Vegan versus Local and Spring Cleaning

I’ve been thinking a lot about plant based diets versus mostly local diets lately.  I am interested, as I’ve mentioned before, in experimenting more with vegan cooking.  I can’t see myself becoming vegan but I would like to eat a lot less animal based food.  This is a serious challenge for me because cheese exists.  One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of vegan cooking is that it uses a lot more tropical ingredients than I use in my cooking.  Great sauces can be made using cashews.  I LOVE cashews.  I haven’t had a cashew in years because they only come from places like India.  No one in the states grows them.  (If I’m wrong, please correct me!).  Coconut is huge in vegan cooking (also in other cooking, it’s just huge).  My one consistent tropical splurge is avocados.  I can’t live without them unless I’m forced to.  A less frequent treat is coconut milk for curries and soups.  I never use mangoes (cause I don’t like ‘em) or dried coconut or dates or bananas or pineapple.  What bothers me is that most of the really enticing looking vegan dishes call for things I can’t get locally.  I love a lot of those things (besides mangoes and papayas) but to me it’s important to eat as locally as I can without being fanatical.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about that.  My mom is talking about wanting to go vegan for a year.  I thought about joining her in this challenge.  Except that I don’t believe in giving up honey and I can’t see myself insisting on eating vegan out or at friends’ houses where they aren’t also vegan.  So right off the bat I’d be doing a bastardization of a vegan challenge.  I haven’t decided how I feel about it.  I plan to check out some vegan cookbooks for inspiration and to help make up my mind.

In other news around the farm house…spring cleaning took a break for the dread tax season.  We’ve  been done with taxes for two weeks but had to recover from the horrible discovery that we both need part time second jobs to pay our taxes off.  Nice.  But now that it’s well into April it’s time to pick up momentum in the spring cleaning department.  I should probably get some actual cleaning done too.  I’ve been concentrating on getting rid of stuff.  I’m about 15 boxes lighter of stuff than I was in February when this all began.  Not bad.  It’s time for the next sweep.

What to focus on:

  • The scary garage.  We’ve got office stuff out there, tools, junk with no name, junk I’m too embarrassed to name, old bottles of garden sprays probably 3 years past expiration, and random crap.  The garage is the one place I haven’t made a first pass at yet.  I’m scared.  May require beer.
  • Second sweep through my closet.  I got rid of two boxes of stuff but I think I can fill one more box before I’m done with it.
  • Magazines.  I have a few to get rid of.  I don’t buy mags much these days but I have accumulated a number of them.
  • Plastics in the kitchen.  We have been slowly accumulating all glass containers for left overs and lunches.  I haven’t yet cleaned out the plastics no longer in use.
  • Random other kitchen stuff.  There are some baking dishes I just never use.  Some utensils and various other random things.  Parts to equipment I no longer have.  An old salad spinner without a lid.  I know these things are in there.  Why are they still in there?

Anyone else doing some spring cleaning?  What are you clearing out?  Any thoughts on vegan versus local eating?  Please share!

8 thoughts on “Vegan versus Local and Spring Cleaning

  1. angelina Post author

    I love that word too. That and “whore”. I can’t seem to work whore into my life very often without being actually offensive. I suppose I shouldn’t like it because I’m a woman and it’s used in such a derogatory manner most of the time, but there’s something about it that I just love.

  2. NM

    I am not vegan — we eat a lot of eggs — but do cook without dairy, except when making something just for husband. I love cashews, but we hardly ever eat them, except once in a rare while, roasted. (Thai curry cashews also a recent, wildly expensive, ridiculously good, discovery. For rare indulgence)
    I use soy milk, sometimes coconut creamer if I can’t get to somewhere that sells my favorite soy creamer, and sometimes almond milk, but not in huge quantities. I don’t really think we rely heavily on tropicals. Apart from chocolate! Well, and spices, coffee and tea.
    For years, I made and used a lot of oat milk for cooking with, but that went by the wayside somewhere along the line. Now I mostly just use water. Or soy milk.
    It really doesn’t seem difficult at all, by this time (it’s been several years), and much of my cooking repertoire is quite similar to the old one. And very non-exotic; husband not being a fan of the exotic. Though I do cook with butter, so that removes the solid fat issue. There’s also Earth Balance margarine, my favorite butter substitute, which I dropped when I got tired of eating laboratory food instead of real. It worked fine, though. Also palm oil shortening and coconut oil, both of which I still keep on hand, but seldom use any more.
    I seldom make white sauces anymore, mostly because soy substitutes aren’t wonderful, and I can’t be bothered to make nut sauces. Vegetable pot pie does contain a roux made with onions, mushrooms, whole wheat flour and water. And oil or butter, probably depending on which happens to be closer to my hand.
    We eat a lot of tomato-based foods — spaghetti, especially, and I add a vegan, Oregon-made soy sausage that I love. Lots of pizza, too, often with sauteed kale. Chard calzone, with a little bit of tomato sauce on top. Lots and lots of soup, made with water or stock. Lots of potatoes, in many forms. A bit of tofu, usually in the form of homemade tofu bacon.
    Many of the non-egg-based meals we eat are therefore vegan, or could be made so by removing the butter. Often, there are two pans, and husband’s has cheese added, but not always. Mashed potatoes I make with soy creamer. Also pumpkin pie. Haven’t so far tried substituting water for either, but probably should.
    I almost always substitute water for dairy products in baking, sometimes with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar, for acidity. For several years, I played with substituting ground flax seed for eggs. It does work, but these days, I just use eggs, especially since I can get really good ones locally, so easily. (Storebought ones are not worth eating, in my opinion, even beyond the horrific animal abuse issues). Scones don’t require eggs at all, and are something I make often. Flax seed is grown in Oregon, and can be ordered online, along with, Oregon-grown wheat, flour, barley and rolled oats.
    Hope any of that is helpful.

  3. angelina Post author

    NM – I was thinking of talking to you more about this. I am going to have to look into this more. I think the problem for me is that if I don’t need cheese I need something in my diet that has that same luscious quality. Coconut milk is certainly one of them. I could probably eat a ton of curry-coconut milk stir fries and not miss cheese too much. If I have a constant supply of avocados I could enjoy things like veggie burgers without cheese. My friend Sid did point out to me that the environmental footprint of dairy is much higher than it is for things like cashews. If not buying dairy – and the things I feel I need to eat to still enjoy food are not local – it may be a wash in terms of sustainability. Research is needed. I was considering simply doing no dairy, rather than vegan. I won’t make any decision fast. Things are so nuts right now and stressful, I must get to a slightly more calm period if I plan to do an actual challenge.

    In terms of sustainability I actually think chickens and eggs can be raised both humanely and sustainably. I buy my eggs mostly from families who have lots of chickens rather than from actual poultry businesses. Dairy is the bigger issue for me. My end goal is pretty clear – I just want to reduce my dairy eating by about 75%. I don’t plan to give it up 100%. But if I did it for a year it would force me to learn to cook without it. I think it would be a great way to stretch and improve my cooking skills.

  4. NM

    Yes, stress creates great craving for comfort food!
    I do think having to give up dairy improved my cooking, and just gave me perhaps a better understanding of it, and made me more creative. Before, it was too easy to just fall back on cheese. You already are pretty intuitive and thoughtful about your cooking, though.
    Coconut milk curries are divine. Sadly, husband does not care for curry in any form. I’m kind of surprised by how little I miss dairy products. Potatoes are comfort food for me, and eggs, and bread products.
    I do sometimes crave something really creamy — occasionally I use tofu cream cheese (even for cheesecake!) Sometimes I make myself custard for a treat, with eggs and soy milk. Especially creamy with duck eggs. Not that soy is great, in the current agricultural climate, either, so I don’t use tons of it, but it’s awfully good food. And I love custard. And pumpkin pie, though I don’t make it often.
    For a real indulgence, coconut milk ice cream!
    Veggie burgers are seldom part of my life anymore. Tofu bacon helps them out quite a lot though, along with tomatoes and avocados. And I do use some fake cheese. It is not cheese, though.

  5. angelina Post author

    We love love love tofu here and have switched to using organic 99% of the time because so much soy is being grown using GMO seed. BOOOOOO. Potatoes! I LOVE potatoes!!!! However, most ways I like to eat them involve dairy. Sheesh. I love them roasted and I can really enjoy them roasted without any cheese or sour cream but I nearly always have my potatoes with dairy when there’s dairy around. That’s exactly why I’m contemplated going dairy free in my cooking for a while. It’s just so easy to grab the dairy. Why should I go cheese free if there’s cheese in the fridge?

    Something else I was thinking is that if I went dairy free I’d need a new set of dressings in my arsenal. I want to make a homemade version of Annie’s Goddess dressing. I’ve been eating more salads without cheese on them lately with that dressing – it brings that same umami flavor that cheese usually imparts. I usually don’t use thick dressings but it may really make up for no cheese. Dressings based on tahini or avocado (although I’m loath to put avocado into a dressing when it’s so much better to just eat on the salad in it’s natural state). Anyway, I must look into that.

    Obviously Max will be exempt if I do this.

  6. NM

    Keep forgetting to tell you that I made a batch of your basil dressing in October, and it kept in the fridge til spring, when I finally ran out. Much winter happiness!

  7. B.

    Good luck on your vegan efforts! I’m sure I couldn’t go without dairy….you’re right about cheese being too delicious to give up easily. :o) But I suppose they’re coming up with great substitutes for things all the time, & that includes cheeses.

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