Vegetating (Day Six)

I have about 32 more hours as a vegetarian before I can go back to eating meat. When I first thought about doing this there was a real question in my head about whether I’d be able to pull it off or not; that fact is no longer in doubt at all. There is basically no way that I’m going to either accidentally eat meat or be forced to eat meat tomorrow, and I’m all done eating except for a stray snack or two for the day now, so I’m going to pull off a week without meat.

Do I want to try and go for a second week? No. No, not at all, thanks. At least not during the school year. Weirdly, it was lunches that killed me– as a teacher my lunch hour is a) extremely short and b) geographically constrained; I have to either bring my lunch with me, eat food from the school cafeteria (my usual choice) or race at top speed to one of several fast food/ grocery deli options in the area and hope there aren’t red lights or lines in my way. I tried to leave work for lunch once this week and the kids were like zombies outside my classroom door by the time I got down there. I just don’t have the time to leave the building, especially if I’m not racing. And cafeteria food is almost always meat-centered, and when it isn’t it’s rarely something I actually want to eat. (Generally, I don’t rag on our cafeteria food. But it’s terrible if you’re a vegetarian. Just not feasible at all.)

This means that I needed to bring my lunch, and I never really hit on anything that managed to keep me full for the rest of the day. Seventh grade has first lunch, meaning that we eat at eleven, and if I walk out of the building before 3:45 or 4:00 it’s a bloody miracle. So afternoons are long, and I need to make sure my lunches are filling enough that I’m not scavenging the corners in the hallways for scraps by the time I go home. I’ve been snacking a lot. Too much.

I think if I wanted to I could pretty easily shift to a plant-or-fish based diet for dinner five or six nights a week without it being that big of a deal. I do not think right now that I can include lunch in that. If I had a different job, it might be a different story, but with the way my lunches work right now it’s just too much of a pain in the ass to be including arbitrary restrictions into what I’m willing to eat.

Today was exhausting, by the way. My kids weren’t the problem; thinking was at as high a level as it ever gets and I didn’t have any particularly egregious examples of kids trying to pretend they’d never heard or math before or giving up on shit they know how to do. It was just one of those days where every time I thought I’d gotten something done or accomplished I turned around and there were five more things, Hydra-like, waiting where I’d cleared something out. Charmingly, the day ended with me and the security guard and both of our administrators investigating a stolen iPad in one of my classes; I’d not even been aware the thing was in the room, but the thief managed to convince the kid he’d stolen it from that I had confiscated it. The kid came running up to me at the beginning of last hour, practically in tears, begging me to give it back to him and not wait for his parents to get it and I had literally no idea at all what the hell he was talking about. It was lovely.

Oh, and one of the thieves (turned out there were two working together) was seven plus two kid from yesterday. So there’s a few more days where he won’t be in my room learning math. Meanwhile, the other jackass I discussed yesterday didn’t bother showing up for school today, meaning that he still has to serve his three days of in-school suspension when he gets back– so I’ll have him for a maximum of two days next week, and I don’t doubt his ability to do something on Thursday that will get him suspended again on Friday.

I think I’m glad it’s a weekend.

Some odds and ends


Day Four of the Great Vegetarian Experiment:  risotto!  Mushroom risotto, to be precise.  I didn’t know what risotto was until I started watching Gordon Ramsay shows, and now that I’ve made it I can never stop.  Soooo goddamn good.  Tomorrow will be some sort of pasta, I think, and then I just have to make it through Friday and Saturday and I can have an entire pig for breakfast on Sunday if I want.

I’ll admit I cheated a tiiiny bit on this one, because the risotto was made with chicken stock, although there isn’t any actual meat in there.  However, I said in the ground rules that I wasn’t going to worry about chicken stock, and the people at Slate say chicken stock isn’t meat anyway, so nyah.  (Sidenote:  I’m entertained to note that the guy in the article is also using chicken stock to make mushroom risotto.  That’s a coincidence, I swear.)

Today was the first day where I really missed meat, to be honest– which manifested itself in three different ways:  first, whatever the kids were having for lunch in the cafeteria smelled really good.  Second, I hit the vending machine for a snack during my prep period (my lunch is really early in the day, so this happens probably more often than it should, since my prep is last hour) and was halfway toward getting vending machine jerky before it hit me that a) vending machine jerky is meat, and b) are you kidding?  Vending machine jerky?  Like hell I’m eating vending machine jerky.  Then on the way home I drove past Arby’s, which is still prominently advertising their Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich, and… I’m not gonna lie, there might have been some drooling.  No buying, no eating, but drooling.

I promised “odds and ends” in the title of the post, but the two other things I was going to talk about– the bullying movie the whole building had to watch today and the release of Bill Ayers’ Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident both kinda feel like full-sized posts now that I’m thinking about them.  So maybe I’ll overpost for the next couple of days if I get them written.  Many of you are probably tired of hearing about food by now anyway, I imagine.


Vegetating: day two

IMGP0141Note that this is not actually a picture of the dinner I made tonight; I stole this one off the Interwebs.  It’s the same dish, though, and doesn’t look too far off from what ended up in my Dutch oven– ie, it looked like nothing anyone wanted to eat until we started eating it.    This, folks, is Eggs in Hell– apparently originally a Mario Batali recipe, although the one I followed was from Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 cookbook and is not precisely the recipe outlined in that link.  In particular, it looks a lot less spicy– for example, it only uses one jalapeño instead of four (this may be the first time in my life I’ve had food with jalapeños in it two days in a row) and no red chili flakes.  Basically:  Five eggs, a shallot, a can of San Marzano tomatoes, a clove of garlic, some olive oil (too much, I think, actually), parsley, and the aforementioned jalapeño.  Combine everything but the eggs and set to a-simmerin’ for a few minutes, then turn down the heat a touch and poach the eggs.

The cookbook claimed the eggs would poach in about two minutes.  I have poached eggs in water in two minutes; you cannot poach an egg in simmering tomato juice in two minutes, so there was some consternation about the done-ness of the eggs.  Turns out it takes around five and could maybe have handled another minute.  The dish looks (appropriately, apparently) like hell upon being removed from the heat, so I didn’t take a picture of it– but take a couple of those eggs and some of the sauce and spread ’em over some cheddar cornbread (that recipe, plus half a cup of cheddar in the batter and half a cup over the bread once it’s done cooking) and you have some damn fine food.

(Seriously, I’m never using eggs in cornbread again.  Yogurt yogurt yogurt that cornbread is fantastic.)

Work was annoyingly stressful and I have a feeling if I talk about why I’m going to spend the rest of the entry raining hell down upon a thirteen year old who might actually deserve it for his various acts of stupidity and assholery, but I’m going to refrain anyway.  Once in a while I should act like the adult.

Anyway.  Point is:  I’ve survived two days as a vegetarian, because shut up, eggs aren’t meat.  Five more to go!

SUPER IMPORTANT OH I ALMOST FORGOT EDIT:  I bought the ghost chilies.  So.  Do you know me in the real world?  Are you interested in a suicide pact?  LET US MAKE DEATH CHILI TOGETHER.

Vegetating: day one (Also: how to perish in flames)

photoDoesn’t look that much different from the original picture, does it?  All told I made very few changes to the original recipe for vegan quinoa & sweet potato “chili”; at one point I considered adding some extra tomatoes and almost put in two potatoes instead of one, but at the end the only change I made was adding a jalapeño, a decision I feel pretty damn good about and will be repeating whenever I make this again.

(Yes, I know putting sour cream in it makes it no longer vegan.  Shuddup; that’s what the recipe calls it.)

One other thing:  I’m renaming sweet potatoes.  I’ve eaten many, many sweet potatoes in my time but haven’t actually ever cooked with them before, and from now on they’re to be known as sonofabitch potatoes whenever I’m referring to them.  I was startled at how difficult they were to cube properly and they took so much longer than every other element of the recipe to cook up right that I think they were probably still a trifle undercooked when I finally gave up and turned the heat off.  My wife has suggested that next time I put them in the microwave for a minute or two before I try to cut them up; that seems like a good idea, as we could have been eating fifteen minutes earlier were it not for the potatoes– I was originally thinking that the vegetable stock in the chili was taking way too long to cook off/be absorbed by the quinoa but I was actually adding water by the time I felt like the potatoes were ready.

Another casualty: I wanted to garnish with avocado, as the recipe suggests, but there were no ripe avocados to be had at my grocery.  I bought one that I felt like was the closest to being ripe, but was quickly disabused of that notion when I cut into it; I had to throw it out.  I love avocado but the dish doesn’t need it so it wasn’t a huge deal.

All told, despite the issues with the potatoes, this was fucking delicious.  I told my wife I’d deny this until I died, but I think I’m going to admit it:  I didn’t miss ground beef at all.  Quinoa matches it texturally just enough that I didn’t notice it was gone.  I’ll make this again.

Right, speaking of my grocery:  they didn’t have ripe avocados (they had plenty that will be fine if I give them a day or two, mind you) but what they did have, to my great surprise, was dried ghost chilies, hidden away in a corner, literally underneath a basket of shallots. If you’re not familiar with them, the bhut jolokia, or ghost chili, is (or at least was recently; this is a category with a lot of turnover) the hottest chili known to the human race.  So hot that chefs who cook with them have been known to wear gas masks while doing so.

I didn’t buy them; it took me a while to get over the initial “you can get these in Indiana?  How the hell did that happen?” shock and by the time I realized what I’d passed up on I was out of the store.  Now, keep in mind, I’ve never even used habaneros in anything before, so jumping from jalapeños to goddamn ghost chilies is probably completely insane.

I wanna make chili with them– hell, with one– and have some people over to see if any of us can eat it.  With, like, pizza as backup or something like that, because, really, I don’t know anybody with a much higher tolerance for spicy foods than I have and my tolerance for spicy foods, while improving, isn’t exactly notable.

So.  Yeah.  Who’s in?

In which this isn’t real but looks good

Vegan-Quinoa-Sweet-Potato-Chili1Been a vegetarian for fourteen hours.  So far, so good, although it should probably be pointed out that under most circumstances I wouldn’t have eaten any meat by now anyway.  That said, I’m making this for dinner– I challenge the author’s description of this food as “chili,” because chili contains ground beef, GODDAMMIT, but regardless of what you call it it sounds tasty as hell.  There will no doubt be some sort of picture of it posted later today once I’ve got it made.  The one to the right is from the original website; nothing I cook will look that good, although I probably will go with the avocado garnish on top on account of avocados are delicious.

I should also point out that one mildly intemperate post on Facebook has a friend suggesting that I have the “meat shakes” already.  Nah– but wait until Wednesday or so, when I come home early from work on account of having accidentally gnawed on one of the students.

Let’s see.  What else?  My trip to Michigan yesterday went more or less without incident and other than a mild back twinge and more grading than I’d really like to have left at this point on Sunday afternoon I’ve got little that’s worth complaining about.  So… yeah.  I’ll put up a picture tonight once I’ve made dinner just to prove that I’ve done it; maybe by then I’ll have come up with something else to talk about.  Feel free to continue giving me recipes, by the way; even if I don’t end up making everything this week most of the recipes you guys have shared either here or on Facebook look awesome.