Chavalina’s Vegan Challenge–Day 1 (1/1/2012)

Today was a new day, new year! Apocalyptic predictions aside, I’m expecting a lot of great things from 2012: New career opportunities, lots of travel ahead… but that’s all for later. The focus today is on my vegan challenge and spending the first week of 2012 cruelty free.

Breakfast: Given my late night last night, I slept in a little bit longer on Sunday morning than I usually do. This presented me with an unexpected opportunity. I had planned a simple breakfast, but given that it was a holiday and a beautiful morning in Tucson, why not try something new for the new year?

Lovin’ Spoonfuls is an all-vegan restaurant here in Tucson that is close to my house and that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I’m embarrassed to admit that, even in spite of endorsements from my non-vegetarian friends, in three and a half years I’d never quite made it there. After reading their breakfast menu online, I decided that was going to change today.

The place pleasantly surprised me by being, well, normal. I’m not sure what image “vegan restaurant” conjured in my mind, but on the surface the restaurant could pass for any nice café or diner anywhere in the country. Booths and tables, beverage fountains, and a display case of wonderful looking deserts. The difference is in the menu, which proudly declares itself to be 100% vegan and offers breakfast options ranging from the traditional (pancakes, bagels, and toast) to the unexpected (soy chorizo and vegan cheese). While several options looked tempting, I settled on the vegan French toast with a side of apple sauce and a cup of coffee (organic and fair trade).

You mean THIS is vegan???

If I hadn’t known this dish was vegan, I wouldn’t have guessed. It was delicious. I haven’t had real maple syrup or apple sauce since I can’t remember when, and it felt good to start the year off with a meal I truly felt good about. Some of the reviews I’ve read of this restaurant complained that it’s overpriced. It cost me about $10 for all of this and, arguably, I could have made the meal myself for less (I assume, if I’d taken the time to find vegan French toast recipes). However, on a holiday, it was nice to have something special. Also, I believe that it’s worth it to pay more for food that you know is produced responsibly and with quality. I know there are many out there who feel differently and, for those that do, the Egg McMuffin is available right up the street.

Snack Time: After leaving the restaurant, I went back home to take care of things around the house. Sunday is also football day, and I wanted to settle in and watch a game. By early afternoon I was hungry again, but I had anticipated this and planned for a snack. Some smoked almonds and a beer (verified vegan by Barnivore) helped me get through the afternoon.

Dinner: My workout for the day was a 2.5-mile walk around the neighborhood, and though this was less rigorous than my normal workouts, I was starving by dinnertime. My dinner for this evening was an Indian dish, Vegetable Jalfrezi, which unlike some other Indian cooking sauces does not contain yogurt or cream. In fact the ingredients list is refreshingly simple: garlic, onions, pepper, oil, and spices. I cooked up some chunks of onion and bell pepper, then simmered them in the sauce with some sliced tomatoes and asparagus that I roasted separately and added at the last minute. This is a dish I would normally make for myself with some chicken added in, but I really liked the addition of the roasted asparagus. It added some flavor, buttery but with a little oven-charred crisp, and provided a nice texture contrast to the other vegetables. I served the entire mixture over rice and ate it with a few tortilla pieces. I would have loved to eat this with some naan, but sadly I realized yesterday on my trip through the freezer that my Trader Joe’s frozen naan contains yogurt. Dessert was another piece of tortilla with all-natural chunky peanut butter, and tea.

How I Felt Today: I did spend a lot of the day hungry, which concerns me because I’ll be burning more calories on days when I’m running or going to the gym. Adding more protein to my breakfast tomorrow might help with this, as I usually eat high-protein foods in the morning to keep me going.

I’ve also been doing some more research today, and found out that a couple of food items that I have in the house which I couldn’t track down info for yesterday are, in fact, not vegan. This will require me to re-evaluate my meals for the week, and is a bit frustrating and discouraging. I’m surprised that some food labeling is so ambiguous! Cheers to the brands who clearly label their foods as “Vegan” or “Vegetarian” and provide an intelligible list of ingredients; I’m surprised that in this day and age there are still manufacturers who don’t. “May contain 2% or less of the following?” What does that even mean? You could put almost anything in that category: bits of panda, shards of glass. In spite of this, I’m trying to maintain my positive spirit about the experiment. What I ate today wasn’t totally “normal” for me, but it was very tasty. Today proved to me that I can eat vegan and still feel like I have something to look forward to at mealtimes.

On to Day 2!

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