When I was an undergrad at SNHU I took one class in particular that has really stuck with me, more than 14 years later. I couldn’t tell you the name of the class or one single thing I learned from the textbook, and I can’t even remember the name of the professor. All I remember is that he inspired me to go vegetarian for the first time.
He was a vegetarian, and I think a bit of a hippie. The thing I really remember about that day was that he brought in some vegetarian food for everyone to try, including something he called Flightless Chicken Salad. I don’t know what was in it, although as I think back I’m certain the “meat” must’ve been tempeh. This was before Vegenaise, so it probably had some kind of tofu-based sauce. I remember that it was good, and I remember thinking that his was a lifestyle that really spoke to me. Not the hippie part, but not eating animals, and the way he was always trying to raise awareness and make the world a better place. I saw him as this kind, gentle person who was truly making the world around him a better place. I wanted to be that person, too.
So I went home and announced that I was now a vegetarian. This was where it got tricky. I had no idea what vegetarians ate (other than Flightless Chicken Salad, which I had no idea how to reproduce), I had zero understanding of nutrition beyond the USDA Pyramid (lies!), and it’s not like I could just zip over to the local corner store and stock up on Tofurky and tofu. I’m sure there were items like that available somewhere back then, but certainly not in Backwoods, NH. This was also before Google, so that wasn’t really an option for me either. I know I’m making excuses, because there were people who went vegetarian or even vegan and stuck to it. But for me, it wasn’t time.
After a few days of probably just starving myself, I went back to eating meat, and tried not to think about how I was avoiding becoming the person I wanted to be.
My second attempt was when I lived in LA. I didn’t know anyone who was vegetarian, but I wanted to lose weight. A coworker made an off-hand comment, something like “Vegetarians are skinny, maybe you should do that!” Living in LA I had access to great vegetarian and vegan substitutes, so I filled the fridge with veggie balls and Tofutti Cuties from Trader Joes. Ultimately it didn’t stick, BUT I continued to weave those alternative products into my diet. I don’t think I ever bought meatballs other than the veggie ones after that, and the Cuties were pretty much always on my shopping list. Plus I was broke and couldn’t afford meat anyway, so I think we could safely call me “Vegetarian Adjacent”. A good side story- my friends and I were always out clubbing (oh man could I tell you some stories- but I wont) and a lot of times we’d all end up back at my apartment after last call. I’m not sure how my roommates felt about that, but I had a lot of fun, ha ha. Anyway, people would be hungry so unless we remembered to hit the Del Taco drive through on the way, I’d end up throwing something together. My favorite was spaghetti and those TJ’s vegetarian balls. The first timers would usually give me a hard time: “I’m not eating those!” or “Gross!”, but everyone ALWAYS loved them. Always. People tend to have a hangup about trying vegetarian or vegan food, but I think if they’d just open their minds a little, they’d be pleasantly surprised.
Unfortunately this round of attempted conversion didn’t stick either- in fact it would be another 6 years before I officially became a vegetarian (and 8 until I became vegan), but I choose not to dwell on that. Instead I’d like to send a big THANK YOU out to that one professor who attempted to open the minds of a room-full of college students. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised!
Read more about how I ultimately became vegan (and stuck with it!)
Curried Tempeh Salad ( 2 sandwiches)
- 4-5 ounces of tempeh, steamed and crumbled
- 3 tablespoon vegenaise (plus a little extra for spreading)
- Heaping 3/4 teaspoon curry powder (or more, to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 4 sliced of bread (I used Sandwich Thins, but any bread or even pita would be good)
- Mix together tempeh, vegenaise, curry and salt. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Smear a little bit of the vegenaise on your bread, then layer 1/2 the spinach and top with 1/2 the tempeh salad.
- Serve with a side of grapes or chips.