Vegan attempt #1
Andy Rice // Associate Publisher
Anyone who knows me knows that I love meat with every fibre of my being. It’s not uncommon to see me floating around my local butcher shop clinging to a side of pork the way Rose did with that wooden door in Titanic.
This past summer I ate nothing but grilled lamb chops and home-brew, which made it a pretty good one in my books. But then I waddled into September with a bad case of the meat sweats and a gut that stuck out so far, I could no longer see my junk when standing at a urinal.
Something had to change, and so I began entertaining the idea of going vegetarian for a few weeks until my little situation sorted itself out. The gut was nothing I couldn’t deal with, but the meat sweats had to go.
Enter my girlfriend who, I think, was starting to become rather annoyed by both of those things.
“Alright, say goodbye to ground beef. We’re going vegan,” she said one evening after we’d just wolfed down a quarter of a lasagna and were feeling particularly good about ourselves.
“Now?! Can we talk about this first? How about vegetarian to start?” I countered. “Or some combination of the two. Vegan is… well, it’s vegan.”
I’m not even sure why I agreed to do it. For years, I’ve treated herbivores with a level of skepticism one might reserve for their creepy uncle. No matter how hard I try to look past their misgivings, I just keep wanting to kick them out of my life.
Anyways, I agreed to do the no meat/no dairy thing for a few weeks to see what would happen. To be perfectly honest, I kind of enjoyed the challenge, and the attempt did me some good health-wise as well. Not only did it earn me some brownie points with my lady friend, but it also brought my blood pressure back down to a number I no longer had to hide from my mother.
I’ll admit, it’s a little weird getting excited about things like quinoa, chia seeds and cashew cream for the first little while, but soon you start to make a game out of it and see just how many unpronounceable things you can incorporate into your diet.
There are some good-tasting recipes in this world that don’t include meat. There, I said it. But don’t get me wrong; while my mind may have gone full Ghandi for a couple of weeks, my stomach remained as Ted Nugent as ever.
How do I know this? Well, my life and work schedule recently made it necessary for me to leave my little vegan experiment back in Vancouver and hop on a plane to the Maritimes. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll agree that it’s probably the best region in Canada for greasy, late night bar food. I don’t even think they have vegans there.
Fighting it was futile. The closest I got to a salad all trip was eating a lobster while wearing a pair of Lululemon shorts. But when I walked up to the order window at Willy’s Fresh Cut Fries in Halifax at 2 a.m. last Friday and ordered the donair poutine, that’s when I really tumbled off the wagon. That winning combination of cheese curds, gravy, and flaky donair meat is precisely why I eat things that moo.
The following evening, I devoured a plate of breaded wings; then a steak sandwich on Sunday for lunch; then a burger that night. It’s a slippery slope, my friends.
To top it all off, I was heading to Newfoundland on the Monday, where vegetables are notorious for showing up by boat as six-week-old ghosts of their former selves. Going vegan there would be impossible. I was shocked when I found things like coconut oil, Daiya cheese and Happy Planet juice on the Sobeys shelves. Not so shocked when I checked the prices or the expiry dates.
By this time, however, I was starting to get a little restless around meal times. I couldn’t look at a pork chop without thinking “Man, I really wish I had some grilled zucchini to go with it.”
It used to be the other way around. I’d stare at a bunch of grapes wishing I had some rare superpower that permitted me to turn them into mini meatballs.
The thing about travelling is that it’s hard to say no, and this gets me every time. Whatever diet or health kick I’m on tends to melt away as soon as I arrive, and whatever pounds melted away before I got there tend to pile back on before I leave. I just want to eat what the locals eat. I want that thing on the menu that TripAdvisor tells me I’m an idiot if I don’t get. Pig’s ear fries? Sure. Montreal smoked meat? Awesome. No one’s provincial delicacy is a kale caesar. That’s not how the world works.
So, after nearly two weeks of eating meat for every meal, I had no choice but to tell my girlfriend that I’d been deviating inexcusably from our little pact. And no, it wasn’t because she finally noticed that extra chin on my Snapchat selfies. It was because I needed someone to slap me back into line.
Surprisingly, she didn’t, though her response left an ominous chill in the air.
“You do you,” she said. “Eat whatever you feel like eating. But as soon as you get home we’re going on a cleanse.”
“I’m not done,” she said. “And then vegan until Christmas.”
That’s so terrifying I’m honestly trying not to think about it.
For now, I’m just livin’ la meat-a loca. I’ll figure out the rest once I get home.