Half Way There.

“Dimidium facti qui coepit habet,” –Horace

(He who has begun has the work half done)



PROLOGUE

When I initially set out to write this first major post of my Year Of The Vegan, I didn’t expect it would turn out so long. But it did. If you don’t like to read, I’m sorry – there is a lot of information here. If you do like to read, I’m sorry – it’s not necessary well written. But this blog is as much for me as anybody, and this is what I wanted. Most future posts will be smaller by design, and I expect I will get better at distilling my thoughts to the essentials of experience as I practice blogging.

I’ll open with notes on each day’s experiences, then jump into the meat of today’s post. If you catch a few names or notions you’re not familiar with yet, don’t worry – all should be clear by the end of the post. If you want to skip right to the why of this blog, this post, this year, click here.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Safety in numbers isn’t just a civilian ambulatory safety strategy, it’s a happy notion for vegans as well. Because I [somehow] convinced Peter and Lindsay to be vegan with me, our entire house is free of consumable animal products (except for some emergency steaks in the freezer, just in case we have a visit from one of our carnivorous friends).

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I’ve had to visit the bathroom significantly more times than normal today. Not exactly sure why. I’m hoping it’s a sign of cleansing, like my body has caught on to the scheme my brain already understands – no more meat products this year – and is beginning to flush the system. Other than the oddly frequent visits to the bathroom, I’ve felt energetic, happy, and generally wonderful. I’m still super excited for the coming year!

My coworker, Wanzhan, also suggested today that I record not only my weight, pulse, cholesterol, etc throughout the year, but my self-evaluated happiness and energy levels as well. I think this is a brilliant suggestion (I have my nerdiness to thank for that – the opportunity to record additional data excites me more than a normal person might expect).

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

I wasn’t so happy to deal with people today. I think it was the lack of sleep, but I was feeling pretty snippy for some reason. But though the mood wasn’t great, veganism was still doing well. I am not struggling with it as much as people would have thought so far, but then again it’s only been four days, and I haven’t given malnutrition or laziness a chance to set in.

I am impressed by how long it feels like it has been since January 1. It must be the fact that every day I am recording details of my life combined with the fact that I’m doing something so new, but I feel like I’ve been vegan for ages.  I’d say I feel like I’ve been doing it for a month or so. Interesting how my sense of time is altered.

So far I’ve really had no meaty urges or cravings to speak of. Generally, I’ve had less cravings than I would have expected, even for things that are non-vegan. People have offered me candy and other various sweets, and I just have no desire for them. And somehow the concept of eating a huge meal doesn’t sound so good. I’m perfectly happy and content to eat a small meal consisting mostly of vegetables. I wonder if or how this will change throughout the year.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Today I went out for dinner with my friend Tiffany. We went to Sen Yai Sen Lek, a family run Thai place at 24th and Central in NE Minneapolis. I’ve always loved this place, and wanted to see how they would do for vegan. Our waiter didn’t seem too comfortable with the concept, and even managed to bring me the typical omelet accompaniment with my meal (though he was very apologetic when he realized what he had done). But he asked the chef in back and supposedly they were happy to provide a vegan option. Aside from the omelet, the meal seemed to be vegan and was quite delicious (though perhaps not as spicy as I would like).

Anyway, this was my first experience ordering vegan food at a restaurant that doesn’t openly state their support for vegan dishes, but I thought it turned out alright. I like the food, atmosphere, servers, and patrons at Sen Yai Sen Lek enough that I’ll definitely be going back.

So far I don’t appear to be losing weight, but I’m fine with that. I’m giving my body at least two weeks to adjust to the vegan diet, then I’ll start to kick the weight loss into high gear. So far I’ve been to the fitness club every day, and I still intend to do so for the rest of the year. I’m hoping veganism will help me reach my weight goal, though that’s not what this year is about – this year is just about challenges, learning, and being healthier. Increased physical fitness and decreased weight would be a nice bonus.

As of today, I estimate this is the longest I’ve gone without consuming animal products since I was two years old. That is kind of shocking to me, but [probably] in a good way.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Today Peter, Lindsay, and I celebrated our first week of veganism with a meal at Ecopolitan (completely vegan, raw food) in uptown. I managed to forget to take pictures, but I think I’ll remember the experience for some time. I think I’ve actually eaten there before, but I didn’t really appreciate it until now. It is truly a magical place.

First of all, upon entering the building one notices that this is a more relaxed atmosphere. Successfully making your way though the first door presents you with several more options, not so clearly marked. The next door presents you very suddenly with the restaurant, and if your experience is anything like mine it will be packed with the hippiest of hippies and maybe a few normal people.

The staff were friendly, almost disturbingly so. It was as if I was at an acquaintance’s house and she was trying to be extra friendly. But I expect this is the way of most hippies, and it’s not necessarily anything bad, just a little different. Aside from the friendliness, however, the quality of service wasn’t anything to be proud of. For the most part, the casual attitude of the waitress ended up being a bit too casual, and she wasn’t as responsive as she should have been. As a matter of fact, when we were waiting to pay our bill I think she went to take a nap or went home for the night or something, because we didn’t see her again at all.

The menu was a bit of a fail as well. Not that I wouldn’t expect it, but they were out of many ingredients. The waitress spent the majority of her time at our table telling us what they were out of and what they were substituting for the day. This isn’t a knock on the problem of running out of ingredients, because I totally understand it given the type of restaurant. But this does mean that they might need to be a little more innovative with their menu planning or dynamics to make it less frustrating.

The winner here, of course, was the food. What a triumph of vegan cooking! It was a bit expensive, but not too extreme. Discussing with Peter, we came to the conclusion that some dishes are well worth the price – expensive, delicious, and difficult to prepare at home – as was my “rawvioli.” It was a tremendous dish, and I would gladly pay for it again. Peter and Lindsay ordered the Green Burrito and Falafal Wrap, respectively, and were relatively less impressed by their meals, thinking that they were expensive without being as impressively delicious or difficult.

We also tried the “Not-chos” (a fabulous success! I need to learn to make that nacho sauce at home – probably some sort of cashew or pine nut puree with some cayenne and turmeric?), and three deserts: Coconut Cream Pie (alright), some sort of orange cookie (not great, but good), and the banana and blueberry parfait (we will be learning to copy this at some point).

So the atmosphere was alright, kind of charming. The service was pitiable. The prices were a bit high. The menu was almost a catastrophe. The food was awesome – truly inspiring and delicious – and is the reason I will be returning to Ecopolitan in the future.

My veganist experiment is still going well, and it’s still hard to believe it has been less than a week. I am looking forward to nothing less than hope, inspiration, health, and general awesomeness.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

It has been almost a full week since my last animal product, the ½ pound of summer sausage I scarfed on a dare, and I can honestly say I don’t really miss animal products.

That’s pretty much all the excitement I had to report for today. Upon Peter’s request, I planned very little for today, and so that’s exactly what I got done. Made some juices, played some Skyrim, continued being vegan. Pretty good Saturday, I would say.

Sunday, 8 January 2012: The First Big One

Sunday! My first big blog post! I’ve now had a week to digest this whole veganism thing, feel some of the early bodily resistance, take some pictures, and record some thoughts and formulate new ones. It’s been a great week. Despite some ups and downs – not unexpected – this has been a fantastic week. Probably the best first week of a year ever I’ve ever had. I need to give myself drastic challenges more often.

Anyway, as this is the first big post, this is probably a good time to set the story for anyone out there interested in following along with my journey, including myself. Let me first explain my reasons for going vegan. Then I’ll explain my situation (including the featured players in my life), and then my thoughts on the previous week and the coming year, then I’ll go through the details of what rules, regulations, and resolutions I’ve made for this year.

SPENCE AND SPENCIBILITY

My reasons aren’t always clear or translatable or even understandable. Most of my friends react to my logic with a sort of stew of confusion, concern, amusement, and pity in various amounts. But I’m not trying to appeal to the most, I’m trying to appeal to at least a few, and especially to myself. And this kind of thing has fit the bill for a long time.

Challenge-wise, I’ve come a long way in my life. People who have known and will have known me for my eternity know that I was a most picky child. When eating at a chinese restaurant, I’d have the hamburger. Nothing made it into my mouth without first passing a personal sniff test. Even as a baby, I apparently refused to drink regular milk (I only had soy milk between 6mo and 2yr – perhaps I was an experimental vegan even then?). As I grew, so did my appetite for variety, newness, and challenge. Now I excitedly savor interesting tastes and textures – steak tartar, foie gras, unagi, baked tarantula, or “rawvioli” for example. And I’m no stranger to challenge (100 cups of coffee in 1 weekend!).

Curiosity-wise, I’ve probably grown as well. I think I’ve always been excited to learn more about the world (for example, when I saw “ENG 1101” on my junior high class schedule, and yelled out “Engineering!? Yeah!!” only to sink sadly into my seat when Mr. Loftus commenced with our first ENGlish lesson (no offense Mr. Loftus – you were a good teacher, and I do love English/linguistics, I promise). But somehow the more I uncover about the universe, the more curious I become. This could mean that my passions and interest will expand and gain strength, leading to my eventual invention of a cold fusion reactor or time machine or something. Or it could mean that I’ll slowly spiral into insanity. Either way, I’m looking forward to it.

So the stage was set for me. Desire for discovery and challenge were there. But then I needed inspiration. This came from many sources, all probably subtly connected. First, but certainly not most importantly, I’ll point to Steve Jobs. His passing shocked me more than I would have guessed it would. I’ve always admired many of Mr. Jobs’ qualities, and I want to make a dent in the universe someday, just as he did. I’ve known for a long time that he used to experiment with food (and other things), and it tickles me when I share thoughts independently with those I admire (for example, Carl Sagan and I independently but nearly identically commented on the size of the number googolplex). This was certainly one of many solidifying factors in my decision to go vegan.

The second source of inspiration is probably my oldest friend, Jesse. Though I’ve never told him directly, I hope he knows that I’ve always admired his sense of style and personality, even when I didn’t agree with it. At various periods in his life, Jesse has been an omnivore, a vegetarian, and a vegan. We haven’t always been the closest of friends, but I have always felt that Jesse supported me, apparently and somewhat oddly unconditionally. This might be my own delusion, but I’m fine with that. Furthermore, we were quiet close when we were kids, living just a few houses from each other, and Jesse will always be a source of inspiration and nostalgia for me.

The third source of inspiration is my best friend’s wife, Lindsay. I think more out of competition than cooperation or support, she and I drove a simple thought of veganism to a year of exclusive veganism, and then I pushed my restrictions and resolutions even further because of my naturally competitive and cooperative nature (yes, I can be both at once). Anyway, Lindsay was an essential catalyst in making this a year-long endeavor. I’m still kind of sorry that Peter got caught in the fray, but I’m super happy he’s going along with it – I don’t know how we would make this happen if we weren’t doing it together, as a whole house.

There are, of course, many sources of inspiration that I’m leaving out, and many crucial elements that have as yet gone unmentioned (my brothers and parents – by blood or otherwise -, my teachers growing up, etc etc etc). They are no less important, and I love, respect, and honor each and every one of them.

Typing all of this out, it makes me realize that this was going to happen one way or another. The pieces have been falling into place for a long time. I’m not sure what direction I’m moving in or exactly where I’m going, but the journey itself is becoming inspiring and thrilling. I love this life.

CASTING CALL

I’m amazed by the people I’ve come to know well, and I’m glad that enough of them support this experiment of mine to make it a reality. These are some of the people who will be big players in my Year Of The Vegan (though, as mentioned above, there are many others who will go unmentioned but are still of great import).

Lindsay. Probably one of the most important people in the next year because of her enthusiasm (and stubbornness) for veganism and her proximity to me. Lindsay is Peter’s wife (as of February 2010) and has amazed me with her dedication to veganism thus far, especially in terms of her label reading and baking experimentation. When she does things, she likes to do them right or not at all. I respect that. She is kicking butt at vegansim as far as I can tell, and I fully expect her to make it through this whole year unscathed.

Peter. Poor Peter. I love the guy, but he got roped into this somewhat against his will, an innocent bystander of the great vegan experiment. I hope (and trust) that he will survive the year. Peter and I have known each other since we were three and four years old, respectively, and have been best friends ever since. We didn’t really ever go to school together, aside from preschool, but we’ve managed to stay connected for so long, and now we live in the same house. It’s been an amazing 24 years of friendship thus far, and I look forward to many more. Peter is a stellar man, an awesome friend, a brilliant mind, and probably more than I deserve.

Karl. Without Karl, I probably would not have eaten as much meat or imbibed as much whiskey in the past three years. Karl I first noted for his exceptional athletic ability and wit on the volleyball court in 2006, and later noted for his exceptional meat eating and beer drinking abilities. Truly an amazing man and a great friend – the kind of guy who will take care of you when you drunkenly fall asleep in the grass next to the garage in the rain. Though Karl probably doesn’t agree with my decision to go vegan, I’m guessing he supports me and will happily eat steak alongside me while I’m eating tofu, and throw grapes instead of marshmallows when needed. Karl was also crucial in clearing the house of animal products at the end of the year, walking away with many grocery bags of food. This made the transition much, much easier with all temptations removed.

Amy and Allegra. Without Amy and Allegra, I may not have survived the last few years and perhaps would not have survived the coming year. They tease and rib on me plenty about the veganism thing, but I know they will support me to the ends of the earth. Plus, I’m guessing my taste buds will benefit from the exceptional quality of their cheffing skills.

Spencer Michael Bondhus. “I love me” is what I wrote on one of the concrete foundation blocks of the house I grew up in on Sheffield Ct in Burnsville, Minnesota. Those words are actually still there, faded and worn 20 years later, and it’s certainly still how I feel. I think it’s important to love and respect oneself, but to be constantly pushing and striving to make oneself better all the while. This is my goal. If I push myself to be just 1.4% better every week, I’ll be 100% better every year. I like that.

Countless others are finding articles and websites and cookbooks for me, and I am thankful that they’ve all got me on their minds.

PAST AND PRESENT

The first week wasn’t as much of a struggle as I thought it would be (though the dream I had about going to Fogo de Chao last night was a bit of a mare). My comments from the previous days (above) speak for themselves for the most part. Based on this first week, I am a lot less concerned about what might go wrong and more optimistic about what I will learn and discover.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

When this idea was born, it was simply “let’s be vegan for a year.” It has since taken on more refined definition for Peter, Lindsay, and I, and in my case I have added a handful of additional challenges to the mix.

Vegan, in our case, is defined as a plant-based diet. This means no consuming of animal meat (e.g. pork, chicken, lamb, etc), animal extraction products (e.g. eggs, cheese, milk, etc), or animal derived products (e.g. beef broth, milk solids, milk lactose, etc). We are not excluding yeast or honey (at least initially), nor are we specifically excluding other uses of animal products (e.g. leather belts or shoes, animal products in soaps or shampoos, etc), though we’ll likely tend away from using animal products in these areas as well.

It is important to note that this is an experiment. This is not religious, it is not spiritual, it is not moral, and it is not a comment on any of my beliefs in any of those areas. I am a scientist at heart, and in this case, I am my own experiment. Because of this, our rule is that we cannot willingly consume animal products and must do our due diligence to ensure the food we’re eating is vegan (specifically requesting it at a restaurant, for example, and reading food labels). And unwilling faltering doesn’t mean failure – we’ve only failed the experiment when we willingly or lazily consume animal products.

Monthly Modifications

In addition to veganism, I will be modifying my life throughout the year, one concept per month. Each modification will carry through at least until the end of the year. Some modifications will be a big adjustment for me because I do abuse or have abused them, some will be easy because they’re not that important to me, but still symbolic and important to officially give up. I haven’t necessarily settled yet on exactly what these items will be or what order I will undertake them in, but it will go something like this:

  • January: commence veganism!
  • February: No “fast food”
  • March: No artificial sweeteners or refined sugars
  • April: No carbonation
  • May: No caffeinne
  • June: No alcohol
  • July: No deep fried foods.
  • August: No eating out
  • September: No smoking of any sort (pipes, cigarettes, cigars, etc)
  • October: No gluten
  • November: Raw foods only (no heating above 110 deg-F)
  • December: No solid foods (juices only!)

You Are Here

The monthly modifications will also help keep my next goal active, healthy, and interesting – I want to blog throughout the year. I have never been good at keeping a journal, and have especially never been good about blogging. This year I intend to record my thoughts and experiences from every day and include at least one big blog post each week (probably on Sundays typically, and probably not as long as this unusually long commencement post).

¡Salud!

I’m already going kind of nuts with the veganism thing, and I expect it, if followed carefully and cautiously, to be incidentally good for my health. So why not toss some fitness in to balance things out? This year I plan to go to the gym at least once per day. This doesn’t mean I’m going to freak out and exercise myself to death, it just means I have to go to the club. Sometimes that will mean just a shower and a sauna, sometimes it will mean my own, personal, indoor triathlon. Two days of every week must be cardio focused, two days every week must be weights focused, other than that it’s free game.

Picture This

I am going to take pictures of myself every day for the whole year to see the time-lapse record of my aesthetic. Again, this is something I’ve been interested in doing for a while, and with all the other regimentation it just seemed natural to heap this on top. I’ve got two cameras for this: (1) a stationary tripod in my basement to capture full body pictures, and (2) my iPhone, with which I’ll take up-close face shots each day. I’m really excited for this project!

Meditate

I have been going through enough change early in this year, so I’m not going to force this one, but I am going to try. I might make it official starting in February. I want to meditate for five minutes, every day, immediately after waking up and immediately before going to bed. I’ve tried it a few times so far this year, and it’s been excellent. It makes my days brighter and cleaner and my sleep sounder.

Gimme A Head With Hair

I intend to see myself in new ways this year, including hair styling. Early on I’d like to grow my hair longer than I’ve ever had it to see what it looks like. Toward the end of the year I plan to shave it all off. I am sorry for those who I will offend aesthetically, but it’s not like I’m not aesthetically strange on a regular basis, so…

Go The Distance

It’s almost too much to add any more goals, but I’d also like to complete my first traithlon and double-century this year. Why wait?

EPILOGUE

So here I am, the year before me. I’ve taken the first few steps, and I’m feeling bright, ready, and excited. Bring it on!

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