Robert St. John column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tater Logs gain respect during vegan month

 Last September I lived for 30 days as a vegetarian. During that time, Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, challenged me to take it one step further and go vegan. This year I did.

 A quick recap: Vegetarians don’t eat anything that— at one time— had a face or a tail. Vegans are vegetarians who don’t even eat anything that came from an animal. Vegans don’t eat eggs or dairy.

 Notes from my fourth week as a vegan:

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 1.) Living as a vegan is hard, though not as hard as I thought it would be. The ironic thing about this lifestyle is that when one is out of town— and away from his or her typical food surroundings— one eats worse as a vegan than he or she would as an ordinary, walking-around-eating-normal-type-foods person.

 On the road to two football games over the weekend, I brought various nuts, fruits, and pretzels. But once you’re at your destination, you’re usually forced to eat chips and French fries while trying to avoid meat,eggs, and dairy. On the long drive home, I actually ate a Tater Log from a convenience store in Scooba, at midnight.

 For those who are used to eating healthfully, a Tater Log is a quarter of a potato, breaded and deep-fried. They are mostly eaten by drunken frat boys and stoners at all-night gas stations. Even though I was sober and hadn’t eaten a Tater Log since my freshman year, I ate it and I was grateful.

 2.) I am nearing the end, and surprisingly enough, I haven’t missed cheese at all. I miss eggs. I mean I really, really miss eggs. I dream of eggs.

 3.) Going in, I thought the bread thing was going to be the toughest part. However, as soon as I discovered that bagels, pita, pizza crust, and English muffins were a part of the plan, I was good to go. Though I have learned that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are hard to eat between two slices of pita (the jelly slips out of the sides).

 4.) PETA sent me a nice case of vegan breads, and I am very appreciative of that gesture. Though I have to admit that the bribe didn’t work, on 12:01 a.m. following the last minute of the last day on this diet, I will be eating some late-night scrambled eggs and a biscuit. Hurry midnight.

 5.) A lot of people have asked me what will be my first “big meal.” What I would like to eat— another thing I dream of— is a big, juicy steak. Though what I have learned, is that my body quit manufacturing the enzymes that break down animal-based proteins a few weeks ago. So to save my stomach, I will ease my way back into the real world and probably eat a small piece of bacon or something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be grateful for even a morsel of bacon.

 6.) For the final section of this column you will need a dictionary. I’ll give you a minute to get one off of the shelf, or you can use the app feature on your futuristic electronic handheld device. Waiting, waiting, waiting—got it? Good. Here we go:

 Look up the word “torture.” Go ahead, I’ll wait again. Waiting, waiting ,waiting— got it? Good. Your dictionary probably describes “torture” with a description such as “the act of inflicting severe pain or punishment… blah, blah, blah.” That might be true, in a sophomoric sense of torture.

 Now get a pen, because I need you to write in the margins of your dictionary (if you are using a futuristic handheld device— sorry, technology doesn’t trump pen and paper in this exercise). This is what you need to write, word-for-word: “Torture [verb] is being at a Minnesota Vikings game at the Metrodome and not getting to eat a brat.”

 Mr. Webster probably forgot about brats and vegans when he was defining torture. Let me make it clear: For this devout carnivore, being surrounded by 63,000 rabid, brat-eating, football fans and having to eat pretzels and water is a whole new level of pain and punishment.

 Just a few days to go; pass the Tater Logs, please. 

Raspberry Vinaigrette
3 cups raspberries, frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
1 teaspoon thyme, freshly chopped
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar (if you cannot find raspberry, balsamic vinegar will do)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups canola or grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
In a small sauce pot, cook raspberries with sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice until tender. Purée and strain with a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds. Add all other ingredients except the oil to the raspberry purée and beat with a wire whip. Slowly add oil while continuing to whip dressing. Recipe may be made and stored for up to 1 week in refrigerator.
Yield: 3 cups