My Shit Don’t Stink: Five Observations on a Vegan Diet

Charcuterie from the Downtown Grocery

Salad greens from Coger's Sugarhouse












I grew up in a meat and potatoes household. My father was (and still is) the type that had strong feelings about what went on the dinner plate, and if it didn’t moo or cluck it was considered a side dish. So imagine my culinary bafflement as I have undertaken a two-week chef gig to cook for a yoga teacher training at Good Commons, a boutique retreat center nestled in the rolling hills of Vermont.

Three meals a day and not an animal in sight. Not only are these yogis avoiding meat, but also dairy, soy and gluten. And I thought downward dog was tough.

It’s not that I don’t have experience or interest in cooking vegetarian dishes. I love connecting with the local farmers and menu planning based on what is coming out of the ground. But how much roughage can a person take? The answer—plenty.

I should qualify… I could easily be sneaking off to the local pizza joint for “Instructor Wings,” a winning combination of hot wings and barbecue sauce named after a special request from the snowboarders who work at Okemo Valley during ski season. Better yet, a mosey to The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, where chef Rogan Lechthaler is doing some amazing charcuterie. But I’ve been feeling a bit too much junk in the trunk and thought a two-week meat sabbatical might do me well. So here’s what I’ve learned so far.

 Top 5 Observations on a Vegan Diet

5. It’s more fun to chew a perfectly marbled strip steak than bite into a piece of “extra firm” tofu, no matter how well it’s seasoned or seared.

4. Kale is brilliant: it keeps for almost a week in the fridge and can be eaten raw, blanched, sautéed or even creamed with a vegan béchamel, which I made with Earth Balance (soy, I know!), gluten-free flour, almond milk and plenty of salt and pepper.

3. Kohlrabi can kiss my ass. Years ago, my instructor at the French Culinary Institute brainwashed me after hours of tournage into thinking that turnips were edible. At the end of the day I still feel like Scarlett O’Hara screaming “I’ll never go hungry again.” That is, unless kohlrabi is involved.

2. Quick breads are the gluten-free chef’s best friend. While my attempt at a crusty loaf of sourdough turned out cakey and metallic, bring some gluten-free oats into the mix along with overripe bananas, coconut and plenty of chocolate (NibMor is a fantastic raw, organic brand and manufactured in Vermont), and you’ve got yourself a snack worthy of a hundred sun salutations.

1. My shit don’t stink. I seriously think I’ve turned into a human compost machine. I’m ready to fertilize a small farm, as long as it’s raising pigs, cows and chickens. The reason for this is that we don’t actually digest meat. When we do go carnivore, we’re basically shitting the rotted version of what we originally put in our mouths. Will this stop me from eating a bacon cheddar burger as soon as this gig wraps? Doubtful, but I will pause to consider where that meat is coming from—and where it’s going to end up.

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  • SallyBR August 18, 2011  

    What a fun post to read, loved it! I’ve never had kohlrabi, flirted with it on my farmer’s market a few times, but never brought it home… I might let it stay there and just wave as I pass by 😉

  • erica August 18, 2011  

    i’ve never understood the kohlrabi excitement. tofu, i get.

  • Nick August 18, 2011  

    We do actually digest meat very well, thanks to the help of proteinases and peptidases, enzymes secreted by our spleens specifically for digesting meat. The idea that we don’t digest meat well is merely vegetarian propaganda spread to try and reform consumers of meat and to reinforce there holier than thow attitudes!

  • Roo de Loo August 18, 2011  

    touché, Nick. Yes, my non-official information came from an online poop-scoop resource. There is quite a debate on the benefits/ concerns of eating meat. I’ll be back to my old carnivore self in a few short days.

  • Lori August 18, 2011  

    I happen to like Kolhrabi. I eat it in Salads.
    Anything in moderation is ok and that includes meat! I do eat a few vegetarian/fish nights a week but have to have my chicken, turkey and beef/veal/lamb/bison the other nights. I too am gluten free, dairy-free and eat very little soy or high fructose corn syrup.

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