Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Vegan Treats Wedding Cupcake Tasting Extravaganza of 2008


Alright. I'm sick - have a nasty sinus infection, mmm yummy. But I had already arranged for Vegan Treats to be bringing me a box of tasting cupcakes today. Seeing as they're in Pennsylvania and had baked special goods for me, what was I to do but trudge into the city with my sick-ass self and make it happen?

Ahh, but before the cupcakes, you need backstory.

In case you don't know about them, Vegan Treats is this amazing little bakery outside of Philadelphia (in a tiny town called Bethlehem, to be precise). They do very well in the New York market, supplying all sorts of delicious cakes (and donuts too!) to vegetarian restaurants and delis across Manhattan. Ages ago I'd figured out that they also do big fancy event cakes... like the cakes one tends to see at weddings. So when we decided it was time to start finding our baker, of course they sprung to mind. While several bakeries around the area will make a vegan wedding cake, our first choice would be to support an all-vegan business. But, of course, the cakes would have to be up to par.

So it was that one Friday not long ago, I sent off an email inquiring as to whether a tasting for wedding cakes could be done in the city, or if we would need to make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. (Sadly, their website has been new-site-coming-soon'd for approximately forever; otherwise I might have been able to glean this information from it.) A response came quickly - that Saturday, actually - from a nice guy who'll we'll call M. He sounded pretty together, and let me know several things: that their wedding cakes are the same recipes as the cakes they sell to the shops around the city; that they could send a set of tasting cupcakes to me with one of their normal Tuesday NYC shipments; that a standard tasting set would include vanilla, chocolate, lemon, coconut, and red velvet.

I wrote back to M that Sunday telling him it all sounded great, and asking the following: 1. if we could do cupcakes on Tuesday, the 30th; 2. if frosting flavors are intrinsically linked to cake flavors or if combinations are flexible; and 3. if there was an almond flavored cake we could try.

By Wednesday, I still hadn't heard back from him. Now, I don't think it's unreasonable of me to expect a response within one or two business days when we're talking about business transactions; I've got standards. Also, at that point I was still under some sort of delusion that I might be employed by this week, so I was a bit stressed about figuring out if we were doing the cupcake thing the following Tuesday, and if so at what time I might be able to meet up with the delivery truck. I sent a short, polite email saying that I just wanted to make sure M had gotten my Sunday email, and that as I was sure this is a busy time for them if they needed to do the cupcakes another week that was fine, just to let me know.

I heard back late the next night; M said that they needed my phone number to give to the delivery guy, but that otherwise it should be a go. Sadly, no answers to my questions about the cakes.

On the following Saturday, the 27th, I received an email from him saying that my cupcakes were already baked, so they'd definitely be on Tuesday's shipment. I can't say I was thrilled to hear that my cupcakes would be three days old when I got them, but so it goes. He further informed me that he had "no idea of time frames or anything to do with the deliveries", and that if I needed any more info about how to meet up with the driver I'd need to call the bakery. He was pretty sure that the driver would call me about an hour before he was ready to meet me. So, basically, I needed to just be in the city on Tuesday, at the ready.

So at this point I'm thinking, really? We're talking about me special ordering a cake from you people that will easily cost between $400 and $500, and this is all the professionalism you can muster? I want to believe that certainly for the actual delivery of a wedding cake, theoretically on the wedding day, they're a little more together - but who knows? While I sorely wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, a late or otherwise errant wedding cake delivery is not something I want to be dealing with on a day that will be stressful no matter what. I need any vendors that I'm shelling out for to be as on top of their shit as I would be if I was doing that job - a tall order, to be sure, but that's why they're getting paid.

OK. So. Tuesday rolls around, and of course my plans for the day are smashed because I'm sick in bed. I spend the morning trying to get my doc to call in some antibiotics for me, which eventually works but not without serious pains - my insurance won't cover a visit, and I can't swing the $250 out of pocket right now, especially when I know damn well that he'll spend three minutes talking to me and then tell me what I already know and hand me the prescription that he could have just called in anyway. But that's a whole other story, isn't it?

Point being that at 1:20 pm I was still in bed, and I got a call. And it was the Vegan Treats truck driver, saying that he'd be by Curly's Vegetarian Lunch (a place I'd mentioned as a possible rendezvous spot) in about an hour, and would that work for me? Why sure, why not. So I hauled my sick ass outta bed, and because the train gods were with me today I actually made it down there about 20 minutes before he did. He was on time, and very pleasant, and not the stoned dread-headed hippy I'd heard rumored to be their delivery guy.

Having successfully retrieved my cupcaketastings, I couldn't help myself from immediately looking in the box. After the lack of detail imparted from fractured emailing, I wasn't even sure that they'd be iced. Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the box and came face to face with these miniature sugary perfections:



Of course I wouldn't eat them until I got home to Jonathan, and what with my condition and all I hadn't actually eaten anything yet anyway, and cupcakes were probably not the right way to start. Transporting them home, I was desperately afraid the entire time of smooshing them - I'm so good at destroying pretty things. So I gingerly held the little box close to my chest from 14th street all the way back up to Astoria.

* * *

Fastforward six hours. I've had a nap. Jon has come home from work, and he's had a nap too. I have eaten a large bowl of spicy thai soup with noodles, and am feeling a good bit more human. Knowing that the cupcakes are already three days old (and trying not to be at all grossed out by that), we know we must eat them tonight.

* * *

First up: Red velvet. And while the presentation was beautiful, the cake was slightly lackluster. It sure was red, but where was the flavor? Jon claimed that it was slightly dry, which I didn't fully agree with but accredited to the three-day-old-ness. Anyway, we're both from the south, and I myself make a damn good vegan red velvet cupcake; it's going to be pretty hard to pull a red velvet over on either one of us.

* * *

Second in line: Coconut. The cake was significantly more flavorful, having a distinct coconuteyness all its own apart from the coconut frosting with coconut shreds. Again Jon cried dryness; he's one that likes to eat his cake separate from the icing, and claims that these cakes depend on the fat of the (extremely sugary) topping to carry them, which just doesn't work out with his eating scheme at all. I of course agree that the cake should be able to stand on its own, without frosty embellishment.

* * *

Number three: Vanilla with vanilla. This little golden cake was topped with an impressive frosting beehive that for some reason struck me as having an imperial air. Unfortunately, it fit more into the "bland, boring" sort of definition of vanilla rather than the "seed pod of an exotic orchid" variety - the cake was cake flavored, the frosting was frosting/butter flavored. Sweet and tasty, but nothing like the melt-in-your-mouth delectable that we're all dreaming of in a wedding cake.

* * *

Last but possibly most: Chocolate with chocolate mousse. By far the most impressive presentation, I took the most pictures of this bad boy. Chocolate cakelet with a scoop of chocolate mousse on top, that covered in chocolate ganache and topped with a pretty little chunk of gold flecked chocolate - a death by chocolate situation to be sure. Much like their "peanut butter bomb" cake, though, it's more like death by sugar: we all know I have a massive sweet tooth, but man, that mousse could put anyone over the edge.

* * *

So yeah, four cupcakes, despite the fact that I was originally told of five flavors and had requested a sixth. No lemon, no almond. Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

And so, what to make of our first vegan cake-tasting venture? Well. I truly appreciate the effort that went into the presentation of the cupcakes for us. They were absolutely stunningly beautiful. I do wish that the communication had been more clear and timely, and that the delivery had been better organized; the lassez-faire attitude just doesn't work for me when it comes to major wedding considerations. As for the cakes themselves, when I originally contacted Vegan Treats I knew what their restaurant cakes were like. I was hoping, though, that they had something maybe a bit more refined for their event cakes. Alas, it is not so.

The end verdict? I'm happy that Vegan Treats does so well in the city. Their cakes are delicious and awesome, and a slice of one is just right after a breakfast burrito at Curly's. But in this case they just don't hit the mark. As much as I'd love to give them my business, it's important to me to have a truly gourmet wedding cake that will blow our guests away - not one that simply looks beautiful on the outside, but tastes like something we baked ourselves.

One possibility that did occur to me though: did you see how beautiful those cupcakes were? Perhaps, perhaps, instead of a groom's cake, beautiful mini cupcakes? Just a thought. A cakelet kind of thought. Cakelets, cakelets, everywhere... I think I'm delirious from sugar. Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Viva vs. Vinnie's: The Teese Cheese Question

Yes poppets, it's time for the faceoff of the century, the pizza-by-the-slice question we've all been asking ourselves for months now: where to go for a slice with that new vegan sensation, Teese? will it be Viva Herbal, longstanding vegetarian proprietor in the East Village? Or that edgy newcomer, Vinnie's pizza, a meat loving but vegan friendly hip spot in hipper than hip Williamsburg? Let's meet our contestants!

OK, really, I just can't keep the boxing match thing up.

The facts are as such: the man and I have had slices several times at both of these establishments, and each is now offering the soon-to-be-famous Teese cheese. We love both of these places, partly because both feel like typical New York pizza joints. But each parlor has a very different approach to pizza in general, and unsurprisingly each has quite a different take on how to use this new vegan wonder.

Let us first take Viva Herbal, located on Second Avenue between 11th and 12th streets. Viva is an all vegetarian restaurant, which is something I truly value. While they do have dairy items, you never have to worry about accidentally ending up with real sausage in your calzone, and that peace of mind makes for a more pleasant dining experience. I also quite like their food. It tends more toward hippie/healthy type ingredients like whole wheat, cornmeal, and spelt crusts topped with miso herbed tofu and hempseed and mushrooms. The Zen, the Magic Mushroom, and the Picante are probably my favorite pies there. Before Teese came along, we never really bothered with cheese on these; they don't need them, and I don't think the soy cheese they had was vegan - more on that later.

On somewhat the other end of the spectrum (and on the other side of the river) we find Vinnie's Pizzaria, a little place on Bedford that I've rambled about before. Not at all a vegetarian restaurant, it's really easy to walk past this place without realizing it has anything to offer to vegan patrons. But, lo and behold - each evening they have several "special" vegan pie varieties in addition to their normal stock of vegan options. Go figure, right? But that's Williamsburg for you. They also have this awesome little two-seater booth nestled in the front window, which is where I was sitting when I took this picture.

And so. As we all know, in the past months Teese has taken the vegan world by storm. Why? Because, well, cheese may be the single biggest "issue" in vegan cuisine. One of the most common responses to a declaration of veganism is, "oh, I could never give up cheese." Aggravatingly, most "dairy-free" cheeses on the market aren't vegan; they still contain caesin, that magical protein that makes cheese act like cheese. They're marked to the lactose intolerant crowd, not to us. And of the actual vegan cheeses on the market, most of them just suck. We have Follow Your Heart, and that stuff is awesome (both the cheeses and the vegenaise). But the cheese is difficult to shred, has to be taken up to near-volcanic temperatures to melt, and for reasons that I don't completely understand none of the pizza places were really using it.

Enter Teese and Chicago Soydairy's aggressive advertising campaign, and suddenly vegan pizza everywhere is popping up with cheese on it. We'd only just heard of Teese when we saw a sign declaring its orderability in Viva. Deciding to waste no time getting up on that, we ordered a piece of the vegan Picante with Teese, Please. The results:

Ta da! Big round dots-o-cheese. Not exactly melted in any way, despite the time in the oven. But tasty nonetheless.

As you can see, at Viva a "slice" is actually like a quarter of a pizza; our usual tactic for dinner there is to order to slices and have each cut in half, as we've done here. (On the right is the Zen, Teese-less.) Very economical.

After our first Teese experience, we were curious to find out what else was being done with the stuff. We'd heard through our Brooklyn grapevine that they were already using it over at Vinnie's, so we wasted little time in heading south.

Now, as I've expounded upon before, I'm ambivalent about patronizing meat-selling businesses. On the one hand, I don't want to support them in any way, which is why I'm vegan in the first place. On the other hand, when they do things like sell vegan pizza, I feel that I should encourage that. It's complicated, and often comes down to a business-by-business decision rather than a blanket one. Yes, they sell meat, but getting a slice there is not exactly the same as getting a veggie burger at McDonalds, know what I mean?

Anyway. For being a primarily meat-eating establishment, the variety of vegan stuffs at Vinnie's on any given evening can be positively stunning. The last time we were there we had chicken bacon cheddar bbq - at that point they were actually using follow your heart, though not very much of it. This visit we made two selections: Hawaiian (!) and some kinda crazy thing with macaroni on it - I don't remember what they called it. But I believe this is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words. Naturally, both had Teese. At any rate, here's the result:

Once again, not very much cheese. Tasty pizzas though.

* * *

So, what's the verdict in the Teese Pizza Faceoff of 2008? I think this one's gonna be a mixed judgment.

1) In the serving size category, the winner is Viva all the way. Both in size of slice and quantity of cheese, they absolutely blow Vinnie's out of the water.

2) In the areas of creativity and ingredient use, we're gonna have to go with Vinnie's. Macaroni on pizza? Vegan Hawaiian? Come on. Where else are you gonna find that stuff? Nowhere!

3) As far as presentation of Teese goes, I'm gonna have to call both places losers! I believe this to be a fine product, but if its sellers don't take the time to melt it proper(in the case of Viva), or won't give you enough of it to even really know it's there (Vinnie's), then they are not doing it justice. Step up guys! You're charging extra for it anyway.

Overall, both Teese experiences were good. But could have been so much better if the proprietors had tried a little harder. This is one cheese lovin' vegan girl who hopes they'll both work a little bit harder and get it right. The vegan community of NYC deserves a good slice once in a while, and sometimes we want it with cheese.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baking Mania Part Two: The Verdict

Alright. I know you've all been clinging to the edge of your seats since last night, but you can relax now. I'm here to tell you how it all came out. (Collective deep breath, anticipatory giggles and waves of excitement roll through the crowd.)

Project one: The gingerbread. It is gingerbready goodness. Dense and moist and chewy and spicy. Basically just what I was looking for. I cut it in a sort of pinwheel formation - cut the square in quarters, and then each quarter on the diagonal - so that if we eat it in the right order it will just get more and more cute. Man, am I lonely.

Project two: The snack bars. Initial indicators are good. I tried cutting them when they were too cold, and... well, it's sort of like trying to cut hard candy. It more just shatters. But the chunks I sampled were mighty tasty. So once it warms up a little bit I should be able to render the remaining portions in bar form. Tasty tasty bar form.

Project three: The fudge. Here is the recipe, as stolen directly from Yeah, that "Vegan" Shit. Looks like the original recipe is modified from a blog called "Have cake, will travel".

INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 T. rum
  • 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips (melt them and cool them down after measuring the amount)
  • 1 c. cashews (chop them after measuring the amount)
DIRECTIONS
  • prepare an 8×8 baking pan with some parchment paper for minimal cleanup.
  • whisk your rum together with the sugar. throw in cashews. add chocolate, stir well.
  • pour in your prepared baking pan, grab an extra piece of parchment paper and press down with a spatula [or your not-too-warm hands] on top of the extra parchment to level the fudge.
  • place in fridge for at least a couple of hours.
  • remove from pan, remove parchment paper and cut your fudge the way it’s never been cut before. the size of the pieces is up to you!
Now, I made my fudge. And my fudge is gooood. But boy is it alcoholic. My fudge needs rehab; AlAnon is not gonna do it. And I'm looking at the recipe, and I'm wondering. I saw "6 T. rum", and I remembered my home ec. class in the eighth grade, and I said to myself "big T means Tablespoon!" So in went six tablespoons of rum - over half a cup. Looking at the lifted recipe, for whiskey peanut fudge, it too has a big T. But I just have to be skeptical. Changing to teaspoons would effectively reduce the liquid content by two thirds, and I can't help but think that that would have an effect on the consistency. I'm just not sure. I'm too green with fudge to know! I guess I'll just get drunk and sugar-high on my rummy cashew cocoa goodness and wonder about it all.

Oh, and about that parchment paper? Yeah, highly suggested.

* * *

In other news, it's 12:30 and Jonathan still isn't home yet. Last night was the first night I've spent without him in, oh, forever. Not a surprise though; we knew he'd be on site all night. It just sucks. Have I mentioned that I hate the busy season?

Baking Maniac!

Well it's happened. It's the first day of fall, and I've gone into domestic hysterics. This evening Jonathan is at work (again), and I have a need to to create comforting treats that is so great as to supersede all other needs entirely. Except for maybe, like, breathing.

{A note on Jonathan's absence: I know what you're thinking. But no, he is neither an internationally famous neurosurgeon nor a Russian spy. He simply works in the event industry. "The Season", as it were, begins the day after Labor Day (no white = big parties, et cetera), so right now we're in the thick of it. Fashion week, Google doing some kind of damn roll out in Grand Central the same week the president is in town, the mayor speaking at some schmancy shindig at the Gugenheim - all manner of stupidity. This is what takes my Jon from me. But enough about that. Let's talk about baked goods.}

Project one: Gingerbread! Yes. Absolutely nothing better than a big amazing pan of fluffy wonderful gingerbread. I'm doing my 9x9, the recipe I developed during last year's gingerbread bakeoff. It's really quite wonderful... assuming it comes out like it did last time. It's in the oven now, and I can smell it.

Project two: Yes, simultaneously I am making something else. I'm making those cereal snack bars again that I made on Thursday. Except this time I'm making them with (sort of) the right ingredients. They're cooling in the fridge now and they look quite pretty, composed of chex, some kind of generic chex party mix, broken up pretzels, and peanuts. As for sugars, dark corn syrup again and turbinado sugar, since it has to be melted in a pot anyway. I find it's too large grain to use in oil or butter based recipes like cookies, but when there's enough water involved or if you boil, turbinado all the way.

Project three: I really want to make the rum cashew fudge that I found on Yeah, that "Vegan" Shit - my new favorite blog. Doesn't it just sound amazing? Just contemplate it. Rum Cashew Fudge. But I don't have parchment paper, and my 9x9 pan is in use right now creating me some fluffy gingery heaven. So... I'm thinking that I'll go ahead and make the fudge, and pour it instead into my amazing, beautiful, nonstick round springform pan! Crazy? Maybe. But that's how I roll! Updates on progress shortly...

* * *

Alright. The cereal bars are cooling. The gingerbread is cooling. The fudge is cooling. Basically, my kitchen has been overtaken by cooling sweetgoods. As for the fudge, I've never made fudge before so I have absolutely no idea whether or not it came out in the right consistency or whatever. But I can tell you that that shit is gooood when licked off of a spatula. The fresh rum burns a little - in a good way. Since it's one in the morning right now you're gonna have to wait until tomorrow to find out whether or not it actually sets.

Actually, you're gonna have to wait till tomorrow to find out how any of them turned out. See, I'm a grazer - as I bake / assemble / boil, I munch on whatever's around. And right now, I'm stuffed. So no gingerbread for me at the moment. It'll be breakfast, and I think I can live with that.

And so, tomorrow. Talk about a cliffhanger!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Snack Bar Crazytimes!

Well, I said that I needed to do more cooking. Of course, sweet and crunchy snack bars wasn't *exactly* what I had in mind, but whatever. When it's midnight on a Thursday and your fiance's still stuck at work, and you're just dying to bake but don't want to go to the store, and you don't have any butter in the house or very much sugar, but you DO have four or five boxes of mostly eaten old cereal lying around that you'd like to do something with, what do you do?

Well here's what I do. I stumble upon this recipe in My Sweet Vegan, one of the gifts I received from aforementioned fiance this past Valentine's day. And then I make it with completely bastardized ingredients. Hilarity ensues!

Observe.



The recipe. I knew it was the right one, because it a) didn't call for (many) ingredients that weren't already in my kitchen, and b) allowed me to do something useful with all of those cereal remains languishing away in my cupboard.



I assembled said wheat and oat remnants in my pretty red bowl. Now, the original recipe calls for things like chex and rice crispies and pretzels and peanuts. And granted, that sounds delish. But I was working with what my kitchen had to offer: a shredded wheat type substance, a crispix-ey thing, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and broken up rice bran crackers. Also, while the recipe calls for light corn syrup I had (and generally only use) dark - light usually has high fructose corn syrup in there, which, like, ew.



After assembling my cereal frankenstein, then came the sugar step. I've never boiled sugar like this, and I gotta say it was kind of scary. I was afraid it would turn into caramel or glass, or at least burn the crap out of me. But it all turned out alright.



I had a spat of trouble folding the sugar mixture into the cereal - it may have been thicker than it was supposed to be on account of me using the dark syrup. Or I may just be lame. After I thought I had it pretty well mixed, I started spooning it (there was no pouring) into my pan - only to find that all of my tiny nuts were sitting in a dusty clump at the bottom. But soon enough they got caught up in the sticky mix.



The verdict? Well, they're tasty. A bit odd. Definitely sticky. Very sweet. I've taken to covering them in natural-type peanut butter - it adds a little bulk and cuts down on the syrupy-ness. Most likely, this recipe is infinitely better with ingredients like chex, and pretzels, and peanuts. Maybe next time I'll try something crazy like that.

Maybe.

We'll see.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The trouble with eating.

I like eating. I like eating more than I'm supposed to like eating, apparently. Or at least I like doing it more often and with more abandon than is healthy. My slightly overweight physique has been a testament to this for a full score now. (And in case you're wondering, that's 20 years.)

So how is it, then, that I am so baffled by the concept of eating meals? Like, several of them? Every day? Try as I might, it's something I've just never been able to wrap my life around.

Breakfast.

Breakfast? Breakfast is the easiest. I nailed that one years ago. First there's good coffee, lightened rather significantly with Silk creamer - and while I hate the fact that Silk is owned by Dean Foods, I don't think taking away my $2.50 a week (and making my coffee taste like crap in the process) is really going to make a dent in their profits.

Once the black stuff is down or at least made, I can tackle the actual food portion. This too is easy. I'm a cereal girl. I've managed to find several brands that are very low in sugar, made with whole grains, are predominately not wheat and rather are made with oats, rye, rice, and a million other edible grains which we as Americans seem to like to ignore. I eat my cereal with Blue Diamond unsweetened almond milk - stuff of the gods, I tell you. I'll get crazy and slice up a banana in there, or when I feel fancy it'll be strawberries or blueberries. When it's cold, I'm a sucker for the Bob's Red Mill various hot grain foods - they're all a little bit like grits or oatmeal or porridge. Sprinkled with a little sugar and a lot of cinnamon, they're heaven when it's icy out.

So, breakfast? Done and done.

Lunch.

Here's when stuff gets tricky. Very rarely can I make a good decision about lunch. I want it to be easy, like breakfast - "every day for lunch I eat X". Soup? A sandwich? But, but, but. I don't feel like I should be eating the same thing every day for lunch. It seems that there should be variety. Partly for nutritional reasons, and partly because I'm afraid I'll get bored otherwise.

Honestly, I think what kills me here is the paradox of choice. Even with all of my qualifiers - vegan, whole grain, organic, involving fruit and / or vegetables - there are still so many options that I just become baffled. This is compounded by the fact that we don't really keep groceries in the house, and I don't like spending a lot of money on food every day. So... basically I don't want to buy food, I guess. Which is of course dumb. (If you can't grow it, and you don't want to dumpster dive for it, you kinda have to buy it so far as I can tell.) See, if we buy produce or bread, it inevitably goes bad before we can eat it all. And I HATE throwing away food. But I don't want to subsist on things that come out of cans and boxes.

It just seems like so much damn work. Eating, every day, multiple times a day. And not only that, but being hyper-conscious of what you're eating - being at least somewhat aware of calories and fat and sugar content, working fresh fruit and vegetables in there, eating a variety of grains despite our wheat-obsessed culture - there's so much to remember, to consider, to weigh. I feel like if I don't sit down the night before and plan it all out, on paper, I'll have no chance of arriving at any sort of balance.

So naturally I've tried planning it all out on paper. It works for a minute, though work is definitely the right word for it. But then laziness (or sometimes just extreme busyness) sets in, and I go spiraling back off into what feels like totally uncontrolled eating. I'll go too long in the day without getting down to a real meal, and then I'll just nibble on whatever's in reach. It often amounts to way more calories than an actual meal would, but it doesn't feel like I've really eaten at all. Major bummer.

Dinner.

Lunch, all over again. What to eat, and how much, and is it enough nutrition and is it too many calories and is it well balanced enough with what I ate yesterday? Screw it, I'll just eat this entire box of crackers... I can really drive myself crazy. But not crazy enough to, say, just saute some kale.

* * *

So what's the verdict here? I either need to cough up the money to eat salads at the health food stores every day, which would be an interesting feat since I'm still unemployed. Or I need to stop being so damn lazy, clean my kitchen, and start cooking again.

The silly part is that I like cooking. And I'm good at it. It just gets to be too much, doing it every day, day after day, with the heat and the dishes and the need for groceries. So I should make large quantities and have leftovers right? But no, I get squeamish about leftovers. I can eat them once, but definitely not twice. And with maximum two people eating... And then, to spend an hour or more cooking a meal that will be over in 10 minutes seems so wastefully time-consuming. But wait, didn't I just say that I'm unemployed? Couldn't this be something that I spend time on? Well... yeah... I guess. But what happens when I get a job, which hopefully will be any minute? Right back down the spiral.

In the greater scheme of things, this is a pretty ridiculous problem to have. And yet, I think many many people have it. Yes, it all comes back to our corporate, overly complicated food environment...

Anyway, have to run. Gotta do something for lunch.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Living on less.

Well.

I've done it.

Between being extremely stressed out, eating restaurant food approximately five nights a week because we're not up to cooking, and yes, consuming box upon box of Croatian wafer cookies, the inevitable has happened. I've gained weight.

It's funny; so many of my non-veg friends, especially the ones that don't see me often, assume that now that I'm vegan I must be "rail thin". Ha. I wish. The fact is that going vegan didn't have the slightest impact on my weight. It was such a gradual transition, and by the time I 'officially' made the switch I was practically there, so it just didn't have any punch. Plus, in this glorious modern age of ours and especially in New York City, there's plenty of vegan junk food around.

I don't have a scale, so it's none of that malarkey. It's that I've been interviewing lately, and therefore putting on my office clothes again. And they don't fit like they did in March, nosireebob. No, some of them I can barely get on. I can feel it too, and see it.

So now what? Well there's Adkins, and I hear there's this great new pill on the market... psych! As if. No, I think I'll go in for this radical idea of eating less. Possibly getting more exercise. Crazy, I know. Sadly, I seem to take on weight much, much, much more quickly than I'm able to lose it. My metabolism is such that I can put on ten pounds in a matter of weeks with no problem whatever, but it will take me a couple of months to shed it. Frustrating.

At least we're heading into winter, where temperatures and clothing are on my side. Having a job may help, by providing me with scheduled mealtimes - it's just up to me to fill them with fresh vegetables and home-cooked meals instead of takeout chinese. And, of course, I have to actually get a job.

It's just so hard. Food is where I go for comfort; it always has been. I'm a classic emotional overeater. Websites, self-help books, and therapists alike seem to agree that once you make that connection you can do something about it. Well, I've known since I was about 14 that I was eating for emotional reasons, and knowing it really hasn't helped me to stop it in any way.

I mean, I control it to the point where I haven't become obese or anything, but I've teetered on the edge of "overweight" since I was nine or ten. I'll come back briefly into a healthy BMI, but as soon as a period of stress hits (which, let's face it, never takes long) I'm right back on that edge. Yes, when I reach for the pint of ice cream I know exactly why I'm doing it, and I know when I get to the bottom of it I won't be satisfied in the least. Knowing that doesn't stop me from wanting to dig in, doesn't cure the craving or the anxiety that drives it.

I don't know what the answer is, other than to learn 'better self control'. This phrase comes with connotations of overeaters behaving like raging maniacs, which I really don't think is fair. Most people could use more self control - to yell less often, get out of bed earlier, jog more, watch less TV. It's not something unique to people with this kind of problem; lack of self-control seems to be a universal human problem, at least in western culture. It's difficult to break patterns that are set in your life, especially those that you've been acting out for ten or fifteen or twenty years.

And let's not forget that food is a physical addiction. I crave sugar like other people crave cigarettes. Really. Especially if I've recently been on a cookie or ice cream binge; if I don't do the same thing the next day, I go through a form of withdrawal. By about 8pm I'm seriously jonesing for a fix, and nothing else satisfies it. (There's of course the oral aspect of it too, and you smokers know exactly what I'm talking about.) It makes perfect sense: eating sets off a whole series of chemical reactions in the body. Physical addiction is dependence on a chemical. Just because it's one that your body produces doesn't make it any less potent - the body produces some seriously strong shit.

So. Anyway. That's my current struggle. I can't afford to buy new clothes, and I don't really want to anyway. Not office clothes, ugh. So I need to wrangle this thing and get back down to a healthy weight - and of course fitting into clothes is the least of the reasons. Let us not forget that I have chronic illness (or several, depending on who you ask), and every extra pound is that much more strain on my already overtaxed body. Of course I shouldn't be eating all that sugar in the first place; it's terrible for me.

The daily task of eating is so bizarrely difficult. To eat multiple times a day, every day, without overdoing or underdoing any major nutritional aspect - I feel like the more I learn the more lost I am. Often when I try to take control I go too far and drive myself crazy; I'm not good with happy mediums. But I suppose, one day, I'm just going to have to learn.