Veganniversary and Food Aversions

Don’t know if immigrants all over the world do this, but in Israel, it’s very common to celebrate the anniversary of the day you make aliyah. We call it the aliyahversary.

I just read an article that mentions something called a veganniversary. The article mentioned it in terms of months rather than years, at least for a newbie like me. It’s also true that, while some days, like yesterday, I eat 100% vegan (and mostly raw) food, I also still eat a little bit of dairy and some products with eggs. I’m learning to cook without eggs, but I have to experiment more.

I want to make a vegan challah for Shabbat but DD#1 requested a different, specific challah. Since she’s expressed the most resistance to this change, I know I should wait and try the vegan challah next week when she’s not home. A no-brainer. But I have itchy fingers. I want to. But I know I shouldn’t.

aversions

I’ve been reading through tons of vegan cookbooks, recipe blogs, Pinterest boards and websites. Most of the recipes are not even remotely interesting to me. But then, I have always had a very quirky palate. I’m overweight, but I have many food aversions. Years ago, I read a dissertation on food aversions in adults. There are adults who only ever eat a handful of things. The researcher found that many adults with significant food aversions are also not so mentally healthy. That finding doesn’t apply to me 🙂

I’m not quite as limited as the most extreme cases of people who eat only 5 things. But I truly don’t like most foods.

My omnivore diet basically included the same foods over and over. So that’s probably not going to change.

I also go through food phases – times when a certain food has tremendous appeal. Right now, it’s zucchini kugel (without eggs!).

Another friend shared an unsolicited impression that vegan food is expensive and time-consuming. Since I have been reading so much on it, I was able to respond calmly by saying, “That hasn’t been my experience.”

Right now, I am stocking the kitchen a little at a time with ingredients necessary to cook vegan dishes. It’s a lot like the restocking after Pesach. It’s not cheap, but you buy things once that last for months. Still, the recipes I like the most are the ones that have familiar foods. Perhaps that’s a stage through which all vegans must pass.

I don’t have a lot of work assignments right now. I feel that Hashem has gifted me with this time to incorporate a lifestyle change. It’s a lot like the decision to make aliyah. Once a switch is flipped in my head, I can be VERY focused.

Everything’s Coming Up Vegan

roses

Suddenly, everything’s vegan. It’s a lot like the experience of buying a car. You research and consider a certain model and suddenly, the road seems full of that particular kind of car.

Last night, some women in my community organized a Rosh Chodesh event and the topic was nutrition. In the past, I probably would have avoided such an event, too embarrassed at the poor state of my food choices to attend. Suddenly, I feel that Hashem is throwing resources at me.

There were two presenters, both nutrition advisors who came to take control of their diets through personal health concerns. They recommended 15 servings of vegetables a day. Wow.

So much new information. It’s fun for me. I’ve always enjoyed mastering a new area of information (though I’m a long way from mastering this…)

I’m trying to take the advice of others and go gradually. I haven’t had meat since January 5 and my egg and dairy intake has diminished by about 90%. I still eat things made with oil, eggs, mayo and little pinches of sugar. But it’s definitely a different mind set. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest looking for new recipes.

This morning, a vegan friend, one of my early vegan role models, sent me a link to an article in the NYTimes called How to Go Vegan. I didn’t know Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet last year.

I didn’t realize until today how trendy vegan is.

Tree Hugger

 

Image

Last night, DD#1 and I met some extended family members at a restaurant in Jerusalem. It was a dairy place, so at least I didn’t have to deal with meat in my face. These particular family members are people we see, and eat with, often. So I had to tell them about my new approach to eating.

I’m deeply into my research phase, reading everything I can get my hands on and taking notes on things I’ll need to remember. One of the vegan source books I’m reading has a whole chapter on dealing with people’s reactions to my diet. Now I understand why a whole chapter was necessary.

Wow. What strong reactions this decision engenders in others! Right away, I was confronted with the question of whether this was a health thing or was I some kind of crazy, misguided animal rights tree-hugger? This from someone who has known me for the past 25 years. Okay, in part, he was teasing. But the idea behind his reaction was clearly that one would have to be a loony non-conformist to give up meat and other animal products just on the basis of a concern for the ethical treatment of animals.

I can’t stop thinking about it.

Why should people who are committed to Torah, a Torah that requires that we feed our animals before we feed ourselves, be so threatened by this decision? We Torah Jews pride ourselves on being compassionate people (rachamanim bnei rachamanim). So if cutting down or completely eliminating animal products from my diet is an expression of that rachmanut, that’s completely consistent with Torah values.

I think the matter is one of ignorance more than anything else. A lot of people don’t go beyond the old saw that kosher shechita is the most humane way of slaughtering animals. If others knew what I have come to learn about factory farming and industrialized animal harvesting, I’m sure it would give them pause.

Two other, unrelated notes on my journey.

I decided to make this transition in my diet, in part, to break the hold sugar had on me. So it was instructive that a few nights ago, I tried the tiniest bit of a dessert a dinner companion was enjoying and found it massively too sweet.

And finally, yesterday I tried making kale chips for the first time. The attempt flopped, as it happens (too moist, too salty) but at the end of the process, I was left with the kale leaf stems. I was about to throw them away when it occurred to me that I could juice them. So this morning, I did just that. It worked out great.

More evidence of the changes I am going through.

My Last Meat

bulgur-pilaf-vegan

I’m not even officially a vegan yet.  Not even sure if I will ever get there 100%. There’s that pizza thing. That’s huge.

I ate my last meat on Shabbat a week ago. January 5. We have friends who make a special dish for Parshat Shemot called Moshe b’teva. In the rest of the world, it’s called pigs in a blanket. We spent Shabbat with these friends and I ate Moshe b’tevas. And chicken. And meatballs.

That was my last meat. This week, I have been heavily plant strong. Still some diary. Still some eggs. Mostly from supplies that were already in the kitchen.

I feel like I stepped into another dimension. So many things are new. Flax seeds. Chia seeds. Sietan. Coconut milk. Tofu. Egg substitutions. Vegan mayo.

We went out to dinner this past Friday night. The wife is a fabulous cook. I had to remind myself that I don’t eat fish, don’t eat chicken, don’t eat red meat any more. “No thanks,” I said over and over. I almost forgot. It was disorienting. Like when you’ve been in bed with a cold for a week and it’s your first day back in the real world.

I came to this dietary change from a health perspective, but you can’t help but bump up against the issue of cruelty in factory farming. It is said that eating non-kosher food reduces your spiritual capacity; it clogs up the pores of your soul. How then does eating meat filled with anxiety and fear of industrially-produced meat impact us spiritually?

There was a fascinating conversation at the table about kosher slaughter. A major carnivore at the table admitted that kosher slaughter was never intended to be commercialized. He told of an experience at a shechita where the animal was raised by a farmer, not in a pen, not in a cage.  The trebering took four hours. This, he says, is the way it was meant to be.

This morning, I made three vegan dishes. My DH is already happily eating what I prepare, including my poor first attempt at baked tofu. (I’ll get better!) And DD #1, anxious about this whole change (“We’ll be the weird vegetarian family no one wants to come to for Shabbat.”) ate two helpings of my first attempt at Bulgar and Noodle Pilaf. And she let me make her a fresh fruit juice this morning.

My last meat.

But not my last meal.

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