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For years I've been something of a default vegetarian. Over the past few months, though, I've been trying to make a conscious move to more overt vegetarianism. I've been eating more beans and rice and veggies, I stopped buying meat and chicken entirely. I've been sequentially trying out vegetarian foods from the grocery store. Last year, a Whole Foods opened within striking distance, so yesterday I went there to check it out.

They must have thought I was an idiot. I kept circling the aisles and reading labels -- sometimes reading the same labels over and over, trying to figure out what I was looking at. The vegetables were amazing -- but a lot of them are imported from quite a distance (given that it's winter here), which makes me wonder if I'm defeating my own ethics.

It's slightly discouraging. For instance, my new thing is to try being dairy free, but I've realized that dairy's been a big staple in my diet. I've managed to develop a taste for soymilk, but I eat a lot of cheese and plain yogurt. Last week, I tried O'Soy yogurt, but first of all, I thought it it was disgusting. Disgusting and sweet (and let me tell you, I'm a gal who likes sweet, so if I thought it was overly sweet, it's got to be extreme). But worse, when I did my reading up on it (because a lot of this involves seeing a product then coming home and researching it), it turns out it's got milk cultures in it. I've been buying Stonyfield Farms yogurt anyway because it's organic, but now I find out that because they're primarily a dairy operation, they're not really as... um... earth-friendly as their marketing might suggest.

I have a quart of Silk soy yogurt in my refrigerator, but then I read somewhere that Silk soy yogurt has issues, too (and at this moment I completely forget what they are). (And I have a terrible feeling that it will be disgusting anyway.)

Soy cheese? Yuck! (Maybe it's like the soymilk, which I used to hate. Maybe I can train my tastebuds to like it.) Soy ice cream and Rice Dream? Yuck! Actually, the Rice Dream wasn't so bad, but when I tackled the label with a magnifying glass, it turns out it's just not very good, either. There's no nutritional value to it. And anyway, in addition to trying to be be vegetarian, I'm counting calories anyway, since my weight is now on the downslope of its triennial undulation. So frozen sweet stuff is out.

Anyway, I'm finding the whole thing extremely difficult to navigate. I guess it's like anything else: just trial and error. But if anybody can recommend a good website or publication that might spell things out through all the marketing, I'd be grateful for the heads up. Or really, if you have any advice at all, let me know.

In completely unrelated news, Erin Underwood interviewed me over at Underwords. Thanks, Erin! That was fun!

In Oscar news... oh, who the hell am I kidding? I didn't watch the Oscars, and I haven't seen most of those movies. I do like the morning-after fashion blogs, though.

Date: 2011-02-28 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] girfan.livejournal.com
It's a shame that Quorn didn't catch on in the US. Though J and I aren't vegetarians (not the way he loves bacon!) we have meals with Quorn at least once a week. They do mince, chicken, burgers, meatballs, bacon and sausages. It's made from a mushroom type thing.

I have a few friends who are vegan in the US who could probably give you suggestions on where to look and what is good.

Date: 2011-02-28 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bogwitch64.livejournal.com
Quorn is good stuff. I am able to get a fair amount of the stuff here in CT. I've never seen their sausage or bacon though.

Date: 2011-02-28 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eljaydaly.livejournal.com
I haven't heard of that one. I'll have to look! Maybe Whole Foods has it. There are whole aisles (no pun intended) of brand names I've never heard of.

Date: 2011-02-28 02:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bogwitch64.livejournal.com
After mothering two vegetarians, a part time vegetarian, and a vegan, I can tell you one thing--it's all a load of crap. The soy stuff is so processed that any nutritional benefits are lost. The cheeses and other faux dairy products?? Let's face it. Soy is NOT dairy. To make it act like a dairy, you have to change it into something it's not, and that takes out all the good stuff, puts in a lot of bad.

Organic farming isn't always organic. Cruelty-free doesn't necessarily mean what it's supposed to mean. Cage-free doesn't equal happy little chickens running around free and happy. The fact is that the food industry is too far gone to make any real claims of any of those things.

All you can do is eat local produce when it's in season. Grow your own and can. Raise your own chickens. Fish for your own protein. Barring that, you have to make due with what's out there, and just do the best you can.

A friend of mine has a philosophy when it comes to food. If it contains an indredient she can't pronounce, she doesn't eat it. Honestly, I think that's the best any of us can do.

I didn't see that interview! When I don't check Facebook, I miss things. Heading over now!

Date: 2011-02-28 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eljaydaly.livejournal.com
Your friend has a good philosophy! I'll probably try to ease away from the processed stuff as I go. Right now I'm playing with fake meat, at least some of the time. I'm going to experiment with tempeh, rather than tofu. And I might try a recipe once a week or so. The big problem with that is the cost, what with the cooking for one. (Same problem with standard cooking.) I can't afford to go out and plunk down five bucks for a daikon radish to include one tablespoon of it in a dish. Veggies are a problem that way, too. The stuff goes bad before I can eat it. At least once a month, I realize that one of my condiments has expired. The other day I went for the mustard and realized it expired in October. I'm using it anyway. How bad can mustard possibly go? ^_^

Whole Foods has a vegan salad bar. I might play with that once a week or so.

I wish I could grow vegetables. I've never had any luck with it, though -- and now, of course, my backyard is polluted with dogness.

Date: 2011-02-28 03:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bogwitch64.livejournal.com
I believe Whole Foods carries sietan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seitan.) I'm not sure how expensive it is. My kids prefer it to soy when they can get it. OMG...I'm going to ask my son's girlfriend for her blackbean burger recipe. Holy crap was that thing good! And VERY inexpensive. You can even make up a whole batch, freeze them separately and use them as needed. I'll do that right now.

Date: 2011-02-28 03:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eljaydaly.livejournal.com
Oh, that sounds nummy! Let me know what she says! *_* Thank you!

Date: 2011-02-28 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bogwitch64.livejournal.com
I'm DROOLING over the prospect of making them myself this week. :)

Date: 2011-02-28 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vegan-vulcan.livejournal.com
Hey, as a longtime vegan and before that, vegetarian, if you ever want cookbook advice or recommendations, hit me up!

But for real, most storebought vegan cheese is NAS-TAY. Galaxy should be avoided at all costs, in particular. Veganrella or whatever is horrifying. I like Follow Your Heart (Monterey Jack and Mozz flavors) but Daiya, Teese, and Cheezly are the holy grails. Daiya should be at your WF, but it's a total junk food for when you're craving nachos or pizza. it's not a good source for nutrition, but it's pretty rad on like, baked potatoes. OMG! Also when you want sweet treats, ditch that Rice Dream for Purely Decadent or any of the coconut-based ice creams for what you're looking for, IMO. Holy craaaaap they're good. And Purely Decadent has like, 4g of fiber per serving so you can feel slightly OK about it as a once-in-a-while treat. At least that's what I tell myself. But coconut ice cream is generally what I buy, when I buy it. Also what you heard about Silk, I'm sure, is that they're owned by Big Dairy. I still buy it sometimes but mostly I go for Edensoy for soymilk, or hempmilk because of it's amazing nutritional profile! Almond is good, too.

Check out Gardein for fake meat bliss, btw. Their chicken tenders are like . . . what?! And yeah, seitan is the jam! It's an awesome protein source and it's super-duper easy to make yourself! Here's the method I always use at home: http://www.everydaydish.tv/index.php?page=recipe&recipe=109

Best of luck!! <3

Date: 2011-02-28 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eljaydaly.livejournal.com
Oh, that's all fantastic advice! Just what I was looking for. Thanks so much!

Date: 2011-02-28 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tabby333.livejournal.com
Soy substitutes are disgusting and many of the things flavored to be like things I used to eat, such as fake chicken or fake turkey, are so filled with chemicals and other stuff that they aren't worth eating. I have given up cheese, yet, I do like soy milk and almond milk. Low-fat stuff is just as bad as the full fat stuff, most times maintaining their flavor through sweeteners.

I try instead to eat the regular stuff, but in good portions. Also, I've been trying to learn how to season and develop new flavors that I want and like. It's hard, especially because I hate to cook. I've bought a few cookbooks and some stuff about legumes. It helps.

I also try and be conscious of organic stuff and but you just don't know.

I'm with bogwitch in that, when you can, buy local. I do that all summer. I tried to grow my own stuff, but it's tough. DO the best you can with the bulk of it, and do okay with the rest. Otherwise, it'll drive you crazy.

Date: 2011-03-01 09:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eljaydaly.livejournal.com
Good advice all around.

I'll have to try almond milk, one of these days. Maybe that'll be next on my list. Although the soymilk's pretty okay.


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