Over an especially gluttonous meal one night, filled with lamb chops and veal, we had a thought: What would life be like without all this meaty goodness? But not only without meat, what about life without this cheesy, eggy goodness? That crazy night (after maybe a few too many glasses of wine) the idea of Vegan Week was born. We, your loyal food writers here at We Love DC, decided to tried are very best to eat completely, 100% vegan for one week.
Well…one work week. Ashley ate most of her meals out of the house, for no other reason than everything she knew how to cook had bacon in it, while Katie had to make her decidedly unveg work location work for her. What follows is the sometimes humorous, sometimes surprising, sometimes depressing account of Vegan Week 2010. (For more on our decision to go vegan, check back here Thursday at 11 a.m. for the wrap-up post in this series, We Love Vegan: The Question and Answer Session.)
A disclaimer: Through plenty of Plant Alternative research and polling our friends who know a little bit about living a meat-free lifestyle, we came to our conclusions about how to attack Vegan Week. We tried, to the best of our abilities to eat vegan, and to our knowledge we did. If we screwed something up along the way, it was on account of our own stupidity more than anything else. We are not vegans, not even vegetarians, but we tried our best. Also, just a reminder, we here at We Love DC respect all lifestyles, from the meatful to the plantful, and expect that you do too. Take your haterade elsewhere, thanks.
‘Down the Bar’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’
Ashley: This morning I popped out of bed and headed straight to the kitchen to make my favorite breakfast: an egg sandwich. (Katie’s note: Let’s be real, Ashley had to leave post-its around her house reminding her to be vegan. Don’t let her trick you like it was all that easy, popping out of bed.) Lucky for me I had put about fifty notes around my house reminding me that I was, in fact, vegan for the week and so I made a sad face and put my eggs away for another non-vegan day and headed out. My first stop was at Pumpernickel‘s in Chevy Chase. An unsuspecting vegan haven, Pumpernickel’s has plenty of choices for breakfast and lunch for the meat-free. Since I was craving an egg sandwich, I went with the tofu scramble, mock sausage and soy cheese bagel sandwich. I was pleasantly surprised! Though the soy cheese didn’t actually melt, it tasted fine, and the mock sausage was actually pretty flavorful. All in all, a win.
Katie: Breakfast for me is decidedly uninteresting. Every day I eat the SAME EXACT THING: a piece of fruit (vegan? check!), a peanut butter sandwich (with a little ingredient reading and making sure there was no tricksy whey in my bread, vegan? check!) and call it a day. It’s not broke, so let’s not go about fixing it. Switch my daily chai over to soy milk (vegan? check!) and it was this easy, every day. Sorry I wasn’t more original, but I’m a working girl, and a girl of routines.
Ashley: For lunch I decided I needed a little green in my life, and I ventured to Sweetgreen. Though there are a million ways to make a vegan salad with all their make-your-own choices, I tried one of the two vegan salads on the menu. The Sabzi salad was pretty good, though a little scoop of white beans was the only real protein. Good, but I was pretty hungry a few hours later.
Katie: While Ashley was out frolicking, I was stuck with standard work-lunch fare and hit up the salad by the pound place near my office. They have a shocking amount of vegan food at that place, so I loaded up my plate with fruit, a rice-and-nut mix, two slices of tofu dressed in some spicy oil, and a green salad. A friend was helping me pick out things from around the bar, and read off the dressings I could have: probably honey mustard, but maybe not, cause it looked creamy. Possibly Thousand Island but I feel like maybe that has dairy in it? So we settled on Italian. BAD DECISION. The second I put it on my salad, a evil little sliver of parmesan stuck right out in my face, taunting me for my dumb mistake. Should have gone with the oil and vinegar.
Ashley and Katie: Dinner was actually my most dreaded meal of the day. We knew we had to try pizza at some point, and tonight was the night. There are lots of pizza options: Pete’s New Haven, Comet Ping Pong, Duccini’s, Ella’s. But we went with the old standard, Pizzaria Paradiso. Ashley: This time the vegan cheese was plenty melty, and with a ton of vegetable options on the menu, I made quite the tasty treat with artichokes and mushrooms. Katie: I loaded mine up with sundried tomatoes, zucchini and a big pile of arugula on top. The soy cheese was super hot and overly melty, but I didn’t REALLY notice the difference, since I basically put a salad on top of my pizza. It was pretty agreeable, I’d do it again. Pizza is a good option for a place where your vegan friends can dine with your non-vegan friends.
courtesy of ‘ekelly80’
Ashley: I knew I had to try out the Vegan Brunch at Asylum at some point, and day two was the big day. Asylum wins the award for the most extensive vegan menu of the week, and many of the dishes looked pretty great. I landed on the vegan breakfast burrito, which was the standard tofu scramble, soy cheese and black beans in a tortilla. Doused in salsa it was pretty good, but I was already getting tired of tofu scrambles. My friend had the biscuit bowl, which had remarkably good biscuits even without the butter. He also tried the vegan Bloody Mary, and I don’t think I’ll be getting the taste of that out of my mind anytime soon. I know how important Worsheshire sauce is.
Katie: This was my one day off work for Vegan Week, and so I tried to take advantage of it. But without my standard fruit and peanut butter sandwich from work, I opened the fridge and was immediately distraught. WHAT THE HECK DO I EAT? Toast with butter was out, and I had no jam. Eggs were out. I opened the freezer and found a squashed box of waffles. With a little ingredient-reading (lots of that in veganism) I was ready to rumble with a flax waffle and faux-butter flavored syrup (basically sugar).
Ashley: Lunch was a trip to Amsterdam Falafel. As much as I love this place, this was the first time I had ever tried it in the daytime. Just as good, with half as many spills! The falafel is vegan, as are many of the toppings, though our friendly cashier was a little fuzzy on which ones. I decided to stay away from any sauce that looked like it could be dairy, and ended up piling my falafel high with pickled everything and something spicy. I missed the tzatziki, but I was still happy and full with the plant based recipes.I enjoyed.
courtesy of ‘yospyn’
Katie: I met a friend for lunch in Dupont,and headed over to Teasim. Their website has this nifty little dietary-restriction checker that I used to make a short list of lunch options before I headed in. I grabbed the tofu noodle salad, with cold noodles and a lime dressing, and a morrocan mint tea. This was the first fully-satisfying meal where I didn’t even think twice about wishing there was meat involved, or thinking I could have gotten a better option had I not been vegan. I was a happy girl. After lunch, we wandered over to Dolcezza, where I got a grapefruit campari sorbet and again, didn’t even think twice about not getting it’s dairy-based brethren. This was probably my favorite day of veganism, actually.
Ashley and Katie: We ended the day with a moderately fancy dinner at Nage. Known for their Meatless Monday, we knew they would have some great vegan options for us. Ashley: My favorites were the falafel (so much falafel!) and the vegan pad thai. The pad thai came with fried pieces of firm tofu that had a really wonderful texture. Now there’s a sentence I never though I’d say. We also learned from Chef Glenn Babcock the key to veganism, “beans, mushrooms and nuts”. Amen Glenn, amen. Katie: Babcock makes vegan look easy, and I was totally happy the entire meal. He whipped us up a nice beet carpaccio, as well as a portobello mushroom dish with lentils. For dessert, a nice coconut sorbet. Sorbet is God’s gift to the dairy-free. I highly recommend Nage for a dinner out with friends – it’s mid-range priced and very Vegan-friendly.
Stay tuned! Part 2 of We Love Vegan will run tomorrow at 11, and then a wrap-up Question and Answer session will follow Thursday at 11.
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Great post! I’ve thought about doing something similar. Admittedly I didn’t think about how much reading would be involved. LOL
I commend all of the vegans out there for their dedication and you for giving it an open-minded shot.
Did you all try having a vegan buddy? We aren’t too hard to find (I hope!) I would’ve been happy to help out. I appreciate your perspective on this (and the haterade ban), as I often see these and a BIG BIG OLE RED FLAG goes up, because I don’t think of my personal veganism as the outcome of an experiment at all.
Anyway, if you want to ask a long(ish! I’m young, so someone older might have been vegan longer than I’ve been alive) time vegan some questions, shoot me an email.
Also, hope you two entered the Gardein contest for doing a vegpledge this month … hefty prizes!
Next week you should go Paleo. No waffles or sorbet allowed!
Beer, as in the Paradiso picture, can be an especially tricky issue. Many traditional breweries, particularly in the UK, still use fish to clarify, and other beers contain milk sugars. I like Barnivore as a resource for vegan drinks, but I am sure there are others out there – though I would also expect a good beer director like Greg Jasgur can help navigate vegan and vegetarian choices on the menu.
I have an acquaintance who went vegan for health reasons, and describes himself as a “95% vegan.” What he discovered was that being vegan was starting to restrict how he socialized, because so much socializing revolves around food, so he was tending to only socialize with other vegans. So he decided that he was going to make the most vegan choices he could, continue to socialize with his non-vegan friends while making his dietary choices clear, but if he ended up in a situation where his choices were between “veggies with some butter on them” and “not eating,” he was going to eat the vegetables and not worry about it.
Clearly, that approach does not work for everyone who chooses to go vegan, but I thought the flexibility of it was interesting.
Next time you go to Amsterdam Falafel, pile on both the baba ganoush from the toppings bar and tahini from the pump–both are total creamy goodness, and totally vegan!
Great writeup; I’m looking forward to the subsequent entries.
While I am an unrepentant meat eater I think this sort of exercise is a great one for everyone. I wouldn’t go as far as vegan – it addresses issues I do not have – but any sort of restriction is a useful one for being mindful about food.
I did a year where I avoided all red meat and pork – what my wife used to call avoiding eating “anything born the way I was” – and it’s amazing to discover just how ubiquitous it is. It was interesting to me to discover that I had a much harder time giving up the things that had small components than, say, a steak.
Katie mentions a salad dressing; for me it was eggrolls – I could never be sure they didn’t have pork in them. I think it’s a lot easier to do this sort of thing now – this was about 15 years ago – but it’s still kind of shocking how challenging it can be to discover what’s in the things you’re in a habit of eating.
For what it’s worth, honey isn’t vegan – it’s a bee product.
I’ve been vegetarian for a year and change now, and it’s nice to see some of the spots around town I didn’t know about that have good vegetarian options – thanks for doing the research/writing the article!
Veganism is about compassion, not perfection. Eating 95% vegan makes a huge difference for animals and is surprisingly easy to do.
That said, if you don’t know what’s in your food, you may find yourself reading a lot of lists at the beginning, but once you’re settled in, you don’t need to think so much anymore. (Imagine if everything in your fridge were already vegan – from your butter and milk to deli slices and waffles!) Eating out is a little trickier, but again, the mantra is Compassion, Not Perfection.
I am so excited that you guys were willing to try this experiment. It goes to show that even if you are not willing to become a full-fledged vegetarian or vegan you world has been opened to many new options. I would love the world to go 100% vegan, full of compassion, but it is so important for everyone to know that not every meal and not every day has to consist of meat based products. If everyone embraced a meat free or a less meat diet the world of factory farming would become a thing of the past!! :)
Thanks for doing this and writing it up! I’m often amused by people who freak out at the mere idea of eating a vegan diet.
I went vegetarian in May and full board Vegan in August… it took watching that Earthlings video that did me in. You know what they say, “Ignorance is bliss”… But is has gotten easier these last few weeks – in the beginning it was a little hard to remember all those animal by-product ingredients but I have the most of them committed to memory now! It is hard to socialize with non-vegan friends and family… what to eat, what to drink. Barnivore.com is a great website to look up vegan-friendly “beverages” – you just need to do a little research before you go out! My choice to go vegan was totally out of compassion. And it is a decision that I do NOT regret making!