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.

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Day Seven

September 7, 2008

So, it’s the end of the first week of my month as a vegan. Things seem to be going well so far, although there have been some things which have been difficult to do or avoid, I think overall thing’s are OK.

Probably the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I tend to snack a little less. I seem to be less hungry between meals this week, and I think that can be put down to a change in habits: I can’t snack as easily, so I tend to eat more of what I’ve cooked at meal times. The absence of easily edible snacks has left me in the position of eating more at meals, so avoiding snacks in the first place has let me avoid them further, if that makes sense…

I’ll be cooking in a different way next week – this week has focused a lot on foods which either had meat analogues or were not specifically vegan – that is, they may have been incidentally vegan but not so on purpose. If you see what I mean. In the coming week, I’ll be doing more food which is specifically and deliberately vegan. Basically delving a little further into vegan culture.

Blue Dragon Wholewheat Noodles

Blue Dragon Wholewheat Noodles

Yesterday I ate a stir fry of green peppers, onions and garlic, with wholewheat noodles and soy sauce. While I’m not in the business with this blog of promoting an organic or wholewheat-only diet, I do like wholewheat pasta generally. It has more texture to it and a greater depth of flavour than plain old white pasta, and I find that it tends to be easier to keep al dente when cooking. I had the Blue Dragon variety, which are very tasty indeed.

I’ve had a few cravings for stuff in the last week, I must admit; it’s been difficult not to eat bacon, for example. I don’t think I’m atypical in that respect; anecdotally, it seems everyone knows someone who used to be vegetarian but who strayed from righteousness went back to eating meat because of bacon. I’ve also been thinking a lot about faggots in gravy. Now, I know there will have been a certain amount of sniggering from American readers there, but stay with me. Faggots are a traditional variety of meat ball/dumpling, made from liver, heart etc and baked in gravy. The usual traditional ones are a little harder to find these days, and the usual ones seen in supermarket freezers are Mr Brain’s, which are made from chopped liver and onions. They’re still bloody good, though, and I could kill for some of them right now.

Tonight’s dinner will be curry. Specifically, cauliflower curry with rice and masoor dal.

Masoor Dal

Masoor Dal

You may not know what dal is if you don’t usually eat Indian food. The term refers to any kind of hulled split pulse, like lentils, yellow split peas and so on. The name is also applied to a kind of thick stew/porridge made from the same. Dal comes in various kinds, such as chana dal, which is made from split chickpeas; toor dal, made from split pigeon peas, similar to yellow split peas; and masoor dal, which is made from red lentils.

The way to make the stew is usually pretty simple, as it’s a staple among much of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It starts with boiling the pulse in water with some salt and turmeric until it becomes soft (with red lentils, until they break apart) and then adding a tarka, which is a blend of fried spices and flavourings when it is cooked. While that’s the usual way to cook it, I often can’t be bothered with the process and chuck the lot in all at once. This is also known as inauthentic cookery.

The curry’s going to be pretty bog standard – onions, peppers, spices, cauliflower, left to simmer for a while. I may add a handful of lentils to thicken it up. The rice I usually cook plain, sometimes with a little onion in it. The dal is my favourite, probably because I like lentils.

That’s about it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the first week of my experiment, and I hope you come back for more.

Crossposted at The Odd Blog.