs. I used to buy bacon, but we had to break up (the bacon and I) after the house began smelling of it. So, ninety-nine percent of the time… I’m a vegan. But I’m not a vegan! I have a whey protein powder that I mix with coconut water after my morning runs. Not vegan! See? Sometimes I put an egg on my oatmeal! See? Do you see?
I’m not a vegan at work, either. Chocolates are my weakness. They’re often found lying around and I can’t resist sneaking a piece here and there. My lunch is vegan, often times consisting of leftovers from the night before. Most of my snacks – I require minimum of five – are vegan, too. An apple, an orange, a Clif Bar and a few animal crackers (I know) were what I had today.
Once a month, I sneak off to LA to have a not-so-vegan dinner. Last month I had a juicy hamburger, double patties with cheese; this past weekend, I had fish curry and sausage.
Once again, not a vegan. So tonight I’ll go home and make a vegan marinara pasta, probably have it with half of a pita and some vegan butter. I’ll think about what it means to eat vegan 99% of the time and chuckle to myself. “Oh, I’m showing them,” I’ll think, because I have thought it and will think it again. “I’m showing them that I am skirting the law! The law of veganism!”
And tomorrow I’ll maybe have an egg with my vegan bagel and oatmeal. Or a chocolate at work. And next month I’ll go to LA and have a big ol’ bowl of ramen (not vegan). Then, for dinner on some weeknight in June, I’ll say, “I’m showing them!”
Who are they? I’m not sure. Ninety-nine percent of the way is almost there. What part of me is bucking the system? I’m not sure. I love animals, like most internet addicts do, and the other day I saw a piglet playing with a group of children on YouTube. I remember the last pork I had was a bowl of ramen in Ventura, and it was good. Was it great? Not mind blowing, not life changing, it was just good. I showed him, though; after all, I ate him! Not him in particular. I’m not a vegan.
A few weeks ago I made three 24 ounce mason jars worth of kimchi. I lived in South Korea for a year, and when I did, I learned how to make kimchi. Because I want my wife to enjoy the kimchi with me, however, I had to subtract a crucial ingredient – fish sauce. Or anchovies. Or oysters. Dammit! How will this kimchi ever match the traditional flavors of Seoul? It couldn’t, I knew, but I had to try – so I substituted the fish for miso paste. I even made a replicate of fish sauce using seaweed.
“No way in hell,” I thought, and when I put the kimchi into its jars to ferment I waited for it to fail. Days later, I checked the jars and experienced a kimchi blowout. This is when the gasses from the fermentation process build up so much within the container that liquid is ejected once the vacuum is broken. It was working; the flavor… well, it tasted like kimchi. No actual discernible difference having left out the fish sauce. I didn’t have to use a fish. But I’m not a vegan.
My dad was a chili champion, or so I’ve been told. He used beef, as most Texans do. A few weeks ago, I made a chili at home utilizing three varieties of dried chilies, garbanzo and kidney beans, tomatoes and all manner of spices. I let it simmer on the stove for hours. I let it rest in the refrigerator overnight and, when we had it for dinner on a Sunday, it rekindled memories of Texas chili cook-offs. I’m not sure if he would have been able to tell that there was no beef in my chili.
But I’m not a vegan. I just can’t be. My monthly trips to LA – I have to have a hamburger. I have to have an egg sometimes for breakfast, hell, I have to have a piece of chocolate when the mood is right. I have… to keep asking myself why I’m not a fucking vegan already. It actually makes no sense to me. Every meaty experience, every touch of dairy, most interactions with some sort of sauce or extraction has been good. Some have been great. They are few and far between, though, and the money we save being vegans, ah. Meat is expensive, but I’m not a vegan!
At issue is the definition of need and convenience. I need to breathe; if I stop, I’ll turn blue and we don’t want that to happen again. When I say to myself, “I need to eat a hamburger,” my nose grows several inches. I don’t need to eat a hamburger.. or for that matter, an egg with my breakfast, whey protein with my coconut water, chocolate when I get the hankering. I don’t need to, I do it because it’s convenient and honestly I’m having trouble justifying putting my convenience over an animal’s life or even its byproduct.
I’m not a vegan… but I’m not sure why. The only conclusion I can come to right now is that I’m of weak mind, weak spirited and lacking conviction. I’m not a vegan, but I probably will be. When the day comes, I’ll pick up a carton of eggs at the grocery store and say, “I don’t need you, really.”
That’s the end of my essay. On a personal note, if you have any questions regarding substitutions in vegan meals, I’m the guy to talk to. I have had a lot of opportunity to make meals to my liking and that means they have to be ‘meaty’ without the meat. I have plenty of resources, too, tucked away for my Sunday kitchen experiments, and I’m willing to share. Join me in the somewhere between.