Sunday, January 20, 2019

Southern Comfort Food Feast (feat. vegan Potato Salad)

This weekend, I did a miraculous thing and finished my homework early. That left me with a whole Sunday afternoon with nothing to do. This is an absurd freak of the universe, because the last time this happened...was probably like six years ago.

I decided to make the Country Fried Cauliflower from Hot for Food's "Vegan Comfort Classics" cookbook. Ambitious for a whim, I know, but that's not all.

I decided it would be the perfect time to create a southern comfort food feast.

So I made potato salad.

Guys, I have made potato salad exactly once ever before in my life. It wasn't good.

My grandmother used to make potato salad, and I always enjoyed that, but between moving out and going vegan, her potato salad became a distant memory. I asked for the recipe once, but to no avail. She did it all by taste, she said.

I thought that was bologna, but what are you going to say to your grandma?

But today, folks, I did it. I made potato salad from scratch with no recipe (okay, with kind of a recipe), and I even did the thing where you taste the food and decide it needs salt and then taste it again and it's perfect.

I'm officially a 5-star chef. You should kneel before my bowl of potato salad.

I served up my deep fried veggies with barbecue sauce, potato salad, a scoop of mac and cheese, and some green beans. I'm not even kidding, it was a feast fit for kings. Southern, KFC-lovin' kings.

Plate with mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad, and fried cauliflower


For anyone else looking to improv their own potato salad, here are the notes I jotted down while stirring stuff together:

4 russet potatoes
2 stalks celery
1/2 sweet onion
Vegan mayo
Sugar
Dijon mustard
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Paprika
Apple cider vinegar
Pepper
Salt

- Chop potatoes into bite-sized bits, but not too skinny.
- Cook potatoes until fork tender.
- Rinse in cold water.
- Add to bowl with other stuff, stir together, chill.
- Maybe add parsley or chives next time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Vegan Meatloaf Thing

If memory serves, I have hosted Christmas at my house for the past six years. There are several reasons for this, some happy (I love food and decorating and my baby brother), and some not so happy (avoiding my abusive father at all costs). I've never regretted the decision to open my doors on Christmas, as hectic and stressful as the day can be. But at the same time, the tradition feels oddly lonely. I don't know anyone else my age who hosts Christmas. It's one of those little niggling things in the back of my mind that makes me realize my life's experiences aren't quite in harmony with those of my peers. But that's all okay. I'm not complaining.

Except for this one thing.

I was chatting with one of my coworkers--who kind of has a stick up her butt, but that's beside the point--about our Christmas plans, and when I told her Christmas was at my house, she asked what I was going to serve. I told her I wasn't entirely sure yet, which was true. I told her that the only thing anyone requested was mashed potatoes, so I was trying to build a meal from there. I told her I would probably serve some kind of meatloaf thing and maybe some Brussels sprouts or something.

Dudes. She was super rude. About me and my damn meatloaf.

Now, I don't go around making a fuss about being vegan, because I know it makes people uncomfortable and is basically social suicide. So notice that I didn't tell her I was making vegan meatloaf. I told her I was making some kind of meatloaf thing.

The judgement--oh my god.

Somehow, this woman was deeply offended that I would serve meatloaf to my family on Christmas. I don't know which part of my plan bothered her, whether it was the meatloaf or the feeding people or the feeding people meatloaf, but my plans clearly did not meet her approval. So much so that when we were getting in our cars to leave, she told me she hoped I figured out something else to make.

Fuck you too, lady.

But you know what? I made my meatloaf thing, and it was damn delicious.

Some people just suck.

If you're surrounded by sucky people and you need to show them up with a top-notch meatloaf thing, then I've got the recipe for you. Alternatively, if you have a teenage brother or a houseful of relatives or, like, some friends who eat food, I've also got the recipe for you. Read on:

Vegan Meatloaf Thing

Ingredients:

Loaf:
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cup cooked red lentils (slightly overcooked--should be mushy but still defined)
15oz canned great northern beans
1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs (I used vegan panko)2 flax eggs (2 tbs flax meal + 5 tbs water)
2 tbs liquid smoke
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano

Glaze:
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbs maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions:

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Add everything to a food processor and pulse until combined but still chunky. (I have a dinky "chopper" instead of a food processor, so do mine in batches. A potato masher or your hands would probably work too.)

3. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Leave some overhang for easy removal. Press the meatloaf-y glop into the pan, leveling out the top.

4. Stir together the ingredients for the glaze. Spoon it over the loaf and spread it out.

5. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean (it might have some glaze on it).

6. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before lifting out of the pan with the parchment paper. Slice and serve.

Adapted from https://jessicainthekitchen.com/vegan-meatloaf-gluten-free/

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Flashback Post: Epic Minecraft Surprise Party!

Guys, I need a new blog. This new blog shall be called "Things Katie Did That Required Her Whole Ass and Six Months to Plan." It shall be a blog all about this amazingly epic Minecraft Surprise Party that will go down in history as the most awesome party ever.

It all began back in February, right after my brother's ninth birthday. I asked him if I could throw him a tenth birthday party next year. He said no. I begged. He said no. I pleaded incessantly. He said no. So I resorted to Plan B: enlist my brother to help me throw a surprise birthday party for my roommate, and BOOM, the World's Most Epic Minecraft Party was born.

I spent a hell of a lot of time online searching for Minecraft party ideas, and despite the fact that everybody wants to throw a Minecraft party these days, not many people have many ideas on how exactly to execute such a party. (If you don't know what Minecraft is, you are a loser and you need to jump in your archaic time machine and bring yourself into 2014 where all us cool people hang out.) Robin and Ed did have a few pretty awesome Minecraft party ideas, though, so mega shoutout to them.

The first thing I started working on was the food. Because....I'm me. And I'm always hungry. And food is awesome. I ended up with a four page Google Doc on all my ideas for all the food that I could somehow twist into Minecraft food. One of my favorite ideas that I'm sure I stole from somebody (if I stole it from you, tell me and I'll give you props) was for Rice Krispy Treat sandstone and obsidian blocks. I made Rice Krispy treats a couple of months ago and wasn't ready to make them again, so I chose against serving obsidian.

I opted, instead, to serve all of this:


That glorious smorgasbord includes melon, "sticks" (pretzels), carrots, cookies, "golden apples" (sliced golden delicious apples), bread, "baked potatoes" (chips), and "slimeballs" (grapes).

Oh, yeah, and chicken.


 Plus, there was a whole table of desserts, including Cookies and Cream Hershey's Kiss "diamonds," Hershey's Special Dark Minis"gold ingots," Hershey's Milk Chocolate Minis "iron ingots," and Twizzler TNT.



And cake. Can't forget the cake.


The cake originally had more cacti on top, but I don't know what happened to them. Maybe the scary turkey in my neighbor's yard stole them....


The second thing I started planning was the decorations. I love, love, love these Minecraft windows, but alas, they would have made my already epic Minecraft party so supremely epic that the universe would have imploded at its sheer epicness, so I didn't do them. Instead, I made a ghast. The ghast was originally supposed to be a pinata, but since it took me three hours to make, I officially forbade everyone from whacking it with a stick.


My favorite part about the decorations was probably the brown tablecloths with fake grass on top. I scored the fake grass at Home Depot and had enough to cover all my tables and then some. (If anybody needs to borrow some fake grass, I have plenty.) Beyond that, it was mostly just balloons.

Next up on the list is the shirts. I completely, totally, 100% ripped these off from Jennifer. Aren't they awesome?


My brother and I made them almost two months before the party and then had to wait to wear them! Ack! But hey, it was worth it for how awesome we look. The guys wore some pixelated Minecraft sunglasses to complete their looks.


With everybody well-fed and decked out in their Minecraft best, we got to start the shenanigans. I set up a bow and arrow shooting range with pictures of mobs.



We played Pin the Tail on the Dog. I didn't win.


 We created crazy explosions with Coke-and-Mentos TNT.


Also! I totally rocked the invitation. I rocked the invitation so much that when my roommate showed up at the party, we met him at the curb and handed him the invitation so that he could see just how cool it was. Then we brought him around back and got the party started.


"What about mood music?" I hear you ask. No worries. I've got that covered too. Lots of very creative people with very much time on their hands have created Minecraft-themed parody songs based on popular music. I rounded up a whole bunch of those and burned CDs to play at the party and give out as favors. And, of course, because I am beyond extra, I designed totally rad CD covers.


I am deeply sorry that you weren't all able to attend the most radical block party of all time. (Block party...get it? Because Minecraft has blocks? I'm so clever). That being said, I hope you have the opportunity to steal my ideas and create an equally awesome party of your own. If you want any of the printables, let me know and I'll hook you up. The original files are in InDesign, but I can send you PDFs of the signs and whatnot.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was originally written in 2014, about a party that also occurred in 2014. I found it drifting through my drafts and decided to publish it anyway. I know it's out of date, and I know it's out of the blue, but I put a lot of work into this and thought some of you might still enjoy it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Lazy Vegan Creamsicle Cupcakes

Today is my birthday! Last year, I had a Beaver Tail in place of birthday cake.


This year, that would be geographically challenging, so I'm made cupcakes instead.

Here's the thing about cake. It's really hard to make it without eggs. Also, when you make it from scratch, it takes like eighteen ingredients and all of the measuring cups and I am just not into that much effort. Also, I'm bad at cake.

So I life-hacked it.


Yep. You can totally make cake by mixing a box of cake mix with 12oz of soda. That's it.

You're welcome.


These are vegan creamsicle cupcakes, topped with 100% vegan (0% natural) canned frosting.

Am I classy or what?

If that doesn't convince you, I will have you know that I spent this birthday giving my baby brother a back-to-school haircut and then stopping by a bar with my coworkers where my boss (very generously)  procured for me a shot glass and a flower. Who says 26 can't be a badass birthday?

Yeah. No. It was definitely all about the cupcakes.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Vegan Favorites: Year One

You know how earlier this week I bummed everybody out with my musings on veganism? Today I'm going to make up for it with lots and lots of lists. Are you ready? Good.

I've spent the last year fumbling around trying to get my vegan feet under me. I think I'm finally hitting my stride, so I wanted to talk about the foods I love, the foods I miss, and the products I'm using. That way when you go vegan, maybe you'll be less hangry than I was. And also, you'll smell nice.

The Food!

My transition foods

When I went vegan, I had no idea what to eat. My first (intentionally) vegan meal was unseasoned vegetables and rice and some refried black beans out of a can. It was not a happy time. I have since learned my lesson and now eat food that tastes good (imagine that), but there were some foods that really helped me get through the first months of not knowing what to eat.
  • Refrigerator bagels
  • Tofutti cream cheese
  • Soy Sauce flavored Top Ramen (read your labels!)
  • Clif bars
  • PB&J with potato chips
  • Tater tots 
  • Chips and salsa and Thug Kitchen's bean dip
Seriously, for anybody out there who's thinking about going vegan, this is my one piece of advice: figure out your transition foods. Know what you're going to eat when you have nothing to eat. Know what to do when you've overslept and have eighteen minutes to get to work. Know your fallbacks for when you're PMSing and really really just want a peppermint patty. If you can find ways to eat vegan without thinking about it, you've won half the battle.

 

My favorite meals

Once I realized that I needed to eat something other than Top Ramen, I ventured into actual food. Albeit, still very pasta-based food, but you know what, I like pasta, so deal with it. All those people who tell you pasta is bad for you are just trying to bring you down. Pasta is yummy and it has protein and fiber and you can reheat it like a champ, so really, there's no down side. None. Shut up.

Here are my favorite meals at this exact moment in time:
  • Tempeh bacon BLTs (let it marinate, don't just dump it in a pan)
  • Veggie pasta with Prego's red pepper pasta sauce and Aldi vegan meatballs
  • Homemade pea pesto
  • Tacos, made with black beans, Gardein crumbles, lotsa sauce, and either guac or Tofutti sour cream
  • Red pepper pasta, made with soy milk for extra protein
Believe it or not, I actually eat more diverse foods now than I did when I was just vegetarian. Granted, I can't think of any of them in this particular moment, but I swear, I'm much more open to trying new things these days. For the most part, if it's vegan, I'll eat it. Unless it's mushrooms, and then it's straight back to the Top Ramen for me.

 Favorite food brands/products

  • Tofutti's cream cheese and sour cream
  • Chao's Tomato Cayenne cheese slices
  • Lightlife hot dogs and tempeh
  • Aldi's classic vegan meatballs
  • Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili burgers
  • Gardein beefless ground 
In your searches for vegan cheese, please, for the love of cows, skip the Daiya. It's awful. Really. I just found a bag of unopened Daiya cheddar shreds in my fridge that expired in December. That's how much I didn't want to eat it. And that's really saying something, seeing as how vegan cheese costs about $89/pound.

The Face! (and hands and hair and body)

After transition foods, one of the biggest challenges for me going vegan was changing all of my personal care items. This has also been my biggest expense, because I used to buy products based on the cheapest version of what worked, but now, every product has to check the cruelty free/vegan box, and sometimes that means compromising features or cheapness. Right now, this is what I'm using, but I'm open to suggestions:
  • Lush shampoo bars. Jumping Juniper is my favorite, but they have lots of different options for different hair needs.
  • Not Your Mother's Beach Babe conditioner
  • Not Your Mother's In a Heartbeat blowdry spray
  • Kiss My Face Cool Mint shave cream
  • Kiss My Face olive oil soap (I don't love this. I'm going to try something else next time.)
  • Alba Botanica sea mineral face cleansing gel
  • Alba Botanica Very Emollient sunscreen
  • ELF mascara (it's $3, people!)
  • Everyone hand soap (also looking for an alternative to this one)
  • Hurraw lip balm
Full disclosure: I haven't officially switched out my deodorant, toothpaste, or laundry detergent yet. I tried the Kiss My Face Active Life deodorant, but it only worked if I was cold and not moving. As for toothpaste, I was too broke to buy vegan toothpaste, so I tried making my own coconut oil/baking soda stuff and that was absolutely disgusting, so I'm back to Colgate. With laundry detergent...I'm just holding out. I finally found an affordable, unscented liquid detergent that I love, and I don't want to ditch that to spend another three years looking for something else. Don't hate me too much.

The People!

In case you hadn't caught on from my previous post, I'm not exactly rich in vegan friends. To put it in perspective for you, my most supportive friends invited me to a Facebook event today and made sure to indicate that there would be "vegan crap for Katie" on the menu. Sweet and all, but not exactly Team Nooch, if you know what I mean. Given my lack of neighborhood vegans, I have turned to the Internet, as one does when one needs a thing.

My favorite vegan YouTubers are:
  • The Viet Vegan. She's awesome. Hands down. I want her to be my best friend. Also, she has a blog. Because she's that rad.
  • More Salt Please. If you love eyebrows, you'll love her. But seriously. She's a lot of fun, and a great cook. From what I can tell. She hasn't invited me over yet.
  • Cheap Lazy Vegan. I may or may not have been watching her videos the night I went vegan. I thought she was adorable. She still is. She runs her own vegan cafe!
  • No Egg Craig. Craig is fine. Craig's mom is hilarious. Mostly, I enjoy watching these videos because they're kind of like having a virtual vegan family to hang out with for twenty minutes. It's pretty cool. Also, they love hummus, so obviously they know what's up.
Finally, it wouldn't be right to talk about vegan favorites without mentioning Minimalist Baker. She is the queen of all vegans who cook. And bake. And eat. I don't know what the vegans of the world did to deserve her, but she's the best thing ever. Eat all her food.


Now that I've shared my favorites, I want to see your favorites below! Did any of you have a transition food that helped you get through your early veganhood? Am I missing an awesome recipe I should know about? Fill me in!

Monday, August 6, 2018

It's My Veganniversary! (let's be depressed)

People, the time has arrived. Today is officially my one-year veganniversary. Do you remember that night when I watched that video and I was udderly (pun) traumatized by the dairy industry? Remember how I flipped shit and had a mass panic and threw out all of my non-vegan food and then had no food left and didn't know what to do with myself?

Yeah. That was a year ago.

It seems waaaaay longer than that, but I'm here to tell you I'm still vegan, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

In honor of this first anniversary, I want to have a little bit of a vegan heart-to-heart. We're going to talk about how life has been as a vegan--believe me, there have been a lot of ups and downs. Later this week, I'm going to make up for this giant mess of crazy I'm about to unleash by posting actual food and maybe even some Oreos, but today is going to be an angry rant where I unload the truth about how I feel about being vegan, because that's the kind of reflecting that we do on milestones. If you're not on board with that, that's fine; come back when we have food.

For those of you who are ready to get real, here we go.

This has been a really hard year. Really really hard. Maybe in hindsight, it won't seem this bad, but right now, I'm not really sure how I'm getting by. Let's recap:

This was my baby brother's first year of public school (6th grade), and I have been deeply concerned for his wellbeing ever since, especially given all the school shootings. In December, my grandfather died. Also in December, my roommate's mom had a stroke, and after a couple of rough months, she died. I lost my jobs semi-voluntarily after a lot of shit hit the fan. My professional reputation is all but ruined. My roommate and I had a falling out over veganism and politics. I lost touch with most of my friends. I disowned my sister because she gave false testimony against someone in court. I haven't had a free weekend all year because I'm trying to keep my 4.0 in school. And finally, my car is falling apart and I don't have the money to fix it. So now that you're caught up on all that shit, let's talk about how veganism has been involved.

There have been a lot of great things about being vegan. I really do feel relieved to not be contributing to animal suffering. It's a huge weight off my shoulders, and on some days, the only thing that gets me through is knowing that I didn't support animal exploitation.

Being vegan has also pushed me to eat a larger variety of foods. While I do fall into ruts where I eat the same thing for five days straight because I'm busy, I'm much more open to trying new things and discovering new recipes. I've also been exploring more restaurants, which hasn't been great for my wallet, but has been a cool experience since it wasn't something I ever really did before.

Veganism has pushed me to become more "green." I'm trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle these days. I'm slowly swapping out my disposables for reusables. I'm trying to avoid unnecessary waste.

Becoming vegan also flipped some kind of switch in my brain and I feel like somebody ripped the veil off the world and I'm seeing it for the teeming hellhole that it is. I've become hyper-aware of privilege in society. I finally see the rampant sexism, racism, and general bigotry that rules the world. This is completely, utterly depressing, but I would rather know the truth and make educated decisions than continue to be clueless and contribute to something I believe is wrong.


And that leads us to all of the reasons why being vegan is kind of crappy.

First of all, withdrawals are real. No shit. That first few weeks, my body was freaking out because I wasn't eating dairy. Combine that with the uncertainty of not knowing what I was going to eat or what I liked, and I was a giant ball of hangry, all the time.

Once I got through the withdrawals and relearned how to eat, I had to face my next obstacle: stupid people. I learned quickly (read: immediately) that I can no longer eat near people without it becoming an interrogation. I also can't talk about food, which bums me out because I love talking about food. Here's the problem: even though I politely nod when people talk about how much they love their triple bacon cheeseburger pizza dipped in ranch, as soon as I say anything about what I eat, I get faced with questions like "can you eat pizza?" or "why don't you eat eggs?" or "but you still eat fish, right?"

I'm also faced with the predicament of how to answer the question "why are you vegan?" Because there are several answers. The real answer is "because I think it's horribly unethical to abuse and murder another creature because it's convenient for you." The snarky answer is "because I'm not an asshole." The socially acceptable answer is "it's just a personal preference," but that either welcomes other questions or leaves people thinking that there isn't actually a reason and I'm just immature or high maintenance or whatever.

Since going vegan, I've been questioned about whether I would eat a chicken that walked up to me and begged me to eat it. I've been told I'm damaging my health by not eating local honey and then questioned about why I won't raise my own bees for honey. I've had fights with people about supply and demand because some idiot was like "but if I don't eat the dead animals in the grocery store, they'll just get thrown away and that would be wasteful, so I have to keep eating it as long as they sell it" and I was like "NO. Just. Fucking. No." I've had soooo many people tell me they used to be vegan, or they could never be vegan, or they know somebody who was vegan until they realized they got a special kind of pneumonia caused by kale and had to go back to eating pork. It's infuriating. I even had somebody tell me PETA is the worst organization in the world because they kill more animals than the meat industry and I swear to god, I think my brain fizzled.

Veganism has not made me more patient. I don't know what the deal is with all those freakishly calm yoga-and-incense vegans, but I am not one of them. I am pissed off at the entire world. About everything. Although to be fair, I was pretty pissy before, so it's not such a big leap.

I think the thing people don't realize about veganism is that I extend far more respect to non-vegans than non-vegans extend to me (let alone the amount of respect that they extend to the animals they choose to eat, but that's beside the point). While I will sit next to someone who's eating a meatball sub and keep my mouth shut, as soon as I show up with tempeh, it's like the Spanish inquisition. What is that? What is it made out of? Isn't that gross? Why don't you just eat meat?

Now, if people genuinely wanted to know, I'd be fine with it. I had never met a vegan before I became one, so I didn't have the chance to ask somebody about their supplements or what kind of plant milk they preferred or how to cook tofu and have it not taste like rubber. I still haven't gotten the chance to talk to a vegan about animal fibers and whether you can have ethically-sourced wool yarn. I get having questions and wanting to learn more about people who are different. But these people aren't asking me because the genuinely want to know, they're asking me because somehow they think their idiotic "mmm bacon" argument is going to get me to see the error of my ways and start eating pepperoni again.

And that's just rude.

I don't go around telling people their religion is wrong. I don't tell people yellow isn't their color. I don't hound them about why they drive Fords instead of Toyotas. It's none of my business.

But apparently what I choose not to eat is everybody else's business, and that sucks.

Also. Real talk. It's getting really hard for me to accept other people's lifestyles. Yes, I keep my mouth shut most of the time. I'm not one of those militant vegans who pickets the dairy aisle in Target and tells people meat is murder. But in my head, my heart breaks every time I watch someone eat a dead animal. When people add cheese to things I'm eating without cheese, I just sit there and think, "Dude, could you not?"

The worst part has been trying to cohabitate with my roommate. His favorite argument is "I like food that tastes good." Believe me, I have yelled and cried and let my heart break over and over and over because I know that my food tastes good and he's just too closed minded and set in his ways to give it a shot, but somehow it doesn't matter that I extended kindness by making him dinner; he returns the favor by insulting my lifestyle, questioning my judgement, and perpetuating violence under my own roof. That hurts me in ways that I can't even explain.

So, is going vegan easy? No.

Is living vegan easy? No.

Do I regret going vegan? Not even a little bit.

I just wish the world were a better place to live.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Vegan Eats on the West Coast

You should all be proud of me. I flew in an airplane and I didn't even barf. Not once.

I'm badass like that.

Seriously, though. Last week, I took my first flight ever, and I was somewhat mildly petrified. Luckily, I returned to ground unscathed, aside from a weird bruise I don't remember getting, but I remain unconvinced that human beings are meant to be airborne, let alone airborne en masse at 500 miles per hour.

But at any rate, I did the thing, and I survived and stuff, so it's all okay.

This trip was somewhat disastrous, to tell you the truth. Let me give you a quick rundown of my itinerary, and then I can tell you the 685 ways it ran amok:

On Saturday, I drove from my house to my brother's house to pick him up. I drove from his house (in VA) to Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland. In the rain. Then we hopped on a plane and flew from Baltimore to Portland, OR. On Sunday, I drove from Portland to McKinleyville, CA. That was about 12 hours. On Monday, I went hiking in the redwood forests of California. On Tuesday, I drove back from McKinleyville to Portland. On Wednesday, I hauled my exhausted butt out of bed before dawn to catch a flight from Portland back to BWI, and then I finally, finally, drove home to Virginia.

And as I mentioned, the whole thing devolved into a giant disaster. It poured on the way to the airport. My windshield wiper broke halfway down I-70. The airport parking lot was full. My brother got pulled aside by TSA because he had all kinds of random crap in his carry-on. The flight was turbulent. My GPS doesn't actually work in Oregon...and the list goes on and on. But disasters aside, I spent three glorious days entirely by myself, and it was the most therapeutic thing I could have asked for.

Also, there was vegan food.

We flew Alaska Air, and one of the things they offered was an in-flight vegan snack box. They called it Mediterranean Tapas. I called it a snack box.

 

Whatever you call it, this blurry box of goodies was bomb. It was $6, which was about $3 less than buying belly button lint from the airport newsstands, so I consider this a win. The box included dried apricots, roasted almonds, fancy chocolate, a packet of olives (which I promptly pawned off on somebody disgusting enough to eat olives), pita cracker things, and a mini cup of hummus. It was delicious, and I very much enjoyed the novelty of a boxful of snacks. For those of you who know my birthday is coming up, take note: I like boxes of food.

On Saturday night, I drove into Portland and stopped at Virtuous Pie, an all-vegan pizzeria. There was more tattoo ink on the 9pm patrons of that pizza place than there is in all of the tattoo parlors in my hometown, combined. But it was pretty awesome pizza, and the restaurant vibe was fun too. Being all alone and stuff, I didn't really get the full experience of sitting at a giant farm table (with a cactus in the middle) and having deep conversations about man buns, but I still appreciated the ambiance.


And also, the pizza.


You cannot prove that I ate this pizza in a Toyota Yaris parked on a side street in a spiffy neighborhood. You can't prove it even a little bit. But shoutout to the people of SE Spruce Avenue--your homes are lovely.

On Sunday, I ate an apple out of an Econo Lodge lobby for breakfast (I was staying there, I promise) and then I drove down the coast to the Tin Thistle in North Bend, Oregon.


They were closed.

I went to Taco Bell.


They make pretty good vegan food, if I do say so myself.

I also stopped at a Safeway for gas and Sour Patch Kids. In that moment, I learned two things: 1) It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon, and people will think you're super weird and possibly a criminal if you try to do it yourself; 2) These fucking Sour Patch Kids are the devil incarnate.


Seriously. I'm all about Sour Patch Kids. Sour Patch Kids are a glorious vegan phenomenon. They're the perfect road trip snack. I ate three of these and threw away the entire bag. They were that bad.

On Monday, I ate the vegan breakfast fixin's my Airbnb host left for me: fancy oatmeal and a banana.


Then I went hiking, like one of those outdoorsy people.


It was pretty fun.

I also stood in the surf of the Pacific. That was pretty cool, too.


For dinner that night, I decided to explore the local cuisine by venturing into a grocery store. This was a mistake. The grocery store I ventured into didn't sell instant rice. I didn't even know that was possible. But they really didn't, so I ate ramen and microwaved veggies instead.


It's all okay, though, because there were goats at my Airbnb, and they'll eat anything.


On Tuesday, I drove back to Portland, stopping at the Cornbread Cafe in Eugene, OR, along the way.


I ordered a reuben with fries.


In the interest of full disclosure, I'd never had a reuben before this. I went vegetarian when I was 12, and my 11 year old self had no interest in eating anything prepared with rye bread, so this was a brand new experience for me.

It was delicious.

After that, I drove into Portland proper for the sole purpose of visiting the vegan mini-mall.

I know, you're all waiting in suspense to learn whether I got a vegan tattoo.

I did not.

I did get vegan soft serve, though, and that's arguably way better.


While I was there, I explored the Herbivore Clothing Company shop and the Food Fight market, both 100% vegan and 200% awesome.

At Food Fight, I bought some vegan lip balm, because that's nearly impossible to find 'round these parts, and I snagged a baguette and some roasted red pepper vegan cheese for dinner.


It was awful.

I'm not usually one to knock vegan cheese. In general, I'm so appreciative that anybody tried to help vegans get their fix of cheesy goodness, I'll eat it and be happy even if it's mediocre. This was not mediocre. This was bad. It didn't taste like cheese at all. It tasted, no joke, like solidified hummus. I spent a lot of time debating on whether I wanted to try to bring the rest of it home in my luggage, and eventually I decided that weight restrictions were a good enough excuse to not transport 4oz of shitty cheese across the country, and I threw that crap in the trash. Next time, I'll stick with Miyoko's.

So now you're all caught up on my vegan ventures in the West. As tumultuous as they may have been, I still get to say that I ate at two all-vegan restaurants, which is certainly more than I would have been able to accomplish here in VA.

Do any of you have any top-notch vegan restaurant recommendations? Where should I journey next in my search for truly awesome vegan cheese? Let me know in the comments!