I have not been a veganaut for an entire year yet, although it seems like I’ve been doing it my whole life. From time to time, an annual event will pop up and remind me that this is still my first trip around the sun with my new lifestyle.
The Fourth of July was the most recent reminder that my very satisfying plant-based life is still somewhat new. After years of settling into a BBQ, bonfire, and fireworks routine, it was nice to mix it up this year. We turned that holiday rut on its head by starting off with BBQ, and then following it up with a bonfire and fireworks. Granted, we grilled Tofurky Sausages and eggplant instead of barnyard animals, but other than that it was still as patriotic and smoky as I remember.
Now I find myself at Beach Week 2012. This summer tradition started in 1999- consisting of the playgroup families that bonded so closely around our newborns three years earlier. Each summer, the number of condos our group rented grew as extended family and friend groups were added. More than a decade later, Beach Week has become a combination of Spring Break and Christmas and Unicorn Day. It rocks in every way.
The huge crew assembles for some meals, subdivides for others, and break into individual family units for the rest. My family had a restaurant routine that was built around meat. From summer to summer, I was either eating the Standard American Diet in triplicate~ or I was devouring plates of meat for the glory of Atkins~ and my family was happy to go out to eat anywhere that had 3 dollar sodas and french fries. Overly full belly naps, if you didn’t know, are one hundred times better in the sea breeze.
This Beach Week has reminded me that I am indeed eating and living differently. When compared to previous summers, there have been some changes in our routine. We are not going out to eat nearly as much. We are spending more time in the surf, pool and sand. We’ve played more badminton and gone on more walks. We’ve even been practicing more for the annual sandcastle competition. I’m amazed by the increased time and activity, simply from not going out to eat twice a day.
Oh, but we’ve eaten. I have not given up my overly full belly beach naps and don’t intend to. They just aren’t as necessary as they were before. We have simply been cooking our own food or enjoying chatty lawn chair banquets with the rest of the crew.
It is no surprise at all that our extended playgroup family has been completely supportive of our change. At the kick-off BBQ potluck event I was overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness. Our Boca Burgers were grilled with love and care and we were even offered a tinfoil barrier on the grill to protect us from the previously cooked meat patties. One incredibly thoughtful extended family member brought a dish of couscous for the herbivores. She explained how easy it was to make and how it wasn’t a big deal, but it was a watershed moment for me.
Around the same summer that our Beach Week tradition began, I was on a two-week Appalachian Trail hike with my Mom. I’ll share the deets in the future, but for now lets focus on thriftiness. My Mom was a thrifty woman. In preparation for our trip together she’d freeze-dried our meals for us, among them, several packages of couscous. Somewhere in the freeze-drying process the couscous turned to sandy bile covered in ass. I’m not sure if that description does it justice, but to describe it further would require a few Klingon words which are not appropriate for a PG-13 blog like this.
Since there was nothing else to eat except fast moving bears, I had to eat it and keep down as much as I could. You can imagine the physical reaction my body has had whenever I’ve heard the word couscous in the decade since – it was somewhere between a shudder and a dry heave. And vegans LOVE the stuff. Reading blogs and books it was couscous this and couscous that. *Shudder heave*
Suffice it to say, I was a little leery when faced with a platter of couscous. However, I am a new man and after spooning it on my plate and bravely taking an open-minded bite, it turns out I really love the stuff. Go figure. It looked and tasted nothing like the “Mom version” which is exactly what I was hoping for.
The watermelon frog pictured above was my contribution to the Beach Week kick-off feast. In part it is homage to Mom who was as famous for her watermelon boats as she was infamous for her couscous. However, it is also a symbol of the new twist that veganaut living has added to our lives. We still go to the beach and enjoy the Fourth of July and have Thanksgiving. We just do things a little differently now, and I love it.