The vegan cookbooks on the shelf

I’m sorry.  I’m going to talk about losing weight and also not gaining weight, and trying to eat healthier, and what that even means, and also, I will be discussing vegan foods.

Yes, I am apologizing for the last thing.

I received two vegan cookbooks for Christmas, from my daughter, who thought it would be fun to give me something which swears at me.  (Look up the Thug Kitchen cookbooks and you will understand.)  At the time, I had not yet fully embraced the idea that I needed to modify my diet in some way, because I am stubborn, and also a male.

Cobb salad

Cobb salad

Also, I bike a lot.  A lot a lot.  It’s how I commute to and from my day job about four days a week, roughly nine months out of the year.  It’s twenty miles, each way.

For the past few years, from April to November/December, I’ve biked myself into shape, which meant by September, I looked fantastic.  Then I went clothes shopping, which is 100% always a mistake.  Never buy clothing that only looks good on you when you are at your physical peak, kids.  Learn from the mistakes of your elders.

The important thing here, though, is that while I was biking like this I could eat anything.  I was burning an extra 2000 calories a day, so why not?  Mexican food three times a week?  Sure!  Entire pizzas?  I’m in!  All the Chinese food on page two of the menu?  Send it over.

Well, it turns out my body disagrees with that last paragraph.

I saw my doctor for the first time in nearly four years, this past May.  You may be wondering why it had been nearly four years since I last saw my doctor, but I would like to remind you yet again that I am a male.  I expect you require no further explanation.

Since the last time he saw me was at the end of my bike riding season, he saw the very best version of Gene I had.  In May, he saw the worst.

“What happened?” was what he said, when he got a good look at me.  There was a touch of betrayal in his voice.  It was like we had a deal: I keep on taking care of myself, and his office won’t bug me about an annual appointment.

(This was not the first time I had heard something like this from a medical professional.  The first time I heard it was from a dentist who was looking in the mouth of a thirty year old who hadn’t had a cleaning in over a decade and who was two weeks away from a full-blown abscess.  “What happened in here?” was the dentist’s remark, as if he was looking at the remains of a detonation, as perhaps he was.)

2016-01-01 14.14.21I thought I’d work off the weight, like I always did, but at the end of the summer, frustratingly, a lot of it was still there.  Yes, I lost about ten pounds, but there was a whole lot more of me still, a lot more than a ten pound shortage would resolve.  The problem was that for every year between doctor visits, I was gaining more weight than I was losing, which was why the May visit had me coming in at forty pounds heavier than the last time I was on the office scale, and my doctor feeling personally betrayed.

The cookbooks were a good idea, then.

I don’t know what to do with vegetables.  For three years now, we’ve received a farm share across twenty-two weeks in the summer, and without exception at least half of it has gone bad every single year in our household.  At this point, we’re doing more to support the Cambridge compost heap (of course Cambridge has a public compost heap) than our diets.

That’s basically my fault, because I’m the one that does the cooking.  Why?  I’m pretty sure what happened was that I made dinner one time twenty-five years ago, my wife said, “that was good, you should cook more often” and here we are.

So I am cooking things from a vegan cookbook on a semi-regular basis now.  I want to make it clear that this doesn’t mean I am now a vegan.  I’m not saying that because I have something against vegans.  I’m saying it because it seems like a lot of you do have something against vegans.

For example, when making a particular recipe the other day I discovered it was possible to turn tofu, nutritional yeast (do not ask what this is) and sunflower seeds into something that tastes like ricotta cheese.  I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but it works, and that’s pretty cool.  But everyone I’ve told that to so far has basically said the same thing: why don’t you just use ricotta instead?

spinach & mushroom lasagna with pesto

spinach & mushroom lasagna with pesto

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now—or since I started writing this post, which was maybe not that long ago—and I think I understand what’s going on.  Y’all are assuming that…

  1. people who eat vegan food are doing it for social or political reasons, not dietary ones, which is unfortunate because
  2. their food tastes awful
  3. and nobody would eat it willingly

So when I say that I still eat meat and dairy, and then describe a lasagna made of mushrooms, spinach, pesto, and a ricotta cheese made of tofu, the reaction is: why would I do that when I don’t have to?

Well the answer is, I would like to be smaller, because I don’t like the way I fit into the clothes I keep buying at the wrong time of year, and I don’t want to invest in Fat Gene clothing and just give up.  (I would also like to reiterate that I bike 40 miles a day four days a week, and that means I wear lycra eight times a week for upwards to an hour and a half.  There is no place to hide fat in this outfit.  You’re cringing already just thinking about it, don’t even lie.)

Anyway, I apologize, because talking about eating vegan—even when I haven’t gone Full Vegan—is apparently alarming for some of you.

Even though the food tastes really good.  You’re gonna have to take my word for it.


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  1. Tamson Smith on February 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    So, vegan or not, that lasagna looks awesome.

    We had a health scare with Shannon’s cholesterol numbers a few years (stress + bad food choices while moving was a killer!) , so while we haven’t gone vegan, we have switched over to soy products like cheese and tofu. (we still eat lots of chicken, but very little beef). And, while neither one of us are particularly svelte, both of our numbers ranges are straight down the middle now. And the soy cheese isn’t bad….

    Don’t you just love being this age? I actually eat far better than I did in my 20’s, but it takes a colossal effort to drop the pounds and it all comes back on if you stop paying attention for five minutes.

    • Gene Doucette on February 24, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      It does take a colossal effort now… We’re using MyFitnessPal to track weight and diet, and all I’ve gotten out of it so far is 1: my weight fluctuates so much it’s ridiculous, 2: alcohol has way more calories than I’m okay with, and 3: everything i eat is too much food.

  2. Becky on February 25, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I have some other vegan cookbooks at my apartment that I can loan you and mark my favorite recipes (so you don’t have to deal with any gross/failed ones that we suffered through). My fave that I’ve been meaning to make for a while is Tangine and it makes a really good leftovers for the week. It requires a lot of spices but you probably still have all of them from when Alexa and I made it a while back.

    Also you can check out Yummly for good recipes. You can put it whether you want vegan recipes, something salty or sweet, etc.

    • Gene Doucette on February 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

      I haven’t run out of things to try in Thug Kitchen just yet, but it will happen eventually i’m sure

  3. Frank on February 25, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    How about that spinach & mushroom lasagna with pesto recipe??? Please.

    • Gene Doucette on February 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Wellllllll, I’d feel really guilty about copying a recipe here from a book that’s for sale. It’s on page 150 of Thug Kitchen (their first book.) “Mixed Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna.” But it also uses their house marinara recipe (page 148) and their tofu ricotta recipe (page 149). And their website does have recipes on it– just not that one, as far as I can tell.

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