01 October, 2010

Vegan to Unprocessed (or How to Form a Relationship With Your Food)


Eating well ain't for sissies, lemme tell ya.

Exactly one month ago, I took a vow to not eat any meat nor any meat products for the entire month of September. Think of it as a "cleanse" or a fasting of sorts, much like observing Lent. My goal was to try out this new meatless craze that is sweeping the foodie world, as well as shed some weight, and force myself to replace meat with more veggies in my diet.

It was both easier and harder than I expected. I was taught to cook by placing carefully paired vegetables around a meat dish for dinner. Now, suddenly, the vegetable was Center Stage and dinner was all catawampus. That's like bringing a backup singer to sing lead vocals! I had no idea how to do this, but luckily, I figured out pretty quickly that non-meat dishes could be very satisfying and, in fact, just as filling and tasty as any meat dish I could throw together. So, a vegetarian diet became easy enough.

It was the vegan part that threw me for a loop.

First of all, vegans don't eat cheese. I know! My God! Seriously? And butter?! Get out! And my weekend breakfast omelet was obviously out. If that wasn't difficult enough, I found out that most veggie dishes in restaurants were accompanied by some sort of dairy --veggie pizza had cheese on it, bean burritos were baked with cheese and sour cream, caesar salad has cheese and eggs in the dressing, even the Dal Makhani lentils I like have butter/cream in them -- so that made eating out extremely challenging. And, let's face it. I love to eat out. So, I pretty much had to mostly stick to salads with no cheese. (I'm allergic to soy, which a lot of vegan menus have, in place of meat. Suffering cats!)

In essense, I had to cook and/or prepare most of my meals. I had to read labels and think about every purchase and every ingredient in those purchases. I ate a lot of fruit and made a lot of smoothies and salads at first. Then, I went through a soup phase. Then got a little more adventurous. By now, it's easy peasy. But make no mistake about it; I missed fish, butter, and sharp cheese. And yes, even meat, albeit not nearly as much as I anticipated. Something I always loved -- bacon -- seems unbelievably salty and fatty right now. I'm sure it'll grow on me again, but I'm just sayin' how I feel right this minute. But for all that I missed, I also fell madly in love with garbanzo beans, heirloom tomatoes, arugula, fresh corn-on-the-cob, leeks, fresh pineapple, homemade guacamole, wild mushrooms, and other fresh and amazing foods.

As I close the door on a full vegan diet, I'm opening the door to a new month: Unprocessed. I am embarking on a journey (with over 200 other people, I might add) of eating no overly processed foods this month. This is defined (for me) by whether something has ingredients in it that I would not have in my own kitchen (food stabilizers, chemicals, food dyes, and other additives), and I am going to be trying out my hand at making my own breads and pasta, as well as straight up cooking.

There will be fish. And probably some meat.

The irony was not lost on me that, during this vegan month, I photographed two butchers doing their work (a first for me). I also photographed the Herbfarm, and even had the chance to eat some of the food I photographed, but could not. Oh, the universe has a sadistic sense of humor!

In case you're wondering what a meat-eater such as myself could possible eat on a vegan diet, here are a few photos of some of my snacks or meals from last month.

Garbanzo salad with tomatoes and onions

Mushrooms sauteed in white wine with whole wheat pasta

Raspberry-blackberry-almond milk smoothie

Just plain ole fresh berries from the farmer's market

Bean and veggie soft tacos

Heirloom tomato salad

Fresh guacamole with varied corn chips

A variation of "Caldo Verdo" - Portuguese potato and kale soup

Mixed berries-peach-almond milk smoothie

White bean-garlic spread on multi-grain baguette

Penne pasta with tomatoes, red wine, fresh herbs, and garbanzos

Butternut squash and sage risotto

Kim O'Donnell at the Queen Anne Farmers Market
dishing up something from her newly released book

16 comments:

  1. Holy gorgeousness! What a tribute to how beautiful and flavorful (and varied!) a vegan diet can be. I'd some of that pasta please. Actually, I'd like a little of everything. Beautiful - all of it!

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  2. Jackie, these photos are spectacular! Superb! And all look so good it makes me want to try this challenge.

    xoxo,
    V

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  3. Hmmm... how come my no-meat meals don't look as beautiful?!! This is my first time visiting and happy I came by. Your photos are simply breathe taking!!! If only I lived in Seattle. xo

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  4. Jackie, hats off to you on a successful vegan venture.. I don't think I would have been able to stick with it for a whole month!!! And those dishes look fabulous!

    Good Luck with the unprocessed month. I am now inspired to try that myself! hmmm... perhaps.. maybe?

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  5. wow, fantastic. I was all ready to tease you for going vegan for a month, but holy heck you ate better than I did (on a meat diet) easily! Fantastic photography, just incredible clean light - love it. The food looks really darn tasty too.

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  6. Good for you, I want to try to go vegan for a month, too! These recipes look delicious

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  7. Are you willing to share that white bean garlic spread recipe? :)

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  8. Jackie, your photos are fabulous! I look forward to exploring your blog some more and following what you're up to :)

    Kerry

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  9. Jackie, congratulations on your vegan month. I am so happy to hear that you found it rewarding and satisfying.

    Like you wrote above, I have known other new vegetarians say that the hardest part is trying to plan a meal without a protein at the center. I stopped eating meat in my late teens so I never got into that mindset, but I guess it does take a little more creativity to plan a veggie menu.

    Anyway, thanks for making vegetarianism look so divine. The pictures are mouth-watering. I have tried several of the veggie recipes you've posted and they are all amazing.

    Good luck with your unprocessed adventure!

    Terry

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  10. Good for you, for shaking it up a bit! I'll look forward to reading about your unprocessed month.

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  11. I found your site while looking for unprocessed + vegan. There isn't a lot out there that focuses on both, would definitely be interested in you're combining the two! Either way, it's a beautiful site.

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    1. Me too "Mary How". Interesting article - and, yes, lovely photographs.

      I always get comments at work about how people have to know what I'm eating and it always looks interesting - vegan food IS interesting - and mine is healthy too. Love bean spread!

      Well done on this :)

      Peace

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  12. Delicious recipes! I also want to try the vegan diet to improve my long island weight loss program. I hope this will help me a lot in my weight gain problem.

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  13. Am curious about: "As I close the door on a full vegan diet, I'm opening the door to a new month: Unprocessed. I am embarking on a journey (with over 200 other people, I might add) of eating no overly processed foods this month. This is defined (for me) by whether something has ingredients in it that I would not have in my own kitchen (food stabilizers, chemicals, food dyes, and other additives), and I am going to be trying out my hand at making my own breads and pasta, as well as straight up cooking.

    Do you remember the name of the program or challenge? Do you know of one that is currently taking place? How did it go? (for you)

    As many have said (but due worth repeating), amazing pics and great post. Can't wait to hear about the "unprocessed" challenge.

    Thanks again!

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  14. The link to October: Unprocessed is in the text above. It happens every October.

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  15. Great post! I am a vegan and will use some of your dishes. They look amazingly delicious!! :))

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