We put a call out on facebook on December 30. The mission? One person willing to commit to eating a plant-based diet for the month of January. The world calls this Veganuary. We call it Sample Veg-Eburger. (Read that out loud. It's cute!) The post received scattered interest but among the respondents was Martha, an Ellensburg local, and by default the rest of her family since she prepares their meals. I met with Martha that week for an interview to find out about her current eating habits and help her through a month of drastic dietary shifts.
Martha and her husband had recently been traveling and had the opportunity to dine at Veggie Grill. They were blown away! Martha went into the month with this really great attitude that eating plant-based would probably be easier than she thought once she found items to substitute for the animal ingredients she was used to eating in her favorite meals. Her family was interested in giving it a shot since they knew it would be good for their health, could help them cleanse, and held beliefs that the Bible references eating animals as unclean. Martha thought the biggest challenge would be figuring out what to eat when going to family parties.
We spent some time talking about eating habits. These questions are great to think about in general, but especially when addressing big dietary changes. How often do you eat out? Do you meal plan? What grocery store do you shop at the most? What does your typical shopping list contain? What are your go-to meals? How long do you usually take to prepare your meals? Are you more interested in altering the meals you are used to eating or trying new foods?
We decided to focus on finding items that would be acceptable substitutions in the traditional Mexican meals that Martha cooks, which center heavily around cheese, chicken stock, and meat. Since she is used to meal planning and typically spends 2-3 hours preparing dinner, trying new things did not present a difficult challenge for her. However, there was still a bit of trial and error with finding suitable recipes - and her husband was a tough critic! The one recipe that Martha said she made most throughout the month was a vegan fideo soup from Dora Stone, of Dora's Table and Mi Mero Mole.
Sopa de Fideo from Dora's Table
1 tbsp. Oil (optional)
8 oz. Whole wheat thin spaghetti, broken into 1 in. pieces
1 can (14.5 oz) Diced tomatoes 14.5 oz
1/2 Onion, white, chopped
3 Garlic cloves, peeled
10 cups Vegetable stock
2 Mexican zucchini, diced
1 Avocado, large, diced
In a medium pot get your vegetable stock boiling hot and set aside.
Set a large pot to medium heat and add oil. Once oil is hot add broken up noodles and toss to coat in oil. Continue to cook until noodles are golden brown, about 3 minutes.
While the noodles are browning, place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and 2 cups of the vegetable stock in the blender and process until smooth.
Strain this mixture directly into the golden noodles still in the hot pot. Stir to prevent the noodles from sticking.
Let mixture simmer for 1 minute. Add the rest of your stock and set heat to high. Let boil until noodles are al dente. Stir often. Season.
Set a medium sauté pan to medium-high heat. Add zucchini and sauté for 3-4 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Add zucchini to soup.
Garnish with diced avocado and serve.
On January 1, we launched the Eburg Veg Community facebook group to support Martha and others who want to eat more plant-forward meals, and to connect with other people in Ellensburg that are eating consciously. Martha continues to be an active participant and has everyone drooling over her meals and hoping she will open a restaurant someday!
Martha and I remained in contact throughout the month, and when February came around Jonas and I went to her house for a follow-up interview and recipe tutorial. Jonas and Martha's daughter, Aby are the same age and had fun playing together while I got the low down on what it was like for Martha to be plant-based for an entire month.
Before this sample month, Martha said she did most of her shopping at Grocery Outlet and Fred Meyer. During January she went to Super 1 more than usual and did much more Amazon shopping to get lower prices on buying large quantities of items that she used a lot of, like these boullion cubes. The other item she found was the Daiya farmhouse block, which tastes a lot better than the pre-grated shreds available. Her favorite food score was a method of making sour cream using cashews that her friend shared with her. She says above all else, she will definitely stick with the recipe since she likes it a lot better that any of the sour cream products she was eating before. She found that after cutting meat out of her diet she ate a lot more lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, and tofu. She started experimenting with smoothies more and really enjoyed it. Martha said that her food budget stayed the same but there was an unexpected perk since it actually took her less time to prepare meals eating this way!
There were hiccups along the way. Martha continued to purchase and prepare meat and dairy for her husband and her daughter and said sometimes it was hard to deal with the temptation. She compared it to compulsive shopping - how you sometimes will buy something just because it's on sale when it's right there in front of you and looks like a good deal. "I have to stop and remind myself that just because other people are eating something doesn’t mean I need it. I learned to eat before going to events or eating a vegan version of whatever other people were eating when I get home later. People knowing that it’s a challenge aren’t as pushy and I don’t really want people asking a bunch of questions!"
Martha says that she definitely recommends other people trying this. She found a lot of inspiration from instagram, especially dorastable, rawvana, vegan_mexican, and even though she didn't say it I know she meant to mention eburgveg too. The take away? "I feel like I have more energy than before but I’m more gassy!"