How it All Vegan
That’s actually the title of a vegan cookbook given to me for Christmas in Los Angeles. But it is also an apt title for a brief blog on the subject because for me the answer is simply that it began easily. I chanced on a YouTube video of Bill Clinton discussing his switch to a radical vegan diet after a quadruple bypass operation and a lifetime of fried chicken and doughnuts. And though, thank goodness, I’ve never had such heart problems, I thought: why not? So from one day to the next, I purged my diet of meat and dairy and sugar and processed food. And not once have I felt a yearning for the smell of fried bacon at breakfast or a roly-poly pudding for dinner followed by a spot of Stilton. Odd.
The other thing that’s easy about vegan is cooking. Because there is very little of it. Quinoa or amaranth takes ten minutes to boil. You add to that a can of strained lentils and raw chopped spinach, mix it up and eat. Carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. Dinner done.
I suppose the least easy part of going vegan was convincing my family that it wasn’t some male menopausal thing brought on by LA’s love of the loopy. Lots of celebrities are vegan. Pamela Anderson, for example. My daughter and I saw her once at Geoffrey’s, a heavenly clifftop restaurant in Malibu overlooking the sea. She looked very healthy. And then there is the unease at restaurants. Of course, Southern California’s culture is anyway pro-vegan. Crossroads, in Los Angeles, is a haute-cuisine vegan mecca. But in Bavaria (and Italy, by the way), asking about no-dairy, no-meat alternatives can cause the raised eyebrow. I read somewhere that Germans consume on average fifty percent more meat than the average American. Which is saying something, because where I grew up – Kansas, cattle country – a T-bone steak was expected to overlap both sides of the plate. So at a typical Munich restaurant you may end up with a salad and boiled potatoes. But no protein. They don’t tend to keep cans of black beans in their kitchens.
However, a little digging reveals quite a few untypical locales. Tushita, for example, calls itself a Teehaus (and it serves a delicious Japanese green tea) but it also has a vegan bowl of greens, sprouts, tofu, and God-knows-what-else that is positively mouth-watering. Prinz Myshkin is vegetarian with terrific vegan options. Basic, the organic and health food store, has a first-floor cafeteria serving a tasty vegan curry. There’s Gratitude near the university, with great vegan options, some of it raw. Yam Vegan Deli is a little jewel in Augustenstrasse. And for truly artful vegan cuisine, there is Max Pett, just off Sendlicher Tor. The Beeren-Becher desert there is to die for. And there are loads more vegan places in Munich I have yet to sample. The list seems to be growing.
What’s also growing, even in traditional eateries, is the open and friendly attitude of waiters/waittresses toward vegan requests. My family may squirm with embarassment when I start asking to go off-menu, but the servers perk up. Especially the young ones.
And back in America, I have discovered, by chance, a sure-fire way to get what I want: let the server believe that I have an allergy. The fear of litigation is endemic in the US. Everyone seems to be suing everyone else. You just have to let the waitress tell the kitchen ‘the old geezer at table three’s allergic to butter’ and presto! Dairy-free food!