Monday, November 9, 2009

Trying Vegan...

I've been a vegetarian for years...I even lived in France as a vegetarian and how I managed that back then still is somewhat amazing...but I've never stuck to being vegan. I tried several times, going two weeks here two days there but it's never stuck. To be completely honest, I've even found myself justifying not being vegan because the vegans I knew were usually more concerned with weight than animals, or my poor Southern mother would "just die" if she could not make regular macaroni and cheese for Christmas or give my kids grilled cheese sandwiches because it's "bad enough you don't eat meat!" Those truly are my mother's words. Or would being vegan unsettle that neatly put away eating disorder of mine? I have many excuses; some valid, some not (my mother).

But the other day at the book store, I go to my favorite section (food, of course) and I pick up this book (because really I've been on the fence lately about it all). I read about cows and what they have to go through to supply the milk to make the cheese I so adore. And how the babies are taken away...and THAT HIT THE MOMMA CORD IN ME. I nursed my babies and only after pregnancy, not supplying milk when I had not freshly given birth...not forced to do it over and over again. I know people who sound like PETA ads turn others off, and I don't want to do that, but seeing it that way made a switch in my brain. So I said it's time to try for real.

So issue: How do I this and separate my personal views from SweetArt business (when SweetArt is sooooooooo personal? We've made the commitment to stay a vegetarian place (no meat or fish), but now that I'm trying vegan on for size...? There is a baker in Chicago I know who is vegan but she serves everything, meat included. Her personal choice is this and her business is that. Period.

Alas, I know some of you are vegan, and I could use any words of encouragement. Did any of you "cheat" before really staying committed...while working in a bakeshop...surrounded by yummy cookies, cupcakes, and (glup) cheese, glorious cheese? Fingers crossed...I'm doing 40 days because whatever you do for 40 days straight becomes habit (i hear).

wish me luck.

grace & peace,



PB and Jess said...

Reine - good luck to you! When I first tried to go vegan, I definitely had a few missteps. I ended up going to Jilly's Cupcakes and gorging myself about two weeks in. Cheese was a really hard one too, but I never went back to eating it. I had to completely turn my back, otherwise I knew I'd fail! Don't be hard on yourself, and maybe wean off one thing at a time? Thank you for baking such amazing vegan treats because it makes my life that much easier! Speaking of which, it's about time I came in for a brownie! :)

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Yay Reine! How exciting. I researched vegan cooking and nutrition for quite a while before making the switch, and once I found out I could eat delicious food I knew I could stay vegan. Isa says your tastebuds catch up with your ethics, meaning food preferences change over time. I was a cheese fanatic, but once I made the shift in thinking, cheese was only associated with a life of suffering ending in slaughter- not appetizing. I agree with Jess that I'm so grateful for the wonderful vegan food you make available for us! You rock.

SweetArt said...

Thank you, Jess and Lisa. I'm so emotional over this (I could cry just reading your replies). I'm looking forward to developing new vegan recipes for the shop...tasty and delicious recipes, of course. I'm so glad you all replied; I need the words of encouragement!
grace & peace,


E. Lee said...

For a vegan baker support group, and to try new challenges in general, you should check out the Daring Bakers at Every month we do a new and yummy baking challenge chosen by one of the 3,000 members, and post about it on the blogs. The best part is the message boards--there's even one for Alternative Daring Bakers to discuss vegan substitutions and techniques. Just think...vegan french macarons, vegan cheesecake, vegan laminated puff pastry? It's all been done by Daring Bakers in the past few months. ;) Good luck!

SweetArt said...

Thanks, E.Lee. i'm gonna check them out.



Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Reine, we had the cajun "chicken" sandwich special this week and it was deliciously spicy! Plus I took your gorgeous vegan german chocolate cupcakes to a meeting at work. So delicious.

Kelly said...

Hi Reine--You are going to love being a vegan! Or love the way you feel about being vegan. And you hit a cord in your comment about vegans/eating disorders, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder (bulemia) years ago, and yes, you are right in that several vegans do so for 'continued weight loss'. I, however, eat more as a vegan! After 13 years as a vegetarian, and my first year as a vegan, I never once looked back. I have always felt a connection to animals. I just needed the right recipes, tasty food, supportive husband and friends (and have all of these). I hope you have much success--your food is already an indication that this will be a very tasty experience for you! You are ahead of the game! I need to come in and visit again soon!

Anonymous said...

I've been on the vegan/vegetarian fence ever since I became vegetarian five years ago. I eat very little dairy, but I have not eliminated it from my diet yet.

The baking is a tricky thing. Most of the butter substitutes have noticeable amounts of salt, which are okay for some things, but not others. My husband particularly objects to vegan "butter" in buttercream frostings. Plus, all of the butter substitutes mean more processed foods with longer ingredient lists.

I'm still trying to find the balance. Good luck in both your personal and business decisions.

Sallie Ann said...

Reine - Now that I'm a fan I'm reading through all your blogs and commenting, ha!

For me, both vegetarianism and veganism have been something I've been drawn towards. Unlike most vegans I know, I'm not an animal activist; however I do care about animals and feel factory farming is truly evil. For this reason, at home, I typically opt for vegan cooking, and have found some really lovely vegan cookbooks. I share whatever recipes I can find or fall into on my blog; most are really easy, quick and unusual. But, for me food is so much more than sustenance (as I can tell it is for your family)and if someone makes me a big ole plate of mac and cheese, or hands me a bowl of turnip greens (not thinking the pork or smoked turkey counts), I'm going to eat it. My main thing is, be conscious of what goes in your mouth, where it came from, and appreciate the big picture. Being vegetarian is effortless for me, and because I live in Chicago, veganism isn't much more challenging. I choose a vegetable based life, and it works. I'm excited about your discoveries!

jessica said...

I was vegan for 6 years and only stopped because I worked on a farm near a small town where there were all locally sourced small-scale organic cheeses. I could even visit the cheese factories. I got raw milk from the amish and watched them milk the cow myself and my eggs came from a neighboring chicken farm. Now that I am back in the city the majority of my diet is vegan again, unless I know where something comes from. Anyhow people always say that it's a rough transition but I became vegan when I was 16 living in the middle of nowhere, with no car, and no support. I never cheated and I always found a way to make it work. I did chores to earn money to buy soymilk and vegetables. If there is something you are passionate enough about and believe strongly enough in, there shouldn't be anything in the world that can stop you! Besides, there are all kinds of great vegan alternatives, and I have come to find that most of them really do taste better. There is something so delicious about ethical food in it's natural non-genetically modified state, eh? I was going to send my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe on your other blog entry, but I'll just add it here. I have never tried cashew cheese, but I used to make it with nutritional yeast all the time & sure loved it. Give this a whirl:
1 1/2 cups of plain soy milk
1 cup of water
1/3 cup of tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegesal or in lack of fancy product, just use salt
1/4 of a block of firm (not silken) tofu
1 cup of canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs of pasta of your choice preferably macaroni
a relatively large baking pan (like a brownie pan)
1 dollop of mustard (optional)


This is very simple and tastes amazing!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil water in a big pot for the pasta.

All of the ingredients sans pasta can easily go in a blender liquid and powdered this is by far the easiest way and the only was I do it.

Once pasta is cooked drain I and put it in the baking pan pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.

Bake until the top of the pasta looks slightly browned and crispy about 15 minutes but not too crispy because that is gross.

I honestly do not know the serving information or nutritional content I can tell you it feeds a heck of a lot of people and if you are cooking for yourself it will last about 5 days if you eat it for all three meals of the day.

I hope I have been clear please email meany questions and I do apologize for any grammatical errors. heart, megh*n

Serves: a lot

Preparation time: about 8 min.

(I usually don't bake this, but I am sure that's tasty, too. I got it from which is a wonderful recipe resource.)

-I am coming into sweet art for the first time today and I am really looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...


Rebecca said...

I am REALLY late on this post (like a year late), but I just wanted to give my advice as someone who's been vegan for 5 years. When I first decided to become a vegan (for the same reason you're considering it), I did cheat sometimes and gradually I got more and more comfortable with being vegan and it wasn't something I had to TRY to do, it just was me. The main things I cheated on related to my religion. I am Jewish, and on Jewish holidays, I just couldn't resist my mom's homemade blintzes and kugels, which I'd enjoyed since I was a baby. They were just too special to me. I gradually started to feel like "I don't need this anymore, I'm committed." So, I say do what feels comfortable for you. Again, this is SO late, but I just wanted to give my two cents.

Rebecca said...

Also, as Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said, one of the reasons why I stopped "cheating" is that my taste buds changed. Butter doesn't taste the same to me anymore -- it doesn't taste good. I went to a cafe recently and they accidentally served me whole milk in my chocolate milk, and I could taste immediately that it wasn't soy. BTW, I LOVE your vegan baked goods. The Maine Event cookies are to die for. Best chocolate chip cookies I've had, hands down. Thank you for thinking of us vegans and providing such wonderful vegan options! :)

Lisa said...

I just want to say that I love the things that you say and stand for Reine. With out meeting you, you sound like such a nice person. I have not come to your restaurant yet but can't wait to get there.