Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter 2014

            Hello once more!  How was your: a) Easter; b) Sunday; c) 4/20; d) all of the above?
            Mine was pleasant enough.  To clarify, I was celebrating Easter and not 4/20.  I wasn’t celebrating it for any religious purpose – mainly it’s just a family gathering for me.  Any reason to get together to eat food and talk and take pictures is good enough for me.  Plus, I had a fun 3-day weekend, which is a rarity unless I request off of work.
            Meal-wise, back when I was an omnivore, Easter was filled with ham, broccoli casserole, and sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted on top.  I didn’t really stray far from those three staples but I would always overdo it and stuff myself silly.  When I went vegetarian, Easter wasn’t that hard of a holiday to survive since I just cut out the ham and loaded up on the other two dishes.  This was before I quickly realized not even marshmallows qualified as vegetarian but before I realized that, it seemed to work out just fine for me since the remaining two dishes were always my favorites any way.
            In fact, most holidays since going vegetarian and then vegan weren’t too terribly sad or difficult because most of my favorite dishes were already vegetarian.  I had my fair share of turkey or pig but my favorites were always the side dishes.  Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, broccoli casseroles – these were just a few of my favorite things.  (You’re now singing that song in your head, aren’t you?  You’re welcome.)
            Even going vegan wasn’t too bad because my wife always stepped up and dominated.  I was never lacking in amazing dishes holiday after holiday, year after year.  I never felt jealous or disappointed or wishing for a bite of food that wasn’t vegan.  In fact, quite truthfully, I thought the dishes I was eating since the transition were far tastier.  And my favorite holiday dish, my aunt’s sweet potatoes, was still available to me because she used vegan marshmallows on a small portion of potatoes just for me to enjoy.  Seriously, Dandies vegan marshmallows are amazing!  I was a marshmallow addict before going vegan and I am serious when I say these are far superior.  I can eat nearly the entire bag without being violently ill.  Check them out!
Don’t even get me started on the countless desserts my wife would toil away making for each holiday, either.  That’s a completely separate entry.
            This year was a bit more low-key for foods but still amazing, none-the-less.  We kicked breakfast off with zucchini waffles that my wife made, which sounded odd to me but turned out great!  It was a test recipe she made for a vegan blogger (at Cupcakes and Kale), Jess Nadel.  I was sad that there were only two to eat.  I’m sorry but I was in such a rush to scarf breakfast down that I didn’t bother taking a photo or two.  I’m still getting used to the whole “always have a camera handy so you can blog about it” thing.  I’m a fool!  I will just say that you are in for a treat if this recipe makes it to the blogger’s cookbook.
            We didn’t eat dinner at the family gathering but we did bring a chocolate-orange cake from Nava Atlas that could be found in her book, Vegan Holiday Kitchen.  Vegan desserts always seem to go over really well with omnivores.  It goes over even better when you don’t tell them it’s vegan before they eat it.  The reaction is generally always, “It’s vegan?  Whaaaaaaaa?” and then they eat more.  That is, it’s the reaction if they don’t already know you’re vegan.  I quite enjoyed it because it had the perfect balance between chocolate and orange flavor.  Some times you get a lot of chocolate where the orange flavor is overpowering but this was perfection.

When we ended up eating a real meal afterward, dinner included a lemon-asparagus risotto dish, a citrus roasted tofu dish, and a cinnamon-roasted baby carrot dish.  All were quite good but the risotto was my favorite.  I love risotto and I could probably eat it every day.  This risotto was baked in the oven, too, which made it a bit unique.  Not that I could tell.  Like I’ve said, my wife is the cook.  You could tell me you made the risotto on the grill and I probably wouldn’t know what that meant.  The tofu was my second favorite.  I was quite happy that there were leftovers, too.  All three dishes came out of Nava’s book, as well.

Then we had yet another dessert – carrot cake cupcakes.  They were amazing!  Thank god for my fast(ish) metabolism because I could’ve had the entire batch in one sitting.  If you think the picture is mouthwatering, imagine being in the same room with them.  I’m just glad the pictures I took turned out because I was drooling all over the plate.  These, too, came out of Nava’s book.  Have I won you over yet with this book?  Go get it and you can be in flavor heaven, too!

We finished the night with a nice walk to work off all that food.  A very nice Sunday off of work.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go eat leftovers because all of this typing has made me hungry.  Until next time, keep calm and vegan on!

The Easter Bunny photo was found using Google Image Search HERE.
You can follow Jess Nadel at a myriad of places besides her blog.  On Twitter it's @cupcakesandkale
You can follow Nava Atlas on Twitter, too: @navaatlas2

Saturday, April 12, 2014

“You’ll Never Get Sick. You Will Never Grow Old. And You Will Never Die.” – Cocoon (1985)

            I’m sorry for the extended delay in posts.  Both my wife and I have had new work schedules and getting on a regular home/work schedule has taken some time.  Onto the posting!
            Ever since I went vegan, I have fallen into a belief that I should be superhuman healthy.  After all, I partly went vegan to get into, and stay in, optimal health.  I thought that all that really required was to eat right and – BAM! – I’d be fine.  It might not come as a surprise that I’ve always been worried that if I catch even a small cold, it would reflect poorly upon veganism as a healthy lifestyle.  I spent so much time discussing the healthy side effects that I have had and that my wife has had going vegan with people, that I thought people would call me a hypocrite even if I sneezed.  Whenever I would go into work with a head cold, I imagined somebody saying something like, “Uh oh!  The vegan is sick!  So much for the invincibility of you vegans!  Eat pigs, everyone!”  Then I would either slink into a corner or cough all over them.  Either way, it was a poor situation to find oneself.
            I thought all of this even though I can string sentences together and form complex thought.  I want to be the shining example of peak human health to give veganism a good name so it can’t be helped.  I think this without realizing changing and improving your health has multiple facets.  I do exercise but I’m still as skinny as a stick.  If somebody gives me anything heavier than a brick to carry, I’m sore the next morning.  (That’s hyperbole, by the way.  I’m still worried my humor doesn’t translate.)  I just half-expect a change in eating habits is enough to get me to peak performance, as if I could fall asleep like Tobey Maguire and wake up with Spider-Man powers.
            Tobey Maguire, by the way, is a vegan.  I didn’t even mean to use him as an example because of that fact either.  I just love all things Spider-Man.
            Not only that but I still have seasonal allergies and acne – as I’ve stated previously.  Veganism hasn’t been able to eradicate those two things completely but that doesn’t discredit veganism.  So why should I worry about getting a cold when veganism can’t be a cure-all for everything else about me?
            I recently listened to a podcast by the great Colleen Patrick-Goudreau where she was discussing healthy vegans in response to an e-mail somebody had sent her.  The e-mail was from somebody who felt like she shouldn’t tell people she’s vegan just because she is over-weight.  Colleen quite logically stated that there is no one example of a healthy vegan.  One shouldn’t be discouraged to proclaim him or herself a vegan if he or she happens to be overweight.  Your body image does not reflect on veganism.  Just as getting sick doesn’t reflect on the virtues of veganism.
            I do not know why it took hearing that coming from somebody else for it to finally click but it did.  And again I’m indebted to CPG’s podcast.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. You'd know this if you had clicked on her link already. D'uh.

            However, that doesn’t mean that the lesson always sticks.
            Recently, I fainted for no (at the time) apparent reason.  This was the day that my wife and I had gone to The Chicago Diner for breakfast.  After we did our running around we collapsed for a nice evening nap (I told you our life/work schedules had changed).  Upon waking, I quickly got out of bed, took about two steps to my desk, and that’s it.  The next thing I know, I’m coming to on my bedroom floor with my wife and mom surrounding me.  My wife had been calling my name and since I had no idea what the hell was going on, I kept telling her I was fine.
            They told me that contrary to what I believed, I was not fine because I had fainted and hadn’t responded for several seconds.  I thought that was ludicrous because I’ve never fainted before and I had always imagined – thanks to Hollywood – that when one faints, they swoon a bit, mumble something silly, their eyes roll up, and then gracefully fall to the ground.  The only thing I could recall was turning the TV on and then “waking up” with everyone surrounding me.  What I had been was sweaty, weak, and nauseous.  The meal that my mom was making for everyone other than my wife and I was overpowering to my nose (everyone else said they could hardly smell it).  But to faint?  I had thought at the time that that was crazy.
            As the night wore on, I was equally intrigued by this fainting business and also worried.  My veganism had cured me of every illness and woe, right?  So what was wrong?  It had to be something bad because in the age of Web, M.D., a hangnail means cancer.
            With much reluctance, I scheduled my first doctor’s appointment in several years at the insistence of everyone in my family.  I had never had a physical before so I figured now would be as good of a time to get one as any.  However, since it had been ages since I had visited my doctor, I had to get a preliminary appointment first before I could get a physical.  Joy!  Two doctor’s visits for the price of one!
            I went in on the following Monday, retold what had happened to the nurse and the doctor, and then discussed possible outcomes.  Now, doctor visits for most vegans is a whole new blog entry, but for now let me just say I was a bit worried the topic of veganism and its viability as a healthy lifestyle would rear its head.  I was prepared for a discussion but when I mentioned it, my doctor didn’t even flinch.  He simply nodded and gave a, “Mmhmm.”  I was quite surprised but I should’ve known it wouldn’t be a big deal because my doctor had always been cool and seemed more evolved than the average doctor.  Or perhaps I’m full of shit.

My doctor, Dr. Doogie Howser.

            He did state that I probably just fainted from getting out of bed too quickly, and since I hadn’t had much water to drink that day, I was also dehydrated.  It was a perfect storm.  That eased my mind a lot.  He did want to draw some blood to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong.  I also had never had my blood drawn, as far as I knew, so this was just turning out to be all kinds of fun!  Since I also hadn’t had much water that day, drawing blood was a big process.  So what’s the real takeaway from every step of this situation?  DRINK WATER!
            I waited until my results came in and I am happy to report that I am the most amazing human being ever to walk the earth.  Okay, not quite.  I am, however, healthy.  So I have that going for me, which is nice.  No anemia, no thyroid issues, no liver or kidney problems, and no nutritional issue.  My glucose level was within normal range, which that alone is a miracle since I’ve grown up mainlining sugar into my bloodstream.  Take THAT Type-2 diabetes!
            I think the lesson is that there is no vegan completely immune to every illness and it is a lesson that I’ll have to try harder to remember.  I can still be a healthy vegan and have bad things happen.  Shit indeed does happen.  I can’t let veganism alone be my shield against bad things.  Oh, right, and drinking water also helps (repetition helps reinforce the takeaways).
            How about you all?  Any interesting doctor stories or health-related issues you’ve had to deal with as a vegan/vegetarian?  I want to see how other doctors have treated vegans.
            Until next time, keep calm and vegan on!

You can find Colleen Patrick-Goudreau on a number of social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.  DEFINITELY check out her podcast!  You can find her on Twitter at @JoyfulVegan.

The cartoon of the doctor was found using Google's image search.