The pizzeria is closed.

The 5 Worst Things About My New Vegan Diet, 12 Days In

I’m succeeding at #veganuary so far, but it’s not quite a cinch

The Daily Meal’s overeager copy editor is observing a vegan diet for January and detailing his successes and pratfalls here.

After practically turning my kitchen upside down to come up with a vegan New Year’s Day dinner, I’ve managed to settle into something of a groove with regard to my new lifestyle. It probably helps that I’ve been talking about it incessantly, so the kind-hearted people around me have been trying to help out.

I don’t actually tend to eat out very often — it’s just not in the budget — but a friend offered to take me out to dinner the first Wednesday in January. One of the nice things about doing this experiment in New York City is that you can’t throw a rock in this town without hitting a vegan restaurant.

A quick Yelp search for “vegan restaurant” and zero additional research yielded a plant-based spot nearby: Vspot in Park Slope, which serves vegan versions of pan-Latin favorites like empanadas, arepas, and burritos. Everything was pretty tasty. Maybe this isn’t so hard!

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One thing that will be an issue: Vegan cheese just doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing, and I think it’s probably as simple as that. I’ve gone ahead and made peace with this.

Vegan baked goods, on the other hand, don’t really suffer much from the exclusion of eggs and dairy. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but The Cinnamon Snail at Penn Station’s The Pennsy food hall, right near The Daily Meal’s offices, was dishing out free doughnuts at the height of last week’s “bomb cyclone” panic, so I ventured out in the snow to pick up some pastries to share with my comrades, none of whom were dismayed by the lack of animal products.

Aside from that, I’ve been keeping it pretty low-key, and my busy schedule has kept me from making this as much of a production as I had expected. I’ve gone for easy, quick options — oatmeal, tofu scrambles, avocado and tomato sandwiches, rice, beans, a lot of soup — and it’s honestly not been too tough.

I know nobody wants to read about me being awesome at being vegan, though, so these are the five things about my Veganuary experience so far that have been hardest:

I can’t stop talking about it.
Hilariously, although I’m doing this largely as a stunt for work and have only been at it for 12 days, I keep catching myself loudly identifying as vegan. And I have been talking to almost literally everyone about it. I think I’m being pretty annoying.

Everyone else can’t stop asking me about it.
This is my fault, of course, because I’ve really made a meal out the whole thing by deciding to write about it. But even when I don’t bring it up, lots of people have questions about how my Veganuary is going.

I’m obviously down to talk about it (see above), but if you’re thinking about going vegan, get used to the idea that basically everyone will feel comfortable asking about your protein intake, your weight, your energy level, your sex life (Google it) — pretty much anything about your body. If you’d prefer not to deal with that, it might be easier to just not mention that you’ve made the switch.

I keep having to pass up free food.
I’m pretty sure my spirit animal is a raccoon, because I love free food. Not gonna finish that sandwich? Lemme handle that for you. You’re throwing away milk because it’s two days past the “best by” date? I’ll take it! Scrounging is actually kind of a moral stance for me, because food waste is such a serious issue. So I’ve been struggling to weigh competing ethical imperatives this month.

One of the best things about working at The Daily Meal is that people give us free food all the time. This week we got a visit from the Yellow Tail food truck on its promotional tour to the Super Bowl, and I had to pass on a delicious-looking Buffalo cauliflower sandwich because it was tossed in butter and slathered with blue cheese and creamy herb dressing.

This would be easier if I had more time or more money.
The best thing about free food is that it’s free — whereas, depending how you go about it, vegan treats can get pricey. It’s been pointed out that there’s an uncomfortable overlap between veganism and privilege, and things like fake meats and vegan convenience foods tend to be designed for the well-heeled set and priced accordingly. It’s hard to find a $1 slice of vegan pizza, but a number of places will happily sell you one for $5.

The best way to deal with this, since I love cooking, would be to do some smart grocery shopping and lots of meal prep, but these things take time that I can’t always find in between my full-time job and my active creative and social lives. If I were a well behaved person who went to bed on time and kept a tidy schedule, this wouldn’t be too tough. But I’m actually a naughty person who doesn’t do those things, so it’s a struggle.

The hardest parts are the things that are supposed to be easy.
I had been in the habit of taking my lunch at a mediocre pizzeria near our office once a week or so, usually on those days when I just completely don’t have my act together. I’d get two big slices (and a soda!) for $5, eat them in about eight minutes, then go back to my desk and never think about it again.

This month, those moments when I just need a quick break and a quick bite have been fraught — there’s a lot to think about right at the moment when I really don’t want to think about anything. Is the falafel guy on the corner kosher? He does that weird thing where he chops it up on the grill… and is that a yogurt sauce or a tahini sauce? I should have brought a sandwich. Should I just buy a bag of cashews? Are these chips OK?

There are reasons why I’ve decided all of this is worth racking my brain about, though, and I’ll dig into those in future installments. In the meantime… Did I mention pizza? I could really go for a slice of pizza.

Previous installments:
I’m About to Go Vegan for a Month Basically on a Dare (12/19/2017)
My ‘Traditional’ Vegan New Year’s Day Meal Already Has Me Freaking Out (1/2/2017)

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