D-Day + 5 : Surviving Meatless Moscow

48 days later …

Or so. I lost count. Dates are not my strong point.

March 18th, 2O13

I became a vegan for orthodox Lent (the only time of the year you can get vegan food everywhere in Moscow), mainly inspired by the long grey and unrelenting winter, lack of sunlight and lack of an inspiration. Deadlines inspire me.

May 5th, 2013

I met my deadline. No meat for the whole of orthodox Lent. A whole 48 days. Or so. And I am still alive. So naturally on Easter Sunday, a.k.a. May 5th, I and many other locals headed to the shop.

Shoppers gradually filled their trolleys with cottage cheese, eggs, beer, vodka, milk, potatoes, yoghurt, and some more cottage cheese…. and sausages.

I, on the other hand, did not.

And I felt nothing. Not even a twinge. I never craved the meat I “gave up”. I  was not flummoxed by a dairy desire. I may have inadvertently slipped up once or twice. Anyone who tells you they didn’t is lying. The truth of the matter is that I feel great.

So there you have it. 48 days later and I have decided to prolong my experiment.

Indefinitely.

Day 37 : Odessa, land of good foods and great moods

Life  sleepily emerges from its annual winter hiatus.

“APRIL GETAWAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaY ”

For indeed, it is that time again. The April Getaway, a moment to FORGET all those weatherly woes and INDULGE away from work, life and friends.

What can I buy for 8,500 rubles?

A flight to  Odessa, Ukraine’s capital of the Black Sea. A 250 year old maritime town built over the remains of Greek seaports and approximately 2500 km of sandstone catacombs. As no one really cares about the exact details of landing times, bowel movements and who I shared my armrest with, I’ll get straight to the juicy point, after thanking my great friend Gina for bearing the brunt of my obsolete grumpiness and infusing our travels with her bounding enthusiasm!

 

Saturday: 

Land, pay toO much for a taxi, touch down in hostel, head out for food. Drink wine. Get weak at the knees from the excess of oxygen. Nap at hostel. Return out for food.

Highlights:

Vareniki – the Ukrainian boiled dumpling stuffed with potato and mushrooms, vegan-friendly handmade deliciousness . For the meat-eaters, try Pelmeni, same thing, but with meat.

Midnight horseback ride in dresses  – ever so inappropriate – but oh-so-much fun.

Kagor – the Moldovan wine. A full-on  blast of sweet red dessert wine which  marries itself to perfection with sunny skies and a warm sea breezes.

Prices – a glass of wine is worth approximately 2 euro, two plates of pelmeni and two homemade smoked fruit drinks for 8.50euros (the price of Starbucks coffee in Moscow)

Sunday:

Everything was awesome.

Highlights:

Breakfast glory by yours truly.

Catacomb capers brought us out of town and deep into the underground.

Seashore cycling led us along the Black Sea, all the way out to the tacky seashore resort of Arkadia.

Stuffed cabbage, Borsch and Pampushii for dinner

Georgian wine – semi-sweet, again. When in Rome, eat pizza, when in the Slavic South, drink semi-sweet red wine.

Monday:

Food, flight and Domodedovo fury.

Highlight:

Kasha with dates and homemade jam. Kasha is porridge. In order to survive life, you should eat kasha once a day according to Slavic tradition. This can come as rolled oats, oatmeal, semolina, buchwheat, rice or anything else you can boil with a healthy pinch of salt and top with jam or fruit or berries or even eat with bread and butter.

Heading to Odessa, head for …

Hostel :  TIU Front Page – central, clean, friendly, helpful, books taxis and tours.

Catacomb tour: contact Egor for some stony shananigans or go through TIU Hostel

Bikes: 3 days for 20euros here or 4euros per hour at “Passage”, on the corner of Deribasovskaya Ulitsa (near the cathedral)

Day 32: A suitable replacement for meat and milk

Cigarettes…

 

 

 

Today I learned a few subtle nuances we may all do well to integrate into any thoughts we care to proffer to someone seeking the meaning of life … 

Mainly, the difference between to “not like” one’s job and to “hate” one’s job.

1- Most people DO NOT LIKE their job, but it’s survivable and the misspent time leaves a very vague sensation of getting older, but not knowing where the time has gone

2- Any job which makes leaves one with a sense of stupidity and/or inadequacy or other -y words, can be equated to HATE and should be considered as far more serious than the normal NOT LIKing complaints.

As I am currently hovering between 1 and 2 with no distinguishable winner just yet, I have decided to replace milk and meat by cigarettes – vegan of course – and with just the right balance of chemicals and smoke.

 

Conclusion:

Just add wine.

Day 30: 1 month on, what next?

Yes, I am alive…

My work has been sapping my creative juices.

Add 10.30 hours of work spent in front of a screen, millions of words read per day, a couple hundred written too, hours of footage screened-cut-and aired. And voila – one freshly-pressed wordpress writer fresh out of words.

Still vegan though …

 

I very truthfully feel good. I am not the victim of cravings. Somehow the odour of meat gets stronger – and less appealing – the longer you live without it. I do not miss milk. I have absolutely no urge for any processed foods.

I enjoy opening my cupboard and seeing a wide array of nuts, cereals, oils,  flours and spices – and knowing what’s in them. I get excited when I open my fridge and seeing it overflowing with fresh colourful produce.

I consume products depending on the nutrients they contain and what delicious flavours I can carve from them.  I appreciate everything I eat knowing that it satisfies my body’s needs.

I do not regret Mc Donalds or Moscow restaurants because my hands can make more amazing meals than anything any scientist could ever cook up. I contemplate and create my own diet with no added sugar, oil, E- s, monos, polysaturates, MSGs, etcs.

I go to the gym and out-crunch the male population convinced that beer and meat will make them stronger. I outrun meandering ladies on the treadmill whose frames betray their food disdain.

I feel sorry that people wrinkle their nose at the idea of veganism. I feed them homemade cakes, breads, soups, salads and anything else I can carry in my bag. Then I tell them the truth. I enjoy their pleasant surprise.

One thing, if any.

I feel bad refusing people’s offers of food. And if you are among those people, I must apologise once again.

First month conclusion?

This  idea originally  spawned with a deadline – the 5th of May – Russia’s official end date for Lent.

I am now reviewing this decision with the potential outcome of a indefinite finish line.

Day 19 : Surviving Suzdal

Saturday, April 6th – traffic clogs the Enthusiastic Escape Route east.

2hrs in to our road trip and we are still bathing in the urban fumes of articulated lorries on the artery.

And starving – starving in a carful of undiscerning carnivores who like fast-food.

Mc Donalds it is then… I get culinary satisfaction from a box of green salad and some chips unilaterally declared vegan.

Suzdal is definitely the capital of something

I know Suzdal is famous for churches. And if there are churches, there are Lent menus.

As it happens, the nearby town of Vladimir is the religious hotspot.

I am in the capital of Russian heritage…

No vegetables? No problem…

We feast on borsch and blini.

Well they feast.

I watch.

Day 18 : Boobs are off the menu

To be totally truthful, I have never had a superb rack.

No one has once marvelled at the large sloping incline of my curves. Neither have I.

There has never been any “motorboating”. No “waterboarding”. No suffocating midgets. No “lovely lady lumps”. No cherry on top. No car washes.

It is actually a wonder I ever got a date. Let alone had sex (with someone who didn’t want to dress in me in latex, chain to a wall and call me Larry)

Rwandan genocide, dead pigs in Chinese rivers, book burning in Hitler’s Reich, my boobs.

One week into my all-vegan diet, I looked in the mirror to discover myself even more flat-chested than before –

With the midriff naval of a starving Ethiopian child.

O despair why doth thou plague me?

I have the legs of Artemis, the chest of Adonis and the belly of bloody Bacchus.

Studies have proven …

that countries with high levels of animal protein consumption have ladies with larger chests. They also have higher levels of obesity, diabetes and heart-disease.

And I had also gone on a full-blown sugar binge – seeing as bee-juice (honey) is off the menu – and forgone any viable source of protein.

Prodigal genius solves problem

Step one: say no to sugar.

Step two: Hunt down soy products (plant protein).

Conclusion

My boobs are still insignificant but I have yet to be called Larry.

Easy Plov for Easy People

I discovered plov about 2 months into my Russkii adventure, as a British staple in their foreign diet. Conveniently cooked and packaged in our belovedly dodgy supermarkets who bleach meat to make it last longer, I decided to do a vegan version instead.

I then published it on my first blog about life east of the curtain. Click on the link below… And for the non-animal eaters, just replace chicken stock by vegetable stock. For those who do not have access to ready mixed plov spices, scroll to the bottom for a link to the original Uzbek recipe and break-down of spices.

Easy Plov for Easy People – Russian cuisine for idiots.