90% Vegan Plus

“A lot of people draw the line distinctly: ‘I either eat this way or only eat that way. For me it’s not a clear-cut hard line path. I enjoy a primarily plant-based diet, but I’m curious about food and other ingredients. The line shifts in the sand for me a lot.” - Joseph Shuldiner

“A lot of people draw the line distinctly: ‘I either eat this way or only eat that way,’” he says. “For me personally it’s not a clear-cut hard line path. I enjoy a primarily plant-based diet, but I’m curious about food and other ingredients. The line shifts in the sand for me a lot.” – Joseph Shuldiner

When I started my 21 days of Vegan Plus experiment back in August 2012, I had no idea what a life-changing experience it would be, and still is. That’s right — 20 weeks later and I’m still upholding up a vegan plus lifestyle.

Well, sorta. So some candidness.

I eat mollusks, shellfish, and fish.

When you go out to eat with friends, it’s damn hard to find something on the menu that is meat, dairy, egg, gluten, and sugar-free. As a compromise, I’m ok with enjoying the least offensive food — mollusks, shellfish, and fish (in that order).

Why mollusks first?

To be fair, mollusks is a pretty broad term. There are gastropods like snails, and bivalves like clams and oysters, and cephalopods like squid and octopus. And not all mollusks are as sustainably harvested, or protein and B12 rich. My mollusks of choice are clams, and if I’m feeling dangerous — calamari (fried squid). I think I have consumed at least a ton of scrumptious calamari atop a Verde salad (no cheese).

I drink beer (a.k.a liquid gluten).

Drinking alcohol seems to be an important part of my friends’ and colleagues’ social life. So if everyone is ordering a beer, I’ll usually join in on a round. I’m already a Prius-driving, vegan-eating, tree-hugging, Vespa-scootering, Obama-voting, sports-disliking atheist; the very least I can do is drink a hoppy IPA to blend in a little.

Once monthly, I go hog-wild.

  • In September, I indulged in veggie cheese pizza and beer after completing my annual cycling challenge (100 miles across 2 days). In my mind these two things cancelled each other out zero sum
  • .

  • In October, I cherished ostrich medallions at my brother’s birthday dinner. I would wager that ostrich is the best animal meat in the universe. Then again, I haven’t eaten aliens (unless you consider octopus aliens of the deep, because we probably should start preparing for the invasion).
  • In November, I was peer-pressured into a Thanksgiving dinner with roasted chicken and buttery mashed potatoes.
  • In December, I was forced by fork and knives to consume a Christmas dinner of beef tenderloin, broccoli casserole (covered in cheese), green beans (with bacon), and peanut butter pie (with cream cheese and flour crust).

There is a method to this full-on meat, dairy, and gluten gluttony, however.

  • I make myself horribly sick. I can recall with vivid detail how I’ve felt after each of these meals. I couldn’t eat for 24 hours after, and I spent most of my time in loose-fitting pants or pajamas. It takes a full 30 days before I start crazing this food again.
  • I satisfy cravings that have marinated for 30 days. It’s amazing how far that one overzealous meal will take me. For weeks after I often don’t want to look or smell meat or dairy.
  • I discover who is supportive of this experiment. On several occasions I’ve had my friends and family support this now long-term experiment. Some only suggest (read: tempt) us with vegetarian or vegan-centric restaurants. And some go all vegan-crazy, preparing entire 3 or 4-course vegan meals, even when they have never even made a vegan dish in their life! Often, they aren’t even clear what “vegan” means (plant-based foods), what contains gluten (wheat!), and why dairy is also of concern (casein!).

I’ve had a couple of people tell me that there is no such thing as “90% vegan”. These purists, in my opinion, embrace all the faults found in a religious fundamentalist. Diet, like life, isn’t black or white. I’m not living like I’ve already arrived at the Vegan Nirvana destination. Rather, this is part of my journey. Four months ago I couldn’t go a single day without eating meat, dairy, gluten, or sugar or sugar-substitutes. Now, I often go days or weeks.

Let the journey continue.

7 thoughts on “90% Vegan Plus

  1. This is when I wish you and Eric lived in the same city. I am not as supportive as I could be (although, I couldn’t tell you the last time we actually bought bread, pasta, or milk for the house – eggs are very rare and cheese is a once every 6 month choice), but I try my best. In our household, this can mean once a week preparing two different dinners, but for the most part it’s better to go 75% vegan. For the most part, Eric’s colleagues have seem to accept Eric’s choice and go out of their way to help make sure he is included if they go out for lunch / dinner.

    We also watched Forks Over Knives and the docko had the same impact on Eric, who (except for these past two weeks – holidays!) has significantly limited his meat intake. Our cheat is salmon sashimi – we both can’t get enough of it (when it’s available).

    As I have wedding dress to get ready for, I’m going to more solidly embrace reduced meat as well as continued severe limiting of bread, milk, cheese and eggs. I find it’s more about changing buying habits. Once you stop reaching for the same things you’ve been eating for the past 10 years, it gets easier.

    PS Look for gluten free / vegan treats in Vegas – for sure!!!

    • Courtney: My original post was going to be called “What’s in your Pantries”, and included a photo of our pantry before and after this experiment. So yes, changing your buying habits and not even introducing the stuff into your house forces you to make better decisions when you start to cook. If you don’t have meet, dairy, cheese, or flour in your house, you won’t make anything with it. The harder part is when dining out. Vegan Plus limits me to one or two options on the menu, and often they aren’t very healthy themselves (e.g., french fries, tortilla chips, calamari). Rule of thumb is if it’s a veggie, it’s going to be covered in cheese. I do partially blame the chefs there are tons of delicious vegan meals, and plenty of people would eat them not even knowing that. However, I don’t think many chefs are experienced cooking sustainably; rather, they are experienced in adding butter, cheese, and sugar to everything in replacement of the taste of fresh, IMO.

      If you embraced a vegan plus diet for 30 days, you would see a lose of 10 lbs like I did. It’s hard to overeat when your calories are no longer dense.

  2. Pingback: Vegan Freak | Ruminations From a Redhead

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  4. Love this. I’m 99% vegan but also indulge in mollusks and shrimp on occasion. Tired of vegan “purist” saying I shouldn’t label myself vegan. We should all be proud of every stride we make to more natural living and balance it with the conventionalities we are bombarded with daily.

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