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The Essential Vegetarian

Going vegan

By Katie Jeffreys

I have been vegan for three days now, and all I can say is that it is rough. I’ve had a hard time finding food that was not fried and not a veggie burger. And even so, I can’t say for sure that what I am eating is truly vegan. There are so many things to take care of that I figured I was best off avoiding the basics: eggs, milk, and cheese. I was pleased to find out that I could eat bagels, because they are made with only flour, water, seasonings, and yeast (assuming that yeast is considered vegan and not an “animal product”). I have also been eating fruit for breakfast and snacks. This weekend was very busy, and I did not have much time to cook for myself, so I was forced to look for vegan restaurant food. As I said before, most of what I found to eat consisted of fried foods or veggie burgers, both of which I like, but would not normally eat exclusively.

Tonight for dinner I plan to have barbecue-flavored seitan (made from wheat gluten), cooked with carrots, mushrooms, and green peppers, wrapped in tortillas. I had this the other night, and it was very tasty! I also plan to do a variation with black bean chili. Walking through Star Market and reading labels, I realized how prevalent animal products really are. In fact, I doubt I could continue being vegan during college. I am just too busy to shop for and prepare a variety of dishes that are vegan. But we shall see!

My biggest success so far has been my willpower when it comes to sweets. I have a major sweet tooth, and to resist the temptation is very difficult. I was feeling down the other night, and my friend suggested we go get ice cream, which clearly is not vegan. So instead we got sorbet, which was just as tasty, much more healthy, and refreshing, instead of just sitting in my stomach. While I still think I will celebrate Ben & Jerry’s free cone day on the 27th, I definitely noticed how much better I felt after eating the lighter, non-dairy dessert. I was also proud of myself for resisting the call of “Chubby Hubby” ice cream.

As far as my body’s response, I have not been hungry when I eat on schedule (I have been missing meals because I have been so busy). I am a little tired, but only because of the hours I have been keeping. At least I assume this is the case, and that these effects are not attributable to my change in diet. After all, the change from vegetarian to vegan is much smaller than that from omnivorous to vegetarian.

I think that is all for today. I will include a recipe that I hope to try, as I am very fond of wraps. This one has Portabello mushrooms (which have a texture that will satisfy even the meat-eaters), peppers, and cabbage in a plum sauce. Be sure to send me encouragement, stories, questions, etc. at

Plum Sauce

1 17-oz. can purple plums in heavy syrup

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (more or less to taste)

Remove pits from the plums, then puree plums in a blender or food processor, along with their liquid and the remaining ingredients. Heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until thickened. Makes about 2 cups.

Portabello and Red Pepper Wraps

4 large portabello mushrooms

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons red wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips

4 cups finely shredded Napa Cabbage

4 flour tortillas

1/3 cup plum sauce (see previous recipe)

Clean the mushrooms and trim the stems. Mix the sesame oil, wine, soy sauce, vinegar, and minced garlic in a large skillet. Heat until the mixture bubbles, then place the mushrooms into the pan, tops down. Reduce to medium heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes; if the pan becomes dry, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Turn the mushrooms, cover again, and cook until they are feel tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Cut the mushrooms into half-inch wide strips. Heat the tortillas in a dry skillet or microwave. To assemble, lay several strips of mushroom on each tortilla. Top with strips of red pepper, shredded cabbage, and plum sauce. Wrap the tortilla around the filling and serve. Makes 4 wraps.