As I mentioned in my last blog post, I recently registered for the PAN 30 Day Vegan Pledge. Now some of you might be wondering, “But weren’t you already vegan?” In a word, “No.” I cut out meat and what I called “big dairy” two summers ago as an experiment prior to a Yoga Workshop Weekend. What I mean by “big dairy” is that I cut out foods like pizza, but I wasn’t so picky that I wouldn’t eat an almond croissant (my favorite pastry) or chocolate bar. I was still, however, eating fish and seafood. As a fitness instructor, I was a bit concerned about attempting a sudden, radical overhaul of my diet, but I also didn’t want to cause problems for my family on holidays (my Mom often orders a sushi platter as part of our holiday dinners).
Two things happened to make me think harder about eating fish and seafood. This past December, my boyfriend and I were walking through a market while traveling in Thailand. All of a sudden a fish leapt out of a bucket and hit me on the leg. I screamed, the ladies in the market laughed, and my boyfriend wished he had been filming. I just thought, “Yeah, I don’t think I need to eat that.”
But months prior to that episode I had caught an advanced screening of Cowspiracy, an extraordinarily well researched and well presented documentary on the un-sustainability of animal agriculture. As a result, I had already drastically cut back on my fish and seafood consumption even before being hit by that flying fish.
I went into the Pledge knowing that all I really needed to eliminate was pastries and … wine. I know what you’re thinking, because I had the same thought, “How can fermented grape juice not be vegan?” It turns out that most wines undergo a process called “fining” to remove sediments and other unwanted particles. And wine makers have long used animal proteins, in particular egg whites, gelatin, casein – which is derived from milk, and isinglass – obtained from the swim bladder of fish, as fining agents. Fortunately, there are vegan wines out there. In fact, I made sure to ask Tria, my favorite wine bar, which of their current selections were vegan. Lucky for me, this season’s favorite summer sipper, Txakolina Arabako, Xarmant, ‘14, is vegan. Fellow wine connoisseurs also put me on to Barnivore, a website and app that allows you to search their massive database to find out whether or not your favorite wine, beer, or liquor is vegan.
But back to the Pledge itself … as part of the pledge, we meet every Saturday for 5 weeks. The meetings include lunch and some kind of informational session, like a lecture and/or cooking demo. At the first meeting we received Goodie Bags full of coupons, a strategically chosen issue of Vegetarian Journal, cruelty-free products for our home and our bodies, and snacks. The Vegan Pledge is free, so everything in the bag was donated by this year’s sponsors.
At the meeting we were also paired with our mentors, experienced vegans to whom we can turn when we have questions or for moral support if we can’t stop dreaming about summer barbecues. I had just come from teaching an intense hour of Spinning, so I had a hard time not eating everything in my bag. Luckily, Philly’s amazing Blackbird Pizza paid us a surprise visit. I wish I had had the foresight to take photos of all the food, but I was so busy piling my plate with crackers, spreads, salads, nachos, and cookies (the pizza arrived fashionably late) that my hands were full. But I promise to take some action shots of the cooking demos in the following weeks.
All in all it’s been remarkably easy to stick to the plan this week. At times I’ve been exceptionally hungry – which lead me to wonder just how many calories I’ve been consuming in pastries and wine – but then I realized that it’s also been an exceptionally intense week in terms of fitness instruction. By Friday I was dead tired and starving, so I put together a quick dinner of pasta tossed with sautéed mushrooms and vegan pesto with some broiled zucchini on the side – which I ate before I could photograph.