doin’ portland with the in-laws

Running around with your SO’s parents means lots of winging it at omni restaurants and packing lunches for longer trips. When playing ambassador of the lifestyle, I feel like I’m doing two things: explaining that it’s easy and healthy while at the same time not sounding “born-again.” This is not the extremist way of life some see it as, and I don’t want to come off fanatical, even though I feel better physically, I don’t get migraines anymore, and I don’t feel so guilty about exploitation for survival. That’s really exciting for me, and I want to get that across, but it’s not a phase, it’s not a fad diet, and it’s not some radical life change—I’ve been on this path for a long time now, and that’s hard to explain to someone who wasn’t around when I was 12 years old and said, “No, I’m not eating steak anymore. I’ll go fix myself a PB&J.”

And Tom has his own respect for all life. He literally can’t hurt a fly. If our cat doesn’t eat it first, he’ll catch it and take it outside. Imposed death and pain of any kind hits him hard, so of course he doesn’t want a chicken to be confined, shock-tanked, and beheaded so he can have a tasty snack. He’ll take the seitan instead. I haven’t forced him to do any of this—that’s not how we work.

The transition from meat-free to animal-free was a matter of swapping out a few ingredients, like Earth Balance for whatever half-and-half margarine and using egg replacer in cookies, then looking back and realizing “Today was a vegan day,” then eventually “This week was a vegan week.” It just happened. No more Morningstar Farms buffalo wings or hot dogs. No more Parmesan. Then we learned to make seitan and started experimenting with tempeh and tofu and nutritional yeast. Then, without thinking about it too much, two years have gone by (no exact date there) without asking any animals to suffer or die for our whipped cream (or our belts or shoes, and we’ve always used vegan shampoo and soap). 

So where’d we go? PF Chang’s, meaning tofu curry for Tom and vegetables & rice for me, and Henry’s Tavern, meaning tofu curry for Tom & tofu salad rolls for me. The salad rolls were questionable—shouldn’t be, right? tofu, rice sticks, carrots, and lettuce in a rice wrapper–but the tofu was somehow breaded or battered. I noticed it after a few bites but kept eating. Even if there was dairy in there, you can’t unmilk that cow, and if I can stomach it I’m not throwing it away (cheese or meat bits would be a different story). I think I’ll e-mail them to find out for sure and to suggest that it’s mentioned on the description on the menu. It was sort of odd. And it was mushy, all rolled up with the rest of it. Why bother breading something if it’s not going to be crispy?

For our daytrips, we just grabbed Clif bars, pretzels, and Tofutti cream cheese & bagels. Tom’s parents agreed that you really can’t tell the difference between Tofutti and dairy cream cheese—it’s pretty bland and not nutrition packed. I can’t tell you what the draw is, but it works on a bagel.

Finally, Saturday night we took them to Vita. They tried the spicy tempeh sticks (we ordered a side of barbecue sauce to go alongside the peanut sauce). And Tom’s dad got adventurous and got the seitan fajitas, which I don’t have a photo of. You can imagine them, though, because they looked like fajitas. Guess who cleaned his plate. That’s right, vegan sour cream and all. And finally, I have some photos for you.

Here’s Tom’s Mediterranean platter. The specks are just herbs and spices; it was a pretty standard hummus. I was shocked that he strayed from his vegan nachos, but there you have it. After chowing most of the spicy tempeh sticks, half of this came home with us.

And here’s my fish & chips. Hey, that doesn’t look like the plates Vita uses! That’s right. I took a crappy picture, so here’s a photo of a take-out order I got a couple of weeks ago.The tofu wasn’t frozen & thawed, so it was fairly dense. It was good, though. And the fries reminded me of the kind you get at old hot dog joints, where they overstuff a paper bag and half are crispy and half are soft, but they all have a bit o’ skin.

And what brings everyone together? Ice cream (well, sort of). This is Coconut Bliss: coconut milk, agave nectar, and vanilla (and espresso for the espresso flavor). I’d tried it at Vegfest and it blew my mind. It was at Whole Foods for $5.99/pint, so it’s more expensive than some, but you can’t eat more than maybe a quarter cup total, so one pint’ll go quite a way. Everyone loved it. (How could they not?) I had just a smudge of the coconut flavor on my fingertip and I swear my cat licked my skin raw, like she couldn’t believe I would give her such a tiny taste of this wondrous treat.

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