Monday, January 10, 2011

Goodbye and Hello

"I know, we're not where I promised you we'd be by now. But maybe it's a question of who'd want it anyhow." - The Swell Season, "The Rain"

After much soul-searching, I've decided to retire this labor of love called "The Vegan Good Life" and start fresh with a new blog.

I've made no secret of my struggles to eat vegan in every single scenario as I tried to switch from lacto-ovo vegetarianism. My biggest challenges: some vegan products taste, at best, just okay (ahem, vegan cheese); some things cost more (soy yogurts, for example, are double the sale price most pay at supermarkets); and social situations with an excess of foods, especially ones I enjoy eating. When there's an abundance of pies at Thanksgiving, does it matter in the scheme of animal welfare if I have a slice of pecan pie? Also frustrating was worrying about a dollop of milk in butternut squash apple soup at my local soup place, or when traveling wanting to try tiramisu in Italy (but didn't) or running around looking for soy gelato in 25 places. Vegan clothes are a whole other ballpark. I am an avid thrift shopper and clothes swapper and don't see anything wrong with acquiring a second-hand Irish wool hat for $4 if it's going to help homeless cats or a silk dress at a swap.

"Easy" is the most frequent word I hear touted by vegans, but food choices are anything but. They are emotional, tied to economics, family support, and product availability, among other factors. What's easy for one person might not be so for another. Most people are simply going to tinker with their diets over the course of their life, and I am one of them.

I've kept the name up until now because I wanted to be a different type of voice in the community. I simply can't relate to the blogs of people kissing their cupcakes or non-stop joyous attitudes. That's just not real life, that's an image you're trying to sell. There is a real disconnect to how veganism is being marketed to people, and how difficult people find doing it completely when they try it (so then not doing it at all, a great failure for animals). If I've learned anything, it's how much I dislike dietary labels, which is why I want a blog name without one.

I sincerely wish this absolutist issue was not so taboo and people were able to accept and embrace the challenges and accept not being perfect. People shouldn't be made to feel like a failure, or that we're in a game of "I'm the better advocate than you are." I truly in my heart believe we should focus less on "being a vegan" or "going vegan" and instead emphasize eating a plant-based diet as much as possible, eating smaller portions, and wasting less versus signing up for a 100 percent commitment, which most people won't or cannot be able to do. Theory far too often trumps reality, but I'd rather live in reality, and set goals that are attainable.

Benjamin Button wrote in a letter to his daughter he hoped she'd live a life she was proud of. I live a life I'm pretty proud of. Perfect? Never. Apologetic? No way.'s time for a change, because that's what life is about. My new blog is called American Dream Finder. It is my chronicling of my life in my own pursuit of the American dream. But like this blog, the dialogue will not be limited to any one topic and is welcome to people of all beliefs. And, yes it will continue to showcase all the great vegan and vegetarian food in my life.

If you'd like, I invite you to follow me, link me on your site, or just come on by for a visit whenever you feel like it. I shall be here having "a cuppa" with my musings, travels, eats and the like. As a good friend said (and I use this in the context of bloggers who pour their hearts out), "we don't write for ourselves, we write to be heard." I hope we can continue the conversation together, even if you've only been a reader and not a commenter, and create a better world for ourselves, animals, people, and our planet.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 3, 2011

But What Do You Eat? Dining Out Edition

The question every vegetarian or vegan gets. As I wonder, how do people feel comfortable eating factory farmed meat, milk and eggs at every single meal?

During a recent snowstorm, on the news they were interviewing people outside a grocery store, and a woman was listing what she deemed necessities: milk, eggs, butter, and cold cuts. It struck me they were all animal products. I also thought, how necessary are cold cuts? Of course if you ask my family dog, that's another story.

Here's a sample of what I've been eating in the past month:

An Arnold Palmer (a mix of lemonade and iced tea), $2.25, and falafel, $5.25, at Maoz Vegetarian (this location recently opened on Eighth Ave. at 43rd and 44th Sts. in New York City) I was super excited another veg option is available, especially in a high-traffic tourist area, but you can find great falafel at many places.

To go at Maoz: vegan rice pudding, $3.50.

At Empire Hunan, a Chinese and Japanese restaurant in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, bean curd soup, $1.75.

After sharing steamed vegetable dumplings, $4.50, devouring sesame fried tofu with veggies and brown rice, $9.50. A feast, and made more frugal by splitting the dish. Don't waste food (and money) - if you have leftovers, take them home, and bring your own takeout container when you can to reduce takeout waste.

To end, fragrant lychee fruit, $3.95, also to share. After the season of over-indulging (which is thankfully over), fruit is a refreshing and welcome change to complete the meal.

At cozy Mario's Trattoria on Ninth Ave. at 37th and 38th Sts. in New York City, garlic knots, $6.

The Mediterranean chopped salad, $9: green and red peppers, red onions, artichoke, tomatoes, cucumbers with oil and vinegar.

Heck, I can even eat at a steakhouse! My dad choose Charlie Brown's Steakhouse for his birthday dinner. So full from the salad bar (included in the price of the entree), I barely had room for my pasta primavera, $11.95 with garlic bread. I took it home in reusable container, and paired with a salad I got two more portions.

A dining out tip if you're looking to eat veg: don't just look for vegetarian entrees. Look at the other sections and see you can leave off the meat. If you are ordering a meat entree sans meat, ask if they'll give you a price reduction. I've had $1 to several dollars taken off. For example, at P.J. Finnegan's in Westwood, New Jersey, they took a few dollars off the chicken stir fry when I asked since I was just having the veggies and rice. Call me cheap - I prefer frugal. But it's more principal. I don't expect to pay for an ingredient I'm not having. Never feel embarrassed about respecting your hard-earned money. I don't.

Know you can find great vegetarian and vegan food dining out even if you don't have access to all the veg dining options. I dine primarily at non-veg restaurants. If you feel adventurous, ask the waiter or waitress to have the chef surprise you. Don't feel suprised when you don't miss the meat.