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.

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