C'mon, It's Just 7 Days

The Unexpected Thing I Learned When I Went Vegan for One Week

It has nothing to do with cheese.

January 10, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

In C'mon, It's Just 7 Days, members of the Food52 team share what it was like to take on a personal challenge for one week: skipping caffeine, going plastic-free, and more. (Spoiler alert: We all survived.)


I eat meat once-ish a week—and milk and cheese even less—so I figured that going vegan for seven days wouldn’t be so hard.

It was. And not because I had a bunch of cheesy omelets or chicken nuggets to develop for work. But because of scrambled eggs.

I should tell you about my back first, though. If I explained the whole thing, we’d have to sort out terms like pars defect and disc herniation. The quick version is: Sometimes I’ll lean over to tie my shoes or pet my cat and then I’ll barely be able to move for a week. The week I signed up to be vegan—as part of our C’mon, It’s Just 7 Days challenge—was one of those weeks.

But a challenge is a challenge for a reason. So, couch-bound, ice pack–wrapped, and severely medicated, I started picking and choosing from my list of Vegan Recipes That I Would Very Much Like to Make. (You have one too, right?) It’s a long list.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Hi Emma, I’m so glad you realized that eggs and warmth made you feel better! Your writing is lovely, but as an acupuncturist and dietary therapist, I cringed when reading about you deciding to take on a fast like veganism in the winter months. I would suggest with an injury like you have, to seek help from an acupuncturist, but also nourish your body with healthy fats (as many different types of fat as possible: butter, ghee, tallow, lard, avocado, coconut, etc.) these will provide your body with lubricants and build up things like collagen. Please try switching from ice packs to heating pads or hot epsom soak baths (adding lavender makes it extra special). Ice makes everything stiff and brittle (great for the inflammation of an initial injury though), heat makes things soft and pliable (think candy making). Hope you feel better! ”
— Nicole
Comment

Maybe I’m attracted to vegan recipes because I only like to eat meat occasionally, for my personal health, and for that of our planet. Maybe it’s because I think vegetables are just as starworthy as steaks. Maybe it’s because when I eat less dairy, I feel a little better. Or maybe it’s because I’m a recipe developer and vegan recipes are, if nothing else, creative. Like, “Here’s how we’re going to turn lentils into sloppy Joe’s!” creative.

So I had my dinners all planned out. There was Gena Hamshaw’s vegan palak paneer (tofu? cheese? who can tell?!). Spaghetti “carbonara” (indeed, Serious Eats’ Daniel Gritzer is a magician). Orecchiette with crispy tofu-sausage, plus sautéed peppers and onions (turns out, I don’t like tofu-sausage). More orecchiette with butternut squash and kale (is too much pasta a thing? don't answer that). Tacos with Instant Pot black beans, fried plantains, and avocado vinaigrette. Mushroom-pecan-lentil burgers (on toasted English muffins, always) with sweet potato fries (from our cookbook Vegan).

Making these recipes when I couldn’t stand up by myself should have been the complicated part. Instead, my husband Justin brought cutting boards (and, yeah, knives) to the couch and served as my proxy in the kitchen.

If there’s a more humbling experience for a kitchen control freak, I need not know it. But Justin never made me feel like he was doing me a favor; he helped me to feel as helpful as possible. By showing me the color of the sautéeing onions for a progress check, bringing me spoonfuls of palak paneer to taste for seasoning, and letting me pick which shape pasta to pair with which sauce.

These recipes surprised me for a couple reasons. Some were significantly more time intensive than their not-vegan counterparts. The palak paneer, for instance, meant pressing and marinating the tofu for hours (versus just buying the paneer). And the carbonara involved a slew of ingredients to successfully mimic an otherwise minimalist dish.

But the extra steps went a long way. While they made certain dishes less weeknight-friendly, taking a bite and saying, “Whoa, I can’t believe this is vegan,” felt especially satisfying, especially when it's chocolate chip cookies. As the days passed by, not only did I not miss meat or dairy, but I kept thinking: I’m actually enjoying this. (And I love pasta!)

So dinner ended up being a breeze, and lunch was either veggies, crackers, and hummus, or leftovers (love you, leftovers). But breakfast was a bit more complicated. I have a few go-tos: Scrambled eggs with buttered toast, scrambled eggs on a whole-wheat English muffin with mayo and Calabrian chile paste, or scrambled eggs over brown rice with soy sauce and chili oil.

Meet my new best friend: Tofutti. Photo by Emma Laperruque

Notice a pattern? Scrambled eggs are my comfort food. For when I’m feeling down or stressed out. Or when I’m in pain or feel so nauseous from medications that I can’t eat a single thing—you know, unless it’s scrambled eggs. I’m not sure what it is about them, but they just make me feel tended to. Like I’m taken care of and like everything’s gonna be okay.

If you’re wondering if I cracked (pun sorta intended) and just ate them, well, I didn’t. In the beginning of the week, this felt difficult. My English muffin missed its salted butter and fluffy egg friends (and I did, too). But, to make up for it, I ate lots of bagels with tofu cream cheese and found a new obsession in banana smoothies (frozen banana, tahini, soy milk, water—more exciting than it sounds!) and those became another sort of comfort food.

And by the end of the week, I realized something else. The thing about feeling horrible is: After the wallowing (and at some point, there will be wallowing), you have to figure out all the little things that make you feel better. And for me, sure, scrambled eggs is one of them. But there’s also Justin putting fuzzy socks on my cold feet. And my cat watching Riverdale with me. And my mom calling to check in. All of this turned out to be more important and nourishing.

So maybe veganism isn’t for me on an off-week. Or maybe it’s just what I needed.

What're some of your favorite vegan recipes? Share in the comments!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • rainbow girl
    rainbow girl
  • Rick
    Rick
  • Aileen Frayna
    Aileen Frayna
  • weshook
    weshook
  • Annie Clark
    Annie Clark
Comment
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

18 Comments

rainbow G. January 12, 2019
Scrambled eggs were one of the few things I could stand to cook and eat during my 9 1/2 month long pregnancy. (She was late and yes, I had morning sickness the entire time.) It is a comfort food for me too!
 
Rick January 12, 2019
If you want to try a vegan sub for eggs, people say these are quite good https://www.justforall.com/en-us/products/consumer/egg

I've not tried them yet since they're not appreciably healthier in their nutrient profile
 
Aileen F. January 12, 2019
If you're missing scrambled eggs that much, why not scrambled tofu (i like my eggs soft, so medium firm tofu is best) with turmeric for color and black salt for that "eggy"/ sulfuric taste/ smell?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 14, 2019
I've heard lots of good things about scrambled tofu, but still have yet to try it! I must.
 
weshook January 12, 2019
Banana tahini smoothie! I don't buy alternative milks, so I used almond flour, water, crushed ice, banana and tahini. An encouraging article.
 
Emilye January 18, 2019
I never thought about making alternative milk from almond flour! what a great idea - is there a ratio you follow?
 
weshook January 19, 2019
I'm not that exacting :/ I just added about a tablespoon for about a cup of water.
 
Annie C. January 11, 2019
Miyokos vegan butter solved the buttered english muffin conundrum for me! A must try if you haven't yet.
 
Danielle January 12, 2019
My husband is a huge fan!
 
Eric K. January 10, 2019
I loved how thoughtful this was. Like fuzzy socks and scrambled eggs.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 11, 2019
Thank you, Eric!
 
Amy L. January 10, 2019
Feeling your pain and enjoying your comforts this article! And also recognizing the comfort of a phone call - when you called yesterday to check on my cracked foot. ♡
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 10, 2019
Aw thanks!
 
Nicole January 10, 2019
Hi Emma,
I’m so glad you realized that eggs and warmth made you feel better! Your writing is lovely, but as an acupuncturist and dietary therapist, I cringed when reading about you deciding to take on a fast like veganism in the winter months. I would suggest with an injury like you have, to seek help from an acupuncturist, but also nourish your body with healthy fats (as many different types of fat as possible: butter, ghee, tallow, lard, avocado, coconut, etc.) these will provide your body with lubricants and build up things like collagen. Please try switching from ice packs to heating pads or hot epsom soak baths (adding lavender makes it extra special). Ice makes everything stiff and brittle (great for the inflammation of an initial injury though), heat makes things soft and pliable (think candy making). Hope you feel better!
 
Danielle January 12, 2019
Veganism isn’t a fast? There are plenty of healthy fats she can eat on a vegan diet, her husband couldn’t sautée onions without them...

(No, I’m not a vegan, but my husband is plant based and I’m trying to do better)
 
Ella Q. January 10, 2019
Emma, what a lovely piece! Thank you for undertaking the challenge—and for sticking with it. Can't wait to try some of your favorite recipes from the week.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 10, 2019
Thanks, Ella! Still can't stop thinking about those Ovenly cookies...
 
Danielle January 12, 2019
I’d love to hear some hints. I’ve made those cookie and they tasted oily to me, but they’re really popular!