Hey everyone! Welcome to Smooth Not Crunchy, a blog devoted to one person’s view (mine) on this crazypants world we live in. The title comes from the opinion most people hold of vegans that live in Boston and work for non-profits: that we all smell like patchouli, we all wear nothing but clothes made of hemp, we militantly push our food views upon all carnivores, that we unquestioningly vote liberal all the way, and that we are all pasty, scrawny weaklings.
I am none of these things, and therefore not a Crunchy Hippie. I’m a Smooth Hippie. I enjoy skyscrapers, spas, ballet, cities, bathing, hygiene, long candlelit dinners, and other fancy things. [In the interest of full disclosure, I, like most Crunchy Hippies, love me some kale. I even eat it raw. So that’s the one thing that maybe I share with all the tattooed hipster neckbeard vegans. But that’s it. I swear.]
I’m not here to change your mind about things, I’m just here to show you some of my favorite things and maybe encourage you to try something new in the process.
So, in honor of World Vegetarian Day, I give you the story of how I became vegetarian and the recipe that made my husband John decide that one could lead a rich culinary life and still be kind to animals.
I actually went vegetarian twice. The first time, I was a freshman at BC, and the dining hall contained a paralyzing smorgasbord of culinary options. I would often try something new every night. My favorite thing, however, was the build-your-own-stir-fry bar. You load a bowl with your veggies and protein, and the food prep staff would cook it to perfection.
Or, at least that was what was supposed to happen. The cooking, that is. One day, hidden underneath a puddle of sesame teriyaki sauce, a pink, slimy piece of chicken breast peaked out at me. And laughed. “REVENGE IS MINE!” said the raw chicken goo. Because I had already eaten half the plate. As my guts turned themselves inside out, the walls melted, and my stomach danced the Macarena, I thought, “I never ever want to do this again” and swore off eating any animal flesh all through college and into the year after.
After college, however, being vegetarian was really hard for me. For one, I couldn’t cook. Two, I was super broke-ass broke. Three, I lived with all guys who were all about frozen burgers and buffalo wings. So I was limited to eating pasta with sauce or cereal at almost every meal. Not surprisingly, I felt like crap. I was tired, anemic, and also having trouble making food choices when I didn’t always pay the grocery bill. So I caved, and every once in a while, I had a burger. Or a nugget. Or sushi. Okay, I went full on back into being carnivorous. And it was fine, sometimes even delicious and awesome…for a while.
When John and I moved in together, the nearest grocery store was a Whole Foods. Now, the meat at Whole Foods can be scary expensive, so I would often just buy meat substitutes or tofu and throw it in a marinade to save money. Sure, we still ate meat, but the default, due to monetary restraints (and also my fear of proper meat handling techniques) was often Da Fu. But I still enjoyed a steak when his parents took us out to dinner…
So how does one go full-throttle into herbivore land? For me, it was strange and unprompted.
One day, after John and I got engaged, everything very suddenly changed. I looked at the meat in the supermarket–the shiny, perfectly portioned and zip-locked chicken breasts, the trimmed and boneless steak tips, the bologna, and saw past the formless pinkness. Something in me switched off. I tried to pick up the package, but sighed and said, “Nope, I’m done.” The meat grossed me out. It made me sad. It gave me a small panic attack. It was no longer a health or money issue, it was an ethics issue–a personal ethics issue. No one pressured me, no one gave me guilt. I just looked at the meat case and couldn’t reconcile buying any flesh that had come from an animal, no matter how far removed in appearance it had become. I had always loved animals, but it had taken over 25 years of my life for me to connect, really connect, that medium-rare piece of filet Mignon to the big brown eyes of a cow. I always knew beef came from cows (as do most of us) but that knowledge finally mixed with my claim to be an animal lover. And like mixing orange juice and toothpaste, it left a bad taste in my mouth.
This was my own personal experience, and because it took me, a person who loved animals to begin with, so long to make this lifestyle choice, I do not wish to force my opinions on others. I know from experience that when the light gets turned on, it usually stays on, but you have to make that realization for yourself. So while I don’t force my friends and family to go veg, I do encourage them to know where their food comes from, and to try new things that may not be meat-based. After all, as that old, tired cliche goes, “you are what you eat.” So I’m a giant stalk of kale. And John is a box of Triscuits.
Back onto the subject of John, here’s the recipe that he was a fan of even when he still ate meat. It’s a vegan knock off of the McRib. Stay classy, my friends.
1.5 cups chopped onions
1.5 tsp vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance is good for this)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp salt
4 cups seitan, roughly chopped and divided (found in tubs near the tofu at Whole Foods)
2 cups bbq sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350 and oil baking sheet. Saute onions in a medium pan, combine yeast, tahini, paprika and salt in a medium bowl. Add onions and butter and combine well.
2. Put into a food processor half the mixture and 2 cups of the seitan. Set aside and repeat with the other half.
3. Form mixture into rib shapped patties about 1 in thick. Bake uncovered for 45 min., pour two cups of BBQ sauce on the ribs, increase heat to 375, and bake for 20 minutes more (until well done, edges gettin’ caramelized). Serve with extra BBQ.