I've successfully completed the first week in my month long vegan challenge. It wasn't quite as challenging as I initially thought it would be, but I can't say it's been very enjoyable. I guess the best word to describe it so far would be interesting. The first week has been a little like treading water as I learn what I can eat (and what I should eat). Here are a few personal observations about my first week*:
- I can walk through the entire grocery in a third of the time. Since there's no longer a need to walk past the meat/dairy/frozen food sections and most of the aisles containing "forbidden foods," grocery shopping is suddenly a breeze. Downfall: I have to willfully ignore and pass all the foods I wish I could be eating.
- I rotate shopping between three separate grocery stores in order to buy a wider variety of vegan food. The small towns of the Midwest typically aren't vegan friendly so most chain stores where I live carry very few foods I can eat beyond the fresh fruits and vegetables. Luckily (or unluckily?), each grocery store carries a slightly different selection.
- I've spent more time reading food labels in the last week than I have in my entire life. I never realized how many products contained eggs or dairy products. You could say it was a very eye-opening experience. Did you know most white wines and certain brands of sugar are off limits?
- There are at least one hundred identical searches in my browsing history: "Is _______ vegan?"
- Out of curiosity, I wanted to try the vegan equivalent of common American foods. Though I don't mind veggie burgers, vegan burgers are entirely something else. The soy burgers have a charred grilled taste to cover up the fact that they don't have much flavor. They are edible with too much ketchup, but I can't say I enjoyed eating them. Vegan pizza was an equally interesting experience. The frozen pizza box excitedly mentioned the "cheese" actually melts (which I should have taken as a warning sign). The pizza was not very good warmed up (in fact, the "cheese" very much resembled melted glue in taste and texture). However, it wasn't bad when it was cold, indistinguishable from any other cold frozen pizza I've ever eaten.
- I am irrationally excited about discovering these meatless crumbles. Delicious!
- Since I often need to grab quick lunches during the week, I've tried some very unusual sandwich options, including a chickpea avocado sandwich. As I told my friend, once you get over the taste and texture, it's actually not so bad! I fear this will become my motto.
- I couldn't imagine trying to be vegan while living with non-vegans or having non-vegan friends. The temptation to eat "forbidden foods" would be unbearable. I find it difficult enough passing the hot dog stand in front of the supermarket as the smell of a summer barbecue wafts over me (and I don't even like hot dogs). It would take an enormous amount of self-control to watch a close friend eat non-vegan foods in front of me. Perhaps this changes if you feel morally obligated to practice veganism instead of pursuing it as a month long challenge?
- Going vegan is expensive. I've spent more on groceries this week than I have in the last few weeks all together. My digestive system is also slow to adjust to the changes in my eating habits, leaving me in uncomfortable situations.
- If I have to sit through another commercial featuring gorgeous, sizzling bacon, I will throw celery sticks at the television.
After the first week, I've concluded that veganism is surprisingly do-able with a Mount Everest of willpower (and a pocket full of cash). However, it hasn't been an enjoyable experience for me just yet. Once I fit a few more recipes into my repertoire and have a few standby meals on hand, I hope it won't feel so intimidating (and overwhelming) to me anymore. Here's to week two!
*I mean no offense to those who have gone vegan for moral beliefs and obligations (in fact, you have my utmost respect). This is just a record of my personal experience with the subject.