Saturday, June 27, 2009


things have been happening in my kitchen lately that have kept me from posting. the short story is that i've been slowly moving away from an animal-centric diet, and things sped up quite a bit in the last month or so. but don't worry, i definitely will keep posting super yum recipes. and for now, i have some awesome pics of what i've been up to. but first, a bit of an explanation.

that other time

i gave up meat from 8th grade until my freshman year in university. i can't remember what reason i gave people at the time, but it wasn't really about changing the way i ate. i was more obsessed with the deprivation aspect--it's a long story. whatever my family & friends ate, i ate, but without the animal flesh. burger king whoppers with no burger, beef & broccoli, hold the beef, tunaless tuna salad. and not that there's anything that wrong with what was leftover, really, but the point is that my diet after giving up meat was almost unchanged from my diet before, except that there was less joy in eating. it wasn't super healthy, it wasn't very fun, and what i'm doing now is nothing like that experience.

so i'm done with meat

and milk, butter, cheese, sugar, processed foods, out of season strawberries that have to be shipped in from chile--kind of. i'm not saying i'll never meat again. as a matter of fact, i'm saying i will definitely eat meat again. the point is that i want these kinds of things to be a pleasure, not a staple. in my mind, i've taken them out of the box where rice and onion and tomatoes live and put them in with birthday cake and root beer floats. or at least i'm working on it.

so, yeah, not vegetarian, not vegan. i think it would be a tragedy to live in japan and never eat seafood. it's so, so good and good for you. i don't see myself giving up yogurt any time soon, either, though i am making my own now. ooh ooh bacteria parties!

it's about smart choices, too. if i'm leaving work, and i want cucumbers, should i go to the big supermarket and get cucumbers grown who knows where and wrapped in 3 different kinds of plastic, or should i head to the stand down the street, and get the toyama-grown stuff from the adorable obachan? can i use olive oil instead of butter or honey instead of sugar in that recipe? if a fly wouldn't touch that prepackaged snacky thing, does it have any business in my mouth?

i'm not really thinking in terms of what i am and am not allowed to eat. it's more of a paradigm shift--a thoughtful, conscious way of meal planning that has at its center fresh vegetables, fruits, & grains.

if this all seems kind of unfocused and rambling, it may well be because it's not a dogma for me. there's no rules, just a different way of thinking. a day to day learning process. a dedicated effort to inject more joy in my life.

i do have my reasons

first, it's just healthier. there's so much research that finds positive correlations between diets low in animal products & processed food and high in fresh fruits, veggies, & grains and decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. i've been thinking about this lately--my parents & grandparents have all had brushes with one or more of these diseases, i've been a drinking, smoking, partying wild thing for the last 10 years, i've put on a lot of weight in the last 3 years, and now i'm officially in my 30s. i want to live. and on an even more basic level, when i eat healthy food, i just feel better.

the second reason started with a seed that was planted back when i was in university, when a combination of lectures, readings, films, and one really amazing nun forced me consider the relationship between what i consume and a whole host of ecological, economic, and social problems. when i think about what a deep, soulful experience that cooking and eating can be for me, it just seems appropriate to bring my consumption more in line with my values.

also, i'm so bored with my own cooking. i feel like i basically know how to make three things. i make them quite well, but still, i'm over it. i'm ready to take it to the next level, and i think this is the kind of challenge i need to get excited about cooking again.

lastly, would be remiss if i didn't admit the influence of my peers. for some reason, vegetarians always irritated me. i guess it's hard to cook in a restaurant and not feel this way from time to time. i don't know if i've changed, or if i've just met some less irritating vegetarians, but it really started to get in my head about a year ago. there's been a bit of a health craze sweeping through my friend base, perhaps inspired by warm weather and winter bellies. it's all i've been hearing about lately--kind of like when someone first joins a new church or aa, and, with the best intentions, they completely overestimate your interest in the subject. luckily, one friend was actually able to inspire me, quite unintentionally i think. she doesn't talk a whole lot about not eating meat. what she does talk about is her experiments with new ingredients, new techniques, new ways of planning meals. she's doing crazy things, making mistakes, making miracles, and making it all seem totally doable. the food she brings to social gatherings is inventive and incredibly yummy. so, yeah, i want that.

i don't really have any recipes ready to go.

first, i don't exactly know what i'm doing. and what i am doing...there's just not a lot of me in there yet. i've been relying pretty heavily on other people's recipes. i got two new cook books to help me along. veganomicon is by the creators of post punk kitchen, a site that has been getting me really excited, and helping me along the way. the other is called the enlightened kitchen, inspired by the amazing tradition of vegetarian food served in buddhist temples in japan. it's nice to have a cookbook with ingredients i can get anywhere in my town. and when i discovered vegan crunk, i almost cried with joy at the realization that the flavors of my beloved southern cuisine didn't have to be lost to me.

second, the whole point of this blog was to give recipes that could easily be made by people in my position. that meant food that could be bought in the middle of nowhere in japan. but i've been cooking with a lot of food from, an organic food distributor, and, an indian food distributor. both of these companies do everything in online, in english, ship c.o.d., deliver in a day or two, and are quite reasonably priced, so i guess it could be said that foods from these places still hold to the original spirit. i haven't decided yet, but i think the blog might have to evolve along with me.

an lastly, this is all taking a lot of work right now. but i'm finding ways to be more efficient, developing new habits, and coming up with strategies to make this a practical lifestyle change. i'm really excited about what i've been doing. i think you're really gonna like it, too, so i'm gonna get some recipes up as soon as possible. but for now, here's some pictures, with some links to online recipes.

making vegetable stock from scraps

homemade stuff: stocks (vegetable, konbu, & shitake), ginger syrup, yogurt


BC said...

Welcome to the veggie club Disco!

I've been a non-meat eater since I came back from Japan, and its been great. Here's a sweet veggie bento blog that I often read -

And Just Bento has more traditional Japanese fare-

Hope you are doing well!

the bean said...


first of all, i wanted to say that i am totally blown away by your cooking! i mean, i have a couple of recipes that i have been able to get down solid and then i looked at your blog and was like, man, i suck at cooking. but really, its so inspiring.

second, i am even more excited about your move to a more conscious, plant-based diet. before i came to japan, i was vegan/vegetarian (what can i say, i love cheese) but over the past year have really opened my diet up to seafood. i probably eat some kind of fish in some food at least once a week. for me, and it sounds like maybe for you?, being a vegetarian or vegan or anything wasn't about labeling myself or fitting into a category. my primary concern is (and has been) what's the best choice for me, right now. not only that, but basically what causes the least amount of suffering for everyone/thing involved. not to get all hippy-dippy here, but that is my bottom line.

anyhow, this is something i could talk at length about (read: rambling comment post) but i think its really interesting and i also think its connected to more philosophical topics as well. i wanted to say that you have inspired me to rethink some of my eating habits i've fallen into since coming abroad and that i think your blog is totally amazing inspiring and i cant wait to see/try more of your recipes!