Days 26 & 27

September 28, 2008

I spent Friday evening with my grandfather again. I pretty well always do. He’s 80, and has many and varied health problems, so I make a point of spending some good time with him every week; I often go over there in the week as well, just to check in on him. He’s had two heart attacks, and one of the little rituals we have is that at 9:00 p.m., we have a little snack, because that’s when he has to take his array of pills and potions and inhalers, and he’s supposed to eat something right afterwards.

I don’t usually have much in the way of meals on a Friday, aside from lunch. I tend to snack more than anything, mostly every half hour or so having a small bite to eat. It’s usually something like hummus, or maybe some crisps. I’ve kind of gotten into that pattern for some reason.

As an aside, I go the opposite way on a Saturday: I don’t eat most of the day and then have a big meal in the evening, usually right after I’ve worked out. Huge loads of carbs, even before I started doing this thing. Moreso now, I suppose, because I’m eating more veggies, although I suppose they fall under the category of complex carbs.

I just ate a large dinner of sweet and sour tofu with onions and peppers. I cut up the tofu into little cubes and marinated it in the sauce for a few hours. I used a bought sauce, because, well, just as life is too short to stuff a mushroom, it’s also too short to make sweet and sour sauce from scratch. Trust me, I’ve done it.

When it was ready, I took it out of the sauce and dredged it in flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and then fried it. While that was frying, I stirfried some some sliced onions and green peppers until a little soft, but not too soft: I like them with a little bite to them still.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Sweet & Sour Sauce

I then added the remaining sauce and let it simmer a minute or two, more to heat it up than anything else.

Then it was a case of piling the crunchy tofu chunks onto the plate and drenching them in the sauce and veggies. It was tasty as all get out: the tofu was crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy in the middle, and the sauce complimented it perfectly, the vegetables and sweetness offsetting the crunch of the batter. I imagine it would probably be even better with a halfway decent sauce; I just used Sharwoods, the bog standard off the shelf stuff available in any supermarket.

I’m going to try making some onion bhajis tomorrow. I don’t know how available they are in the US, but onion bhajis are basically a little fried dumplings made with strips of onion and spiced gram (chickpea) flour. They’re served all over the place in Indian restaurants and are widely available in supermarkets as snack food; they’re also delicious when freshly made.

A symptom of loss due to veganism – I’ve been craving eggs and eggy things, and mayonnaise in particular, although I’ve said before that I probably won’t be trying any egg-free mayo. It’s fairly nasty from what I remember; I don’t even really like light mayonnaise because it doesn’t have the proper kind of eggy flavour and richness a lot of the time, and the texture is frequently quite odd, more like a kind of jelly than the smooth emulsion of an actual mayo. I shouldn’t complain, really; come Wednesday next, I’ll be able to eat all the mayonnaise I want. I could have a big bowl of it if I so chose. No doubt as soon as I can eat it again, I won’t want to.

That about covers it for now; I’m going to go to bed in a few minutes.


Days 21 & 22: A Brief Segue into Lentils

September 22, 2008

Sorry about not posting yesterday – I was unable to get a very good connection with WordPress from home for some reason, so couldn’t post.

I made the vegan macaroni and cheese, and it rocked! I added a little bit of Cheezly to the recipe, and it was righteously good. It wasn’t macaroni cheese, although it tasted similar to the old favourite; it was just a little different. I think I’ll stick with making it this way even if I don’t stay vegan or vegetarian at the end of the experiment.

I added some breadcrumbs and baked it until it had browned on top, and it was very good. I can highly recommend it to anyone.

Tonight I’ll be eating a vegetable masala, which is a kind of curry, which I picked up cheap at the supermarket. It’s made by a company called Vegalicious, which makes all of its products by hand. It’s kind of weird to think of eating ready made food which someone else actually made: all too often our prepared food is made solely by machines.

I’ll be having it with some masoor dal (of course!). I can’t get enough red lentils, seems like. They’re extremely healthy and versatile: you can use lentils for all kinds of different dishes. They provide a delicious flavour and texture which can be entirely different to how they’re cooked.

Lentils have been continuously cultivated by humans for literally thousands of years, and are amongst the first plants domesticated by farmers in the Middle East. Archaeologists think that they’ve been cultivated since the aceramic (pre-pottery) Neolithic, which is approximately 10,000 years ago. That’s a long history right there, and no wonder — lentils are 26% protein, contain significant levels of complex cardohydrates and are an excellent source of dietary fibre. If combined with rice, they constitute a complete protein meal. Lentils are a superfood, basically: the high fibre they supply, along with the significant levels of folate, magnesium and iron, helps maintain digestive and cardiac health.

three varieties of lentilLentils come in many varieties, mainly as red and green, although many different varities exist throughout the world in many different cuisines.

Lentils are also extremely suitable for cultivation in dry climates, making them a particularly useful crop in deprived areas. Interestingly enough, though, most of the world’s imported lentils are grown in Saskatchewan, Canada. The biggest single producer is India, although most of their product is consumed on the domestic market; unsurprising, given its high vegetarian population and the fact that its traditional cuisine encompasses many pulses and legumes.

Incidentally, while unsuccessfully looking for a link to the company Vegalicious, I came across a site called by the same name, which can be found here. It has a compendium of recipes aimed at vegetarians and vegans. I’ve only looked quickly, but it seems to be professionally done with a great deal of care and attention, and the recipes seem varied and interesting. I’ll definitely be checking over there more often.

That’s about it for today (and yesterday); I think tomorrow is going to be stuffed tomatoes or something similar. I have a couple of beef tomatoes which need to be eaten, like, yesterday.

Three Day Bonanza Post, with a reprise of Mac and Cheese

September 20, 2008

It’s been a busy few days. I had the work event on Thursday, and then yesterday I was working like a madman all day, and felt like I got nothing done.

Kids, stay in school and study and stuff, because otherwise you’ll end up in a job where what you do all day is field calls from whackjob parents of unappreciative kids and data entry.

The Thursday bonding event for work was better than I expected, actually. I thought it was going to be uncomfortable silences and no fun at all, but it turned out that we all had a nice time. No small credit for this goes to the entertainer at our charming event, an up and coming magician by the name of John Ensor. He’s skillful, interesting and kept the children and adults alike entertained throughout. The end of it was a display of fire work, including juggling, fire eating and fire breathing. His website is at and you can see a clip below of his children’s act, some of which, like the floating table, he does for adults too:

The food wasn’t too bad, either, although in the end, my oriental stirfry turned out to be a veggie burger… I ate fairly well, really, having some salad and a baked potato alongside it. Nice, generally.

Yesterday I didn’t eat so well; I skipped breakfast, and ate bagels for lunch, along with some unhealthy maize crisps, followed by some suspect biscuits at my grandfather’s house.

Not a good day for me, really. Today hasn’t been great, either, if I’m honest – I spent a lot of it cutting back the hedges in the front garden, which was a job, I can tell you. I then discovered a blocked drain, which I failed to unblock. It reeks. It’s probably blocked by old dishwasher powder or washing powder. I then came inside, thinking I was going to go into my bedroom and have a little sit down, call my wife and so on, and the door was just jammed shut. I could not open it. In the end, I pulled off part of the door frame and eventually ended up chiselling part of the frame away so that the locking plate would fit properly.

Door Frames 0, Tools 1.

Tonight, I’ll be doing something a little better, I think. I’ve been craving macaroni cheese, or mac and cheese as your Merkans call it. Unfortunately, recipes for it seem to come at it from all kinds of different directions. Some use cashew nuts, some use tahini, some use white miso, even. All of them look fairly complicated. Some use vegan cheese substitutes, like Cheezly or Sheese, although most of them seem to use nooch as a jumping-off point.

I eventually found a very simple recipe, although being me, I’m going to mess around with it a little, maybe add some Cheezly that I have kicking about. And some turmeric, probably, just for the colour, maybe a little smoky sweet powder. Either way, it looks good!

Now, I promised I was going to talk about veganism and weightlifting this week, and now I will, finally.

I’m a big guy. You can’t tell from my picture, obviously, but I’m 6’4″ tall, and I carry a lot of weight. Throughout most of my life, I was fat. And I mean fat in the sense of dangerously obese.

A few years ago, I started exercising, changed my diet for the better, and lost a lot of weight very quickly. I went from 320lb or so to around 235 or thereabouts in under a year. And while 235lb sounds a lot to most people, bear in mind that it’s stretched over more than six feet of me… This was all done with aerobic exercise, mainly treadmills and stationary bikes. I didn’t use a lot in the way of weights at the time, concentrating instead on the cardiac stuff so as to lose body fat. After a while, I left my gym, and started exercising at home, using free weights. This, combined with vigorous bicycling recently, has put me back up to around 280lb or so, most of the gain being muscle.

One of the main concerns a lot of people have about vegetarianism and veganism is protein: they think that living a vegetarian lifestyle entails lack of protein, because most people associate protein intake with meat. This in turn would lead most to suspect that someone on a veggie diet would be unsuitable as a weight lifter, which ties into the “weak vegan” stereotype.

However, there is ample evidence to the contrary, such as the revelation by Viennese scientists in 2007 that Roman gladiators ate an almost entirely vegetarian diet, not to mention vegan bodybuilders like Robert Cheeke.

In fact, a quick use of the Google on the internet machine shows that vegan bodybuilding is now only alive and well, but also growling and lifting like there’s no tomorrow.

It is not only possible to maintain the diet and lift, it is relatively easy; or at least no more difficult than any other vegan diet!

I haven’t noticed any muscle loss or degradation since I started this thing and it’s been nearly three weeks now. I still lift every day, and I still feel as strong as ever. Better in a lot of ways, if truth be known. While I’m still considering whether or not to maintain the vegan lifestyle after the experiment is over, I can honestly say that it has not proved a hindrance to my fitness and exercise regime while I’ve been doing it, and might even have given it a boost.

More tomorrow on some other subject…

Day 17: Nooch!

September 17, 2008

Today was veeeery busy at work, plus I overslept a little and ended up in a rush this morning. I didn’t really do myself proud at lunch (becoming a theme) but I did stay vegan, despite an overpowering urge to go and buy cheese and scoff the lot while laughing maniacally. Yay me!

To celebrate this, I decided to make cheesy food for dinner. I didn’t succumb to the cravings because the Force is strong in me but I did want a cheesy taste. Like a nicotine addict with that horrible gum. I swear, giving up smoking was never as hard as giving up dairy.

Wholewheat noodles, because I love those things. I said it before, but it bears repeating: the texture is much better. It’s a little chewer, a little less prone to being sticky and slimy. I added some Tofutti cream soy cheese to the noodles when they were cooked, and it was good, but not quite right. It might’ve worked with cream Sheese, but unfortunately, the shop where I bought it has decided not to stock it anymore. Gah etc.

So, I added Tofutti Garlic and Chives, and tasted it from the pan. Not bad, but not quite right. A little salt helped, and some pepper did too, but it wasn’t quite there. On a whim, I added some Engevita, and stirred it in, letting it kind of melt into the sauce of Tofutti. It was perfect! I gobbled up this whole huge bowl of noodles in about two minutes flat, face in the bowl and everything.

EngevitaEngevita is what’s known as nutritional yeast. It’s a by-product of brewing, usually, and consists of deactivated yeast in flakes. And, I gotta tell ya, it looks like the evil love child of dandruff and toenails. The flakes are light yellow or cream in colour. I’ve come across it before, in passing, but it’s a staple to a lot of vegans. The taste is what makes it – it’s slightly cheesy, nutty and a little rich, as well as being chock full of vitamins and minerals, particularly those important B vitamins which can be difficult to obtain in a vegan diet. I wouldn’t recommend it dry, although apparently some vegan fans swear by it as a popcorn topping, to which I say, to each his own. Perverts.

My Columbo moment today is to bring to your attention that I will be at a works function tomorrow evening. It’s supposedly a team-building exercise, designed to bring us all together as a smooth functioning team that cares about each other and shit. In other words, we’re being taken out to dinner at an implausibly remote location and entertained by a magician. No lie.

I’ve been promised a vegan menu in the form of an “oriental stir fry”. Yeah, exactly. I went “Whut?” as well. It should be interesting, and it’ll be my first experience eating out as a vegan.

In the meantime, good night all.

Crossposted at The Odd Blog

Day 15: Bourbon Tofu

September 15, 2008

This is just going to be a quick one, as it’s late. I left it kind of late in the day to do this one, because I was, well, doing other stuff.

Lunch was fairly dull, I’m afraid: bits of cheddar-style Sheese in wraps with salad. Not about to light the vegan world on fire with that, really.

Dinner was more interesting. One of my favourite things to eat in the whole world is bourbon chicken. It’s tasty and moreish, and I can eat platefuls of it all day long, especially when there’s broccoli in it as well. I was really craving some tonight, but obviously I couldn’t have any.

But then I thought to myself, why not try it with tofu? One of the virtues of tofu is that it takes on flavours very easily when cooked. A classic form of it is to simply marinade firm tofu in soy sauce and fry it. It comes out very nicely, especially if you let it get really crispy. The saltiness of the sauce comes over really well.

I decided to go looking for various recipes for bourbon chicken in the hopes of finding something I could apply to a block of tofu. Some of them were really complicated, I must say, which I didn’t want to do. Yes, I realise that vegan cooking requires a little more thought and planning, and I enjoy cooking; but I don’t want to be chained to the stove, either.

Eventually, I amalgamated some of the simpler ones, and came up with a nice version of it which I think almost anyone could eat and enjoy.

Taifun TofuFirst, the tofu. This is all based on a 200g block of firm white tofu, in this case, the Taifun. Taifun is a German company which specialises in tofu. It makes all kinds of flavoured varieties, as well as the plain, and I would particularly recommend the basil flavoured variety. It’s firm and chewy and delicious.

I cut the block into bit-sized pieces and left it to drain. The marinade was equal quantities by volume of soy, whisky and brown sugar, about 60ml each. That’s a 1/4 cup to you Merkans. I then added about half a teaspoon each of garlic powder, ginger and vinegar, and left the tofu marinating in it for a couple of hours.

Chinese LeafI then chopped up some asparagus that was about ready to be eaten or thrown away, along with some Chinese leaf and stir fried it, setting it to one side. No special reason, those were just what I had in the way of green veggies.

The tofu was then fried until crisp and set aside. I then added the remainder of the marinade sauce to the pan and reduced it until it was thick and sticky, and then chucked in the veggies and tofu and stirred it all in. I ate it with boiled rice, and it was delicious. I will definitely be cooking this again soon!

I have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow, so I have no idea what I’ll be eating. It’s for a filling, so something soft, most likely. I’ll keep you posted.

Crossposted on The Odd Blog

Day 14

September 14, 2008

Not a lot happened today. I did a lot of grazing – just minor snacking throughout the day. Most of it wasn’t exactly tiptop, healthwise: lots of flour tortillas and rice cakes spread with hummus or with Sheese. I don’t think I actually ate a meal until just a couple of hours ago, really.

I found out something very cool to eat, though – I bought a block of tofu the other day. It was firm tofu, rather than silken, so the texture is chewier to start with. I then cut it into strips, which I marinated a little while in some dark soy sauce. I prefer dark soy sauce, because it’s saltier and stronger, basically. After that, I got a pan and heated some sunflower oil up until very hot, and then fried the slices until they were crisp and browned on both sides. And gosh-a-loo, what a revelation! The first bite of tofu was delicious, tasting of both the soy and the sunflower oil, and the texture was crisp and crunchy on the outside, with a magnificent contrast on the inside… I guess the closest thing in texture is like when you get some French toast, and the outside is as crisp as you like, and there’s the wonderful inner part where the egg and bread have combined to form a kind of substance that’s almost jelly-like in consistency, but smoother, a sort of bread custard. You know what I mean. It’s difficult to describe, but you know what I mean. It was eye-poppingly good, and I will be trying variations on it for some time, no doubt.

I then thought to myself that however healthy tofu may be, it’s not really a good thing to not being eating veggies; especially as a vegan, because then it seems almost perverse to not do it. So I found some avocado, and chopped it up, and then added some tomatoes and a little salt; I think there’s very little better in this world than an avocado which has been just a little salted. But it seemed even then to be missing something, which is when I hit upon the idea of adding some tahini and stirring it all together well, and it was good! Maybe it’s just me, but it was really good! The slight bitterness of the tahini contrasted well with the sweet tomato taste, and both of them were brought together by the smoothness and softness of the avocado. I ate it in a tortilla, and it was just fab.

And then I ate corn again. I just can’t get enough of it lately, and I don’t think that you can do it any btter than to cook it under a grill or on a barbecue with a little oil and some salt and pepper. It just begs to be eaten.

OK, planning for the week – at some point I’ll be blogging about vegan weight lifting and exercise, as well as eggs. Or rather, not eggs.

Days 12 & 13: Honey and The Vegan Mafia

September 13, 2008

Days 12 & 13 are combined, as per last week, because I regularly visit a family member on a Friday evening. If you’re interested, we drank some beer, watched some comedy panel shows and watched some boxers pummel the living shit out of each other. A good night, in other words.

I’ve been trying to look a little more deeply at the vegan lifestyle this week, and not always succeeding. It’s quite interesting to see the workings of a subculture which you’ve never before seen in any much detail, by which I mean that you see all kinds of interesting arguments. It’s like hearing a fight in a language where you’re sort of competent but not fully fluent — you don’t get all the references and idioms, but find yourself fascinated despite yourself.
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