Friday, March 1, 2013

My Vegan Lent Dilemma

 Eastern Orthodox Lent is swiftly coming. March 11, I believe, to be exact. 

If some of you aren't familiar with the fasting component of the Coptic church, we go vegan 55 days. That's our fast. No meat, no fish, no dairy or eggs. 

And...drumroll please....

I do not want to go vegan for Lent. 

It's not the lack of eggs or dairy that concern me--they are my favourite foods and they would be a good idea to cut out. But I would prefer to go vegan with at least some animal protein, like fish. 

My feelings are not at all motivated by guilt or selfishness, but what I’m sure is an unfair prejudice towards preparing vegan meals that are 100% fakeness-free. Here are some of my problems:

-Most of the hearty protein in vegan meals depend on soy, and I don’t want to subsist on soy or plain fake products (tofurky, seitan, etc) when I could be getting protein and other happy nutrients from fish, and they would probably cost as much. Fish is surprisingly cheap here, and I would feel stupid paying $2-3 on a package of tofu when I could have 2 whole fish for $5. 

-I don’t want to depend too heavily on beans, lentils, and starches (many of you know about my, ahem, severe IBS-like problems) because I’m constantly in class, and have a windowless office in which I see 20 students per week and believe me…that many people makes for a stinky office as it is. My worst nightmare is letting one loose in class. Or several, which is more likely to happen anyway. 

-Well-balanced vegan meals take too long to prepare

-I don’t want to eat fried foods like falafel (Amy, did you say you had a baked version?)
I'm obviously bringing this up because I would, of course, like to keep as close to my tradition as I can, and—let’s face, 55 days. Big deal. I can suck it up, right?

So ladies, I’m reaching out for suggestions/sympathy/shit telling me that all of my aforementioned worries are groundless. I know that many of you are sympathetic to the vegan/ vegetarian diet (Julia and Nat, I’m looking at you! And Amy I know you’re a whiz at this stuff!) and I want to hear your thoughts. 


  1. Your aforementioned worries are groundless, Sam.
    People worry about protein intake constantly, its a drill in our head that suggests as long as we are getting lots of protein we will be healthy and hearty. Obviously when you dive more into nutrition and use your brain you KNOW eating must be more complete than that.
    A moderately active person only needs .8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. Or from 10-15 percent of our daily calories. To clarify, using myself as an example. I'm 110 lbs and that means I should eat between 40 - 45 grams of protein per day. Which is not difficult at all.
    A cup of quinoa is about 9g of protein, spoonful of peanut butter is 3g, cup of spagetti 8g, a cup of brocoli 4 g, it all adds up. Very fast and easily. If you are eating vegetables and not candy I wouldn't worry.
    read this:

    and protein charts that I looked over:

    I do drink soy milk and eat tofu, but not every day all the time. Not even close. Call me if you need any more support.

  2. You could try sprouting beans and lentils before cooking them - when in raw dry form, the seed is in defense mode, which is why they are so hard to digest. Sprouting them sort of tricks them into thinking they are safe, in good growing conditions, and some people have an easier time digesting them that way. Also, once sprouted, still soak and cook them a long time. If you give that a serious trial and still suffer ibs, eat fish. Fasting isn't about hurting your body. If you have ibs, your body isn't digesting your food properly, even if the possible nutrient content is high, even if you do everything you can to aid bioavailability of those nutrients. Fasting is about giving up a thing good in and of itself in order to train the spiritual muscles so that when temptation to sin comes, you'll have the discipline to withstand it, and church law on fasting is about guarding the faithful from spiritual pride - everybody doing thr same thing means nobody is better than anybody else. The only common good thing across all times, places and classes is food - hence universal food fasting laws. It isn't meant to hurt you. Fasting is for man, not man for fasting. If sprouting doesn't help, eat fish, and find some other area in your life where you can give up something good and harmless for the sake of fortifying your discipline.

  3. I think I ought to have clarified--aren't veggie and bean proteins incomplete? Don't they lack the necessary proteins that fish, meat, poultry, etc offer?

    Re: beans : How long should I sprout them for? And dumb question: can I sprout canned beans? Or only dry lentils, dry chickpeas (can those even be sprouted?)

    Does this look ok?

    And thank you for the responses ladies. It's been weighing on my mind a LOT!

    1. Vegetable proteins are indeed incomplete, but it's a virtual non-issue because we naturally tend to combine them in combinations that offer a full essential amino acid profile, ie grains with legumes. Grains and legumes are generally compatible, no matter what kind you choose. As long as you eat each some time in the day the amino acid thing isn't an issue for the period of Lent imo.

      You cannot sprout canned legumes because they have been killed through cooking. Most commercial dried grains and legumes are fine, even non-organic. I've recently discovered this. Some varieties may not sprout because they have been irridated, which also kills them, but this isn't too common in my experience.

      In terms of sprout length, a good rule of thumb is to sprout any kind of seed so that the shoot is as long ad the original grain. I generally sprout them longer, to be duble or triple, but sprouting till the "tails" are as long as the seed should ensure that the plant/seed (sprout) is now digestible. Smetimes you'll motice the skins come off of beans if they are sprouted long enough - this is good, as the skins contain a lot of the hard-to-digest matter from what I've heard.

      My baked falafel recipe is just the recipe from A Taste of Lebanon, but I add an egg to hold them together better, you could try flax eggs. I brush on a bit of oil and bake them 30-45 m at 400. Any standard falafel recipe would be fine, but if you don't have a food gringer you'd need touy a mix... Instead, maybe just sprout chickpeas, then cook them, and cook some potatoes and make a cold falafel-ish salad! I served that very thing to a good vegan friend for lunch today (I also threw in cooked green beans, raw diced onion and yellow pepper, and grated raw carrot, seasoned with garlic powder, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, olive oil and lime juice. Delish! My grinder blade is lost so in the meantime it's a delicious alternative! Oh parsley too.)

  4. Food grinder, buy a mix* sorry! On ipad for some reason I cannot use the backspace key when on blogger comments, it's very weird!

  5. Yeah if you read the article I posted with my comment he talks about the issue of incomplete proteins which is only something to worry about if you eat the same thing all the time and only that thing, you will naturally gather your proteins throughout various meals in the week. As long as they have some variation. Its just a misconception people have about meat vs non-meat eating.

  6. By the way... Coptic... Do you not also fast from oil? Or is that just Russian or what? I have a lot of reservations about that. There are a few foods in nature that are totally plant-based and fat-rich (avocado, coconut) but prior to globalisation of foodways, eg in the time of the Fathers, those weren't options for non-locals. I think if the Fathers knew what we do now about fat as an essential nutrient they wouldn't include veg oils in the fast, imo. I think it's unreasonable. Anyway... Be sure to take advantage of globalisation and eat lots of creamed coconut and/or please please please take a high-quality fish-based omega-3 rich oil supplement. Do ittttt!!

  7. Actually, I believe the Eastern Os will encourage that on Fridays. My grandmother's Greek neighbor would do it, but I don't recall oil ever being an issue for Copts. On the other hand, we are often encouraged to limit our meals to 1-2 per day if we can do it, or just eat less in general. Reduction of snacks and the like. One of my Sunday school teachers couldn't do it, because if she doesn't eat in the AM, her blood pressure plummets. So it really depends on one's body and capabilities.

    Ladies, this has really helped! I've decided to go vegan and just pay attention to what my body needs.