nearing the six month mark of living a vegan life
why I sleep outside
I sat down yesterday with a stack of my “weekly sheets” to review the menus from almost six months of vegan living. Every week (when I am home and not traveling) I make up a menu on Monday morning, head to the store and generally spend most of the afternoon getting our meals in line for the week ahead. Because I work some evenings and, on nights when I am home don’t roll in until after 6:00, it is a help to have things in progress before it’s “hurry up and cook” time.
I was scanning my weekly sheets to look for some ideas of what to make over this holiday weekend. We’ve had some really great meals in the past six months- and some real duds, too. As I’ve noted in this blog before, some of the best vegan dishes, in my opinion, are ones that don’t try to be something that substitutes for something in the meat kingdom- ie: burgers, hotdogs, chicken nuggets. We’ve tried all of these and, even though I return to them as last-minute go tos (they are generally processed and the equivalent of vegan “fast food”), they aren’t my favs.
Some of the duds in the past six months, in case you are curious, have been momos -whole wheat steamed buns with cabbage filling- (the dough was rubbery and dense), rice balls stuffed with veggies and vegan cheese (too much rice, not enough filling), vegan potato “cheese sauce” (a gummy, gloppy mess) and vegan carrot cake with cashew frosting (the cake needed some sugar and the frosting was… slimy.)
Some of my favorite dishes in these past six months have been tacos (so many different ways to do these with vegan fillings including my favorite chopped mushroom-walnut mixture), Thai red and green vegetable curries, Asian inspired meals featuring tofu and lots of great steamed and stir fried veggies, Indian inspired meals like dal and mujadara and saag paneer made with a tofu-based paneer. I also love, love, love, tempeh and broccoli with soy over brown rice, and good old rice & beans in many variations. A recent not-good-for-you indulgence that I invented is a vegan “reuben:” tempeh that is skillet browned and then made into a grilled sandwich with sauerkraut, a vegan Russian dressing, and vegan cheese. So good.
It turns out that Oreos are vegan. And tater tots. And Oat milk makes a pretty good fake ice cream.
And so, it’s been great. Do I feel different? A couple of months ago when we were solidly into this new plant-based lifestyle and really eating well, I did feel good. Great, even. I lost about 15 pounds and felt “clean.” Since then, a host of travel and meetings have befallen me and I have been subject to hotel/conference facility vegan menus and I have eaten too many bagels with vegan cream cheese or peanut butter in my car while driving to the next thing. This has shown me that to be committed to an eating style that is not universal or convenient has to be intentional and well planned or, like everyone else, a host of bad habits and poor choices are easily picked up.
Finally, I have been touched by the parishes that have caught wind of my new plant-based way of life and I am moved by the coffee hours that now have vegetables and hummus and fruit. One parish went all out and created an all-vegan sit down brunch for me with homemade waffles and a tater tot casserole with plant-based sausage and cheese. Wow. Thank you. I am humbled by this and grateful and… I always am happy to carry a protein bar in my pocketbook for other times.
why I sleep outside
I am a fan of New Year’s resolutions.
Most years I end up returning to the same ones- read more, cook less so I throw away fewer leftovers, write more letters (a noble idea but I fail at this every year).
Last year- at the beginning of 2021- I vowed to camp out at least one night per month. I didn’t make it, but I got several trips in the log book. This year- 2022- I decided to try again. The idea of camping out in the wild was scaled back to just sleeping out-of-doors, even if it meant just pitching my tent in the backyard, and so it was “2022: Game On.” Jan. Feb. March. April, and, just last night: May. Done.
Here’s why I love it: there is a sense of peacefulness being enclosed in a snug shelter. I can “feel” the woods or forest or trees in the yard around me, and get a sense of being embraced by nature. In my tent, I can hear the slightest of sounds: squirrels making their way to bed, industrious bees finishing up their nectar gathering for the day, the snapping of twigs in the woods under the feet of… foxes… deer… opposum, ground hog. We have lots of wildlife in our back woods and even from the edge of the yard, I feel a part of it.
Last night I lay in my tent with the side panel of the rain fly rolled back so I could see up into the sky. The stars were bright. I watched for shooting stars and saw none, but would not call it a disappointment… rather, a study. Before the dawn, I rolled over and could sense the dampness of the dew that had gathered over the night. I stepped outside and ran in the house to press “brew” on the coffee pot (a benefit of back yard camping!) and then returned to my sleeping bag to listen to the dawn chorus. Wrens, sparrows, robins, finches. A woodpecker knocked on a hollow tree sounding a marimba morning anthem. A cow at the farm a mile over sounded a low moo. Two crows squawked a noisy message that was bratty sounding. The slight breeze offered a soft meditation. It was glorious.
I’m hoping that June will offer an adventure that will lead me into the woods and out of my backyard, but there’s more travel on the calendar and the visit of the Presiding Bishop, and a few other things. If I don’t get to the woods, I know that just off of our deck is a spot that offers me a quick overnight dose of peace and restoration.
Until next time…