Number 2 is “Incorporate One Unplugged Night into our Lives – No power, raw food, start with once a month but aim for once a week”
I was so scared when I made the commitment to actually have an unplugged night. I have to say it was Robert’s idea, he had a couple of days off and made the suggestion that we spend one of the evenings “unplugged”. I invited both Sarah & Missy and their families over for this experimental evening, while Sarah’s family was battling a nasty cold, Missy’s was crazy enough to say yes. Then I really started to freak…what were we going to do? what was I going to make? how would the children find entertainment in the dark? Then when Robert realized what this evening really entailed, no power, no heater, no cooking, no music, his doubts grew and it started to spread to me.
I spent several days before googling and ravenging through Pinterest in search of something, anything that was edible in the raw vegan diet. Now I am not a picky eater, I pride myself on trying nearly anything in the edible department, however when it comes to vegan cuisine I admit I am a total skeptic. Was it the snooty restaurant two blocks from my Berkeley apartment that scarred me? Or is the ever judgmental types I’ve come across? The unbearable take out our friend brought us from the North Bay? No, its none of the above. My skepticism with Vegan cuisine is the processed nature of it. Is it just me, or does it seem like Vegan cuisine puts so much emphasis on “faux” versions of popular dishes. For example my very first Vegan dish was “chicken” fried rice, that was how is was typed out on the menu of the pretentious Berkeley spot. And surprise surprise, there was nothing chicken about it, the flavor was actually quite odd with bits of lumpy tofu and hardly even a vegetable sans a carrot & pea. Why bother with the “chicken”, all that does is turn an open eater like myself off. Why couldn’t the item just be labeled as fried rice? I make delicious vegan fried rice all the time, and no one knows its vegan. To me that is how vegan food should be, right? I have yet to really experience Vegan food in this way. My search concluded lots of salads, a “pizza” made from roasted red peppers, and spring rolls. Oh did I mention that we were going “raw” vegan. Did you know theres no such thing? ugh!
I didn’t realize that going raw was going to be so difficult. NOT ONE of the recipes I came across were actually raw. NOT ONE. Newsflash raw means raw(!), not someone else cooked it and now I’m not cooking so my meal is raw. Tahini is made of TOASTED sesame seeds, roasted red peppers are ROASTED even from the olive counter, rice paper is STEAMED, the list goes on and on. I was utterly deflated. Friends were coming over, I had been looking for something to make for three days and nothing fit into this self-inflicted bubble. I texted Missy asking her not to judge if we had to order pizza because my dinner was inedible. I think she joked they’d eat a hefty snack before coming over and that I should ask them not to put the plastic thing in the middle.
Finally I decided I would go “semi-raw” for our first unplugged night. I would not cook a single thing and try as hard as possible to be as close to raw as I could. I decided to go with spring rolls. It seemed feasible and appealing to the kiddos – our kids seem to prefer raw veggies over anything we cook. Farmers Market was that morning so I stocked up on interesting radishes, cabbage, carrots, a variety of asian greens, green onions, pea shoots, and green peppers. I’m so lucky to live in California! At the store I splurged and bought some cucumber from the salad bar and some snap peas. For protein I went with avocado, tofu seemed far too processed and is also definitely not raw (plus its wrapped in plastic at my store). I’d go with a whole avocado per person instead of half like I did. I saw an image of spring rolls wrapped in leaves on google, I couldn’t find out what type they were, but it looked like it could’ve been collards. When I saw some at market I grabbed a bunch for wrapping. Garnished with mint from the garden, raw sesame seeds I had in the pantry, and limes. I bought a bunch of cilantro but left it at the stand, that would have been a really good addition. For the sauce I used lightly roasted peanut butter (figured there was less cooking involved with “lightly”), some chili oil from the pantry (I’m not sure if its cooked or not), soy sauce (not raw), garlic, sesame oil (not raw), and lime juice – clearly the sauce was my “semi-raw”.
The plan was to turn the lights off at 4pm and they would go back on until the next day. Marilyn was excited for friends to come over, but I could feel Robert’s skepticism and it egged mine on. I started to get annoyed and grumpy with little tasks which made me realize I felt way in over my head. Even Missy expressed later that she had doubts that this would work. I prepped the dinner, we lit the candles, and we were off. I started out feeling like an awkward teen, not really knowing what to say or do. But soon we poured some red wine (we are humans after all) and cracked open some cards. We had a blast. I set up a dress up station and craft/lego table with candle light for the girls and they kept very busy. We had dinner- it was delicious. That sauce! And the collards are a great substitute for rice paper! Dessert was a plate of seasonal citrus and we played more cards until the kiddos started to expire. It was a success, phew!
As I stood in the kitchen jarring up leftovers and rinsing plates in cold water I felt an overwhelming flutter of happiness. It was possible, it happened, and it was really fun! The whole experience has given me such hope for this “mindful year”. There are boundless possibilities throughout our lives we just have to open up to the somewhat uncomfortable and unfamiliar to find them.