Tuesday, April 5, 2011

OMG Thank you, Oprah! Thank you!!

I don't watch Oprah, but I got a heads up from my friends Nadia and Jenny who apparently do watch Oprah - sorry for outing you guys - that Oprah just did a whole special on veganism. She and a bunch of her staffers tried to eat only vegan-friendly foods for a week, and now her website is full of fun vegan information and videos, mostly having to do with a "veganist" named Kathy Freston.

In a behind-the-scenes style video on Oprah's website, Kathy offers easy ways to veganize your eating habits. First of all, thank you, Kathy, for explaining that the "ist" means someone who does.

I'm a musicologist. You're a veganist. Got it.

Kathy goes on, "Just like a violinist is someone who is very interested in the violin, I'm a veganist because I'm interested in all things vegan." Well, I would argue that a violinist is someone who plays the violin and, probably, plays the violin well. So I guess that's why Kathy Freston is a veganist and I am just a vegan; she's a professional violinist and I am the awkward kid who sat next to you in seventh-grade orchestra and tried really hard.

This isn't the first time Oprah has taken vegan advice from Kathy Freston. In 2008, she tried a 21-day cleanse. The diet was intense: not only was she eating like a vegan, but she also cut out caffeine, sugar, and (!) wine. The only situation in which I could pull off a cleanse like that would be during a month in which nobody expected me to do anything productive (no coffee) or to be pleasant, ever (no wine). But at least this cleanse seems way healthier than some other crazy-ass cleanses I've heard about people doing.

So Kathy Freston is kind of a mixed bag for me. She offers the following rather misleading advice: "Whatever I'm eating, I also have a big salad so it keeps me healthy." This is great news, because it means that, after mindlessly spooning peanut butter into my mouth for an hour while I watch TV from last night on Hulu, I can just also eat a salad and the whole situation will magically become healthy! I'm pumped.

On the other hand, she does have a good philosophy about not pushing her vegan habits or ideals on others: "I never impress my thinking on anyone else because it's not my business to tell someone how they should eat." And it's pretty cool how she's trying to make veganism mainstream. She's also been on Ellen DeGeneres's show, encouraging people to try being vegan for a week. She may come off as a little silly, but what she's doing is awesome.

But enough about Kathy. The most helpful tool on the website in my opinion is the Vegan Starter Kit. There is a Grocery List, a Three-Week Meal Plan, and a Simple Substitutions guide. The grocery list suggests cheese substitutes, but unfortunately, it doesn't offer an opinion on whether or not they are tasty. I have yet to try any vegan "cheese" because I'm afraid I'm still in love with my ex-lover, regular cheese, which is obviously better tasting. It might be too soon. But when the time comes, I now know to try Daiya, Soya Kaas, Sunergia Soyfoods, or Galaxy Nutritional Foods (which is carried at the Isla Vista Coop!).

Oprah's grocery list got me really excited to go shopping again. She recommends Amy's Kitchen brand frozen foods, and that reminded me that I have been meaning to pick some of those meals up. I can get vegannaise (yup, that word exists - vegan mayonnaise) from Follow Your Heart, and Kashi cereals to eat with my almond milk.

Aside from providing lots of shopping ideas, Oprah's grocery list also helped me realize that all vegan food companies sound like they should be the names of either a meditation retreat center or a kindergarten daycare. Tofutti Cuties, anyone?


  1. I actually do love Amy's Kitchen, esp the Indian food stuff.

    Do you think or observe that the vegan diet is any more or less expensive to keep up than a non-vegan diet? I imagine that cutting out meat can save you money, but maybe getting "specialized" foods can cost more money. Just wondering.

  2. Hm. Amy's Kitchen (and similar) products are more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts, and almond milk is definitely more expensive than cow's milk. I've also been spending more money than usual on groceries, just because I'm getting excited about cooking new things. But cutting out meat and cheese (and eating out at restaurants) obviously saves money. So far, it's unclear whether I will be poorer or richer as a vegan!