Last December, in a desperate attempt to shake things up in month 9 of quarantine, my boyfriend and I decided to try eating a completely vegan diet for a full week. We had been thinking about doing a challenge like this for a while – he was curious about how it would affect his athletic performance, and I was curious about how it would affect my health in general. I’ve always wanted to try a vegan diet but, as someone with nut allergies, I was worried about having to navigate a world of nut-based meat and dairy alternatives, so I never felt compelled to make the full leap.
I already eat a mostly vegetarian diet, so changing to a vegan one was not a drastic change. That being said, we did use the challenge as an excuse to seek out and try specific vegan swaps and recipes, and not settle into our normal meal plan sans dairy (how boring would that be!).
What did I learn from this week-long challenge? Read on to find out!
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the local (read: 40 minutes away) Filipino store to stock up on Filipino goods (read: ensaymada). Among other things, we picked up ube extract, something neither of us had used before but were excited to try out, especially because I’ve been experimenting more with baking.
Around the same time, we were craving cheesecake, so we picked up a big block of cream cheese and graham crackers to make one. We reviewed the recipe we would be using and realized that we could substitute some of the vanilla extract for ube – so we decided to try it out!
One of my favorite meals in the “before times” was all-you-can-eat hot pot. One of our favorite chains was Spring Shabu, which has two locations in two of my most-frequented locations – Boston and New York – and has one of my favorite formats – all you can eat noodles, vegetables, dipping sauces, etc. with an extra charge for meat, which I used very sparingly anyway. My mouth is watering just thinking about going back! I can smell the broth, feel the warmth of it on my face, and even hear my friends chattering around me while we shuffle back and forth with plates piled high with more food.
One of the very! low-level! worries I have about life post-quarantine is the future of self-serve restaurants and buffets. I sincerely enjoy(ed) them a lot and am worried that they won’t survive in a culture that is more aware of spreading germs.
In the meantime, during a trip to H-Mart earlier this year, we decided to impulse buy an at-home hot pot so that we could recreate some of those happy memories at home.
We have since turned hot pot into a weekly tradition, trekking to a local Asian grocery store to get the goodies (which, it turns out, is a great excuse to leave the house). After a few weeks, we have settled into a pretty set menu of our favorites – a plate of meat, soy puffs, lots and lots of vegetables, including bok choy and napa cabbage. I love some well-cooked taro in my bowl, while my boyfriend indulges in udon noodles with his.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, rituals and habits have been the saving grace of my quarantine, and weekly hot pot is just one of many that keep me on track. I look forward to going to the grocery store to pick out our meal every week, then sharing that time with my boyfriend to talk and catch up on any TV shows or movies that we want to watch together.
Unlike ordering take-out, I am hoping that our regular hot pot dinners continue well past quarantine times, and I look forward to having them… for the rest of my life, hopefully!