Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pass (on) the Cheesecake

We made a random, spontaneous trip to Taos this weekend. Invited ourselves to my girlfriend's parents house in New Mexico. And made the last minute trip to try and hit some mountain powder. It was the kind of weekend that any new parents long for, the kind of weekend that is too few and far between. It was a house full of good friends, happy kids and fantastic snow right out the backyard.

I am quickly leaning that vegan eating requires an almost ridiculous amount of planning. Random, spontaneous trips already difficult with little ones, are that much more challenging with specific dietary demands. (Think going on a cruise while on a diet.) Filling my kitchen with vegan friendly food is not so bad, since I have complete control over what I put on the menu for the week. Going out into the real, non-vegan world is a different story.

All the books I have read recommend that if you are traveling you must plan ahead. Planning to include: finding vegan restaurants, informing your host of your diet needs, and pack, pack, pack the food you intend to consume. I did not do any of this. Spur of the moment meant I barely had time to put together snacks for Hayden. I did grab a few Odwalla Bars and some apples but not enough for a weekend.

You can rest assured that I ate well the entire weekend. This blog is not about that. What it is about is all the good food I "missed" out on. Being a vegetarian I am used to passing on the chicken, steak and meatballs. Other than the social implications, it is really no big deal. However, in the past I always had the side dishes to rely on. When people ask what I eat Cutter tells them I just eat "sides." Funny, but true.

I have quickly come to realize that most "sides" contain dairy of some sort. Whether it is butter on beans or parm cheese on a salad. You already feel uncomfortable that you are making your host feel uncomfortable that you are not going to eat their food, so asking for no butter on your beans takes you to a whole other level of uncomfortable-ness. (that may have been confusing... just read it again.) A vegan sitting at a non-vegan table can be a most lonely experience. Thankfully, my friends' family was most accommodating and understanding of my year long vegan quest.

However, it is unfair to expect a host to go out of their way to feed me, a surprise guest. This is why planning is SO important. It is not a hosts responsibility to cater to my specific needs. A gracious guest admires the food that others are enjoying and politely heats up the veggie patty that they brought. And when a host happens to have a vegan friendly dish... EAT UP, while making sure the host knows exactly how grateful you are! (Let me tell you... you are VERY grateful.) The moral of this story is, I must bring a cooler full of foods I plan to eat. If this is not possible then immediately I must give my host some relief by stating my intentions to hit the grocery store to get "the crazy food that I can eat." Remembering to ask permission first to use their kitchen for storage and cooking.

I am not done talking about this trip. It was an eye opening experience for me. I passed on dessert. I am NOT a dessert passer by any stretch of the imagination. I am a dessert seconds-er type person. I will shamelessly eat a second piece of pie, cake or scoop of ice cream. Shamelessly. "Life is short, eat cookies." This weekend I passed on Rocky Mountain Factory chocolates, homemade sugar cookies (decorated by adorable little kids), and here is the kicker, I passed on CHEESECAKE!

Thinking about all of the calories I saved is helpful, but there is definitely what I would call the reverse of 'Dessert Regret." The reverse of Dessert Regret is when you say no to dessert and then find yourself laying in bed that night dreaming about the delicious dessert you passed up at dinner. As if my life will never be the same because I did not eat cheesecake. It is a full three days later and I am still thinking about the cheesecake. This probably signifies a distinct psychological diagnosis, but it is the truth. Like I said, shameless.

I was a little proud that I had the self-control to say no to something that I really wanted. But then I had to check myself. In the moment I felt that I really wanted cheesecake. History of my life told me that cheesecake tastes delicious and makes me feel better. Truth though, cheesecake is not a necessity for me and although it may make me feel happy for a moment (what delicious, sugary, creamy treat doesn't?), my true happiness is not caught up in what I eat or do not eat. It wasn't really self-control that kept me from eating cheesecake it was my beliefs and convictions. What I should feel proud of is that I made a decision based on what I believe to be true.
This is a bit refreshing for me. I often make decisions based on what feels good or feels right or feels the most okay. It is difficult for me to just feel a feeling and objectively observe it. Which is strange because being a counselor is all about helping others watch and observe their feelings. I would be lying if I said that in the cheesecake moment I was actively observing my feelings about not eating cheesecake, because I wasn't. What I was really doing was telling myself how embarrassed I would be to admit on my blog that I caved and ate cheesecake before I even hit the one month mark of my journey. However, afterwards I did spend time talking with Cutter and thinking about what it really meant for me to say "no" and what feelings went into the process. Dessert is not just dessert anymore.

I learned something. To fully understand what I learned you would need to know more of my history with food, but to make things simple I will say that I learned this: I can pass on food without self-deprivation or punishment as motivation. I learned and when you learn you grow. So to celebrate, I made vegan double chocolate cookies. Delish.

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