Let’s face it. Being vegan (or even vegetarian) is pretty weird.
We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
But that’s okay — weird is the new cool. It’s also the new normal, according to Seth Godin (whose post I borrowed the Dr. Seuss quote from).
It seems weird begets weird, though, because in the two years my family has been vegan, bit by bit we’ve gone a little nuts-o in our other habits — many of which have nothing to do with veganism.
And yet, in a way, they’re all tied back to that fundamental choice to be different from 98 percent of the rest of the world in our food choices. Being weird, I’ve found, is not just fun; it’s addictive.
And so — since my brain is fried from book writing and moving and NYC-Vegetarian-FoodFest-ing — I figured I’d write a fun post today about the kinky things we do since going vegan.
1. Live microwave-free. I thought I could never give up my microwave, but it turns out it was a lot like going vegan — I used it less and less over time as it became less appealing, and eventually it was just a matter of making the decision to go all the way. It’s great — lots of counter space, one less big, ugly box in the kitchen, and food that feels better for us (whether it actually is or not, I’m not sure). It’s slightly more work to steam or bake or simmer our leftovers, but it’s work that is somehow joyful.
2. Hand-grind our coffee. More oddly joyful work. After reading Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Chef late last year, I got a hand-crank burr grinder and an Aeropress, and it’s the only way I’ve made coffee since. The combination not only makes the best coffee I’ve ever had; it’s also convenient enough to bring on a plane. I did have a bit of disaster when I spilled the grounds all over my lap on a flight home from San Diego, though. [FYI, links to Amazon here are affiliate links.]
3. Have a freezer full of broccoli stems and strawberry tops. Why? To feed to our Blendtec, of course. Might as well waste one less thing and get some more green in our smoothies. Speaking of which …
4. Drink weird-ass smoothies. It used to be that I could give someone a taste of my morning smoothie, and be met with a surprised, “Hey, this is pretty good!” No longer. Now our smoothies start with a base of pumpkin seeds (lots of iron), chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp/rice/pea protein powder, and that’s before the greens get involved. But we’re used to it, and somehow it tastes good.
5. Use pink salt. Since I got heavy into cooking six or seven years ago, it’s been a steady progression from the normal, processed salt to kosher salt to sea salt to real salt. It’s got a pinkish hue, and we keep it in pinch bowl. Sort of looks like a bowl of dirt that we put on our food.
6. Wear trail shoes everywhere. So here’s how this happened. I stopped wearing leather shoes (technically, I stopped buying leather shoes, and the ones I owned wore out). I bought a pair of faux-leather shoes from a discount shoe store (they sell them because they’re cheap, not because they’re vegan-friendly), but I hated them. So then I just started wearing trail shoes around, since they’re grey and look better than Danny Tanner white sneaks. Right now I wear a pair of Merrells that I also run in, and my wife usually wears her New Balance Minimus Trail.
7. Dehydrate things. We don’t do the hardcore stuff like making crackers and breads and fancy raw food — honestly, we got it so we could dehydrate fruit for our son to snack on. Except we end up eating most of it. So far, we’ve done several batches of apples and bananas, but we’re still learning. (Suggestions?)
8. Run with dates. I’ve never been able to stomach energy gels, but now that I’ve discovered dates, it’s not a problem. They’re small and packed with quick-digesting carbohydrate (just like energy gels), only they’re whole foods and completely natural. And they actually taste really, really good. Get fresh ones instead of dried; they taste way better and they’re kind of like gummies. PS — Victoria Arnstein, wife of Michael (the Fruitarian), stopped by our table at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival last weekend and told me that in her Vermont 100K win and Michael’s 100-miler win, they ate nothing but dates!
9. Make tons of stuff from scratch. From nut butter to dried beans to pizza dough (with some buckwheat flour, also weird enough that I wouldn’t serve it to guests), we’ve gone down a road of making an increasing amount of food from whole ingredients instead of buying it in packages. It’s fun and it brings us closer to our food, even if it takes a little more time. But not all that much time — we’ve found relatively easy ways to do this stuff, like making the nut butter in the Blendtec, dried beans in the slow cookers, and pizza dough in the food processor. No word yet on plans to go electricity-free.
10. Buy everything else Amy’s, Annie’s, Bob’s (Red Mill), Tom’s, Bragg, and Bronner’s. No, these aren’t our friends from the local farmers market (though I’m sure it’s no mistake they chose their brand names to sound like that). These are all brands that just three years ago I had never heard of, and now they represent most of what we buy that isn’t unpackaged produce or bulk goods from our local co-op. We actually refill our Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle from a big pump bottle at the co-op, which is fun. And pretty weird too, I suppose.
11. Put tofu, avocados, and black beans in desserts. Sounds gross, but somehow you can’t taste them. Tofu and avocado make for deliciously creamy cupcake icing and mousse, and black beans, of course, work amazingly well in brownies.
12. Live with very little stuff. I’d feel like a phony to call myself a minimalist, because we still have a bunch of kid toys and dishes and beer and wine glasses and stuff like that. But when we moved last year (more on that in a bit), we got rid of so much stuff, and we haven’t gone back. I’ve been living by my friend Courtney’s Project 333, pushing closer and closer over time toward owning only 100 personal items. Clutter occupies not just physical space in your house but mental space as well, and getting rid of it has been incredibly liberating. (We did get rid of one too many couches when we moved, keeping only a love seat, and we’ve missed being able to stretch out. But we’ll get another one, one day.)
13. Eat weird pastas. Spelt, quinoa and corn, brown rice. Not because we have any sort of gluten intolerance or even a sensitivity, but because it’s fun to try new stuff.
14. Drink kombucha. It’d be really weird if we brewed kombucha and had our own SCOBY, like my buddy Jeff Sanders does, but we’re not there yet. For now, I’m satisfied drinking it, something I didn’t start doing until I got to Asheville, where it’s made locally (like so much else). I’ve found the smaller and more local you get kombucha, the funkier it tastes, which I imagine is how it’s really supposed to be.
15. Sprout things and buy sprouted things. Sprouting is hippie-dippie, for sure. But we do it, usually with beans and lentils, because it takes even less effort than cooking them and makes them into something more vegetable than bean. As for buying spouted things, we usually stick to Ezekiel Bread, most often for almond butter or hummus (but never both!) sandwiches, which our three-year old eats like it’s his job. Their new Flax Sprouted Whole Grain bread has five grams of protein per slice, and even the plain Ezekiel has four grams per slice, so I don’t feel so bad about giving my kid five sandwiches a day and nothing else. (Just a joke, child services.)
16. Live in Asheville. Asheville is an amazing mountain town in Western North Carolina, and we just signed a lease to stay for another year. And it’s uber, freaking weird. I don’t know how to describe it other than as a mix of art, local beer, food, outdoors, hippies, hipsters, retirees, families, music, and mountain culture. We love it here. You should come visit.
17. Eat weird foods! A lot of the items I’ve listed so far have already been weird-ish foods, but I don’t want to overlook the obvious — we eat so much food now that I didn’t know existed before we went vegetarian. To us, and you, I’m guessing, they’re familiar — tempeh, quinoa, hemp seeds, spelt, tamari, miso … even kale and tofu, which seem so ordinary now, are foods that not too long ago I considered hippie food.
So there you have it. Weirdness. And the best part of it all is that to many of you, so much of this will seem completely normal … just more evidence that, as Seth and Dr. Seuss say, we are all weird.
I’m sure glad we weirdos found each other.