Since I was eating quite a bit of pasta in the early going of my change, I ultimately decided to experiment with some faux Italian sausages and kielbasa. The polish sausage substitute was pretty darn awful, but the Italian sausage ultimately turned into a habit for me. It led to some pretty fun times, merely because I was so good at adding extra spices to the fray and making the soy based concoction taste even better, I was more than willing to accept the sticker shock. During Jon’s birthday a couple years back, one of his clients made an amazing dish out of the fake Italian sausage, so much so that I must have eaten half of it by myself. Ultimately, I gave up on the fake sausage, merely to the tune that it was making me a bit gassy and I was starting to eat too much of it! For crying out loud, instead of helping me lose weight, it was aiding in the quick reversal of adding it back on.
Now I also gave fake pepperoni a try at one point, but considering my love affair with the real thing, it proved to be a rather poor substitute. Soy cheese (or any of the fake cheeses to this point) has never really caught my taste buds, even though my tongue has fully recovered from the abuse that a meat and cheese diet can inflict. I remember the first time I tried eating the stuff, using it in a burrito of mine to replace the old days of when I would create sausage, bacon and egg burritos with a liberal helping of cheese. I threw the bag away due to the foul taste, not even bothering with the notion of giving it to someone else. I even mentioned it to a fellow vegan at Parsons, Jim, who aptly told me “I could have told you soy cheese tastes pretty awful.” Even though my older sister has really gotten in to fake cheeses and is always having me try them, they just never seem to hit the spot, no matter what the brand may promise. I think this particular detail was what really aided me in understanding addiction, that I needed cheese more than I wanted it. In a strange way, my body has pretty much set up a nice defense system for me, and unless I appease that system with my actual “smack,” I should be good in regards to maintaining a healthy diet. Even though I understand that cheese was probably the main reason for my poor eating habits, I still kind of wish there was a palatable substitute I can enjoy from time to time just in case I ever want o try some fake macaroni and cheese (which did not work out too well last time).
After being vegan for nearly three years, I kind of understand I am at a unique point in my journey, merely from a standpoint that the average person who does try a vegan diet goes back within a year. So to be going on three years, with no real sense of breaking or any legitimate thoughts of turning around, is something of a misnomer to the system. I guess this lifestyle suits me due to my anti-establishment form of thinking, feeding my inner desire to be non-conformist. At the same time however, I am also at the beginning of a new era for vegan eating, especially now that food is becoming the last true escape from the tedium of every day life. I find it kind of funny that I am seeing the early seeds for replacement food dining and mainstream vegan dining, especially since I was a part of two dying industries in my short life. When I get old and someday reminisce to a history classroom, I will get to tell the class of students, who will most likely have mechanical symbiotic additions to their bodies, about the days when movies were displayed on “film” and they were worked by machines that had a thousand different parts. I will tell them the time when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King showed up on 11 reels worth of film and it took a good two hours to put it together. Or maybe I will mention the days when I literally had a huge roll of film and I would transport those reels by myself, sometimes two at a time, across the entire theater (it was always funny when people saw me do that, for they were kind of surprised and often times loved touching the film). Nowadays, the entire industry is run by specialized DVDs and in some cases, downloaded. You no longer need to train someone how to be a projectionist anymore, for automation and the growth of technology kind of killed the need for human knowledge and scraped knuckles. This is also happening to my profession of education, where the days of print journalism will be a simple thing of the past. With the memories of these two industries being vested onto someone like myself for future keeping, it is only fitting that I be a part of a growing industry that might shape some of the food trends of the future.
Now we have all heard about the forthcoming “apocalypses,” where it seems 2050 will be the year when all things break loose and we turn into the movie “Interstellar,” hoping the crops last long enough before we all die and end up watching the “New York Yankees” in a corn field in Iowa. While the debate about what will happen in the future rages on, one thing is for certain….the United States of America is on the verge of a massive obesity epidemic. Truthfully, when you have 100 million people who are already overweight or obese, that would be considered an epidemic. But gosh darn it! This ‘murica, where we don’t fix our problems or even address them until it is nearly too late or already too late! Anyway, a lot of changes in the food industry are centering around the aspect of “clean” food as the industry is trying to cover their tracks. Personally, I think a lot of these companies purposely put nasty ingredients into their food so then they can create an “all natural” line. (but I’m not wearing my tinfoil cap at the moment, so I won’t bore you with the details). Plant based food is no different either as major entrepreneurs try to get a leg up on an infant industry. We got business school grads, who aren’t even vegan, making replacement mayonnaise and egg substitutes while also experimenting with fake meats. Of course, this new explosion in the market has made quite a few vegans happy, especially those that love the replacement food staples. Personally, I find it kind of weird that some vegans are engaging in their old habits, doing nothing more than replace the mentality they supposedly wished to expunge with a plant based replacement that is equally unhealthy. Personally, I still find it weird. One reason why I ultimately gave up on meat and dairy was the idea of minimizing animal suffering, thus replacing the old habits with newer ones. To me, eating a fake hot dog or a fake meat patty still kind of reinforces these habits, and still makes you susceptible to losing your vegan edge. Even to this day, no matter what I think or do, I kind of believe I need to stay away from pizza as much as possible. Even though there are some good options in Tucson that cater to my dietary needs, keeping a normalized routine with this food staple might give me the impetus to break my diet and go back to the unhealthy eating habits I had of old. Yeah, pizza has that effect on me.
Everyone has ideas in regards to making plant based eating much more viable, for even my friends are starting to get in on the trend. Christa Parsons, who is not only co-owner of a great all natural food bar company called P.H.Ö.D., is also getting into “renovating” unhealthy food staples with healthier, more whole food based ingredients. http://recipereno.blogspot.com/2015/01/better-butternut-soup-from-christas.html I will certainly endorse her lasagna recipe, having tried some of it well before the idea of her website ever took place. Either way, it is becoming quite commonplace for people to do this sort of thing, for many are discovering, thanks to Facebook groups and websites, some of the tricks of the trade needed to cook foods that used to be egg and dairy laden cholesterol bombs. I have been the beneficiary of some very good ideas, thanks in large part to my mother. A couple years ago, she made an amazing “Faux Meat Loaf” with the help of sweet potatoes and tofu. Not only did the loaf have a good consistency and good taste (thanks to some liquid amino acids and nutritional yeast), it made me feel like this was the type of Thanksgiving I wanted and will always want. Heck, even the unleaded mashed potatoes I had were exceptional. Then she did it again this year, making a simpler loaf out of lentils and rice (which is something I can make on my own).
Now I will admit, I have partaken in the replacement foods quest from time to time. I had an amazing Chocolate-Almond Ganache from Food For Ascension Café on my birthday, and I did eat an amazing turkey cutlet that was made by Gardein. I also went on a fact finding mission to Le Caves bakery here in Tucson, trying their Vegan Apple Fritters to see if the taste is good enough for my liking (apple fritters used to be my favorite donut, and despite the vegan friendliness, the vegan ones just don’t provide the old feelings I had from the originals much to the tune of my obsessiveness with pizza). While I still feel weird about replacement foods, I get inundated with the changes in the industry on a near daily basis. I’ve seen the story many times about the Minnesota siblings that are opening a vegan “butcher” shop in their hometown, using all sort of ingredients like beans and jackfruit (which is the vegan pulled pork du jour substitute). http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/01/siblings-opening-vegan-butcher-shop-in-minneapolis.html And of course, we have multiple entities trying to make vegan cheese much more interesting, as entrepreneurs are even hiring chemists to help them figure out a way to make cheese in varieties other than “white” and “yellow.” http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Artisanal-vegan-cheese-comes-into-its-own-6005937.php California is certainly going to be the epicenter for fine vegan cheeses, but I will hold my opinions to myself until the time comes. Heck, even tempeh is gaining traction in mainstream circles as people are learning that even though it is plant based, it is pretty good. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/weeknight-vegetarian-make-2015-the-year-of-tempeh/2015/01/05/c34d4292-8e05-11e4-a085-34e9b9f09a58_story.html
Maybe someday I will get into replacement foods, but not right now. Since I have to be contrarian in just about everything in my life, I’ll probably only like the stuff when the products are no longer considered “hot” or “unique.” But on the other hand, I’m not terribly interested anyway.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.