The first vegans I met were the ones who came into the Mexican restaurant I worked at as a teenager in North Dakota. “What do you have that’s vegan?” They would say, tense like they were asking me where the bathroom was.
“Well,” I would say, “our rice has a beef base, as do our beans. . . Mexican food is essentially just tortilla, lettuce, meat, and cheese, so all we could really do is throw some lettuce on a tortilla for you.”
They would then respond with something like, “So you don’t have anything that’s vegan!” Since this was a Mexican restaurant, I was not sure what they were expecting to find or why they even bothered. It was right up there with going to a butcher’s block and trying to order a salad. What this experience did was to cause me to generalize vegans as angry, irrational people.
So now I have some explaining to do since a decade later I’ve “up and gone vegan.” This summer I spent a month at a yoga/mediation retreat at The Vagabond Temple on the coast of Cambodia. I started my month with a five day detox (a truly transformative experience). After that, I was on the Vagabond Temple vegan food. This food was not just delicious, it was tasty enough to alter everything I thought I knew about vegans and vegan food.”Are you sure there’s no cheese in here?” I would say of the Vagabond Temple’s tofu scramble, because, come on, how could something this delicious not have cheese in it?”
And the people at the Vagabond Temple were not the angry sort of vegans I had met in my youth, but the glowing, smiling types who ended their emails with, “Love and light.”
“So you’re a vegan now?” My family asked with a what-did-Asia-do-to-you tone a few months later when on a visit home they noticed I was opting out of steak. It’s not so much that I’m a vegan, just that my experience eating such a diet has caused me to want to opt out of meat and dairy because I feel better when I do. My sinuses were once consistently congested. On a vegan diet, they are clear. Neither do I get drowsy after meals any longer. My mind and body are more in synch now and my energy levels remain stable throughout the day.
Full disclosure: I come from a pizza/hamburger eating people. I know the McDonald’s value menu by heart. In life, I generally do what I want and I want to feel good. The best way to accomplish that is to eat well. At the Vagabond Temple in Cambodia I discovered it’s possible for food to be delicious and promote health and well-being. Don’t take my word for it–I wouldn’t have. Try it for yourself. Below are my two favorite vegan recipes from the Vagabond Temple.
A Recipe For Tofu Scramble
Once a non-vegan friend put his plate of scrambled eggs down next to a dish of our tofu scramble and when we turned our heads, the plate of eggs went crashing to the ground. No one saw what happened, but I think it’s safe to say that this tofu scramble could stand up against any omelet.
Serves 4-5 People
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili
1 tablespoon black salt
1 tablespoon dried dill
Fry chopped onion and garlic for 5 minutes, dice the vegetables and first add the carrot and the zucchini. Fry them for 6-7 minutes. Dice the tofu and fry for 5 more minutes. Add all of the spices and fry for 6 more minutes, at the end add fresh diced tomatoes and serve.
Vagabond Tofu Cheese & Rachel’s Matbucha
Like yin and yang, tofu cheese and Rachel’s Matbucha belong cosmically together at your breakfast table. Both are troubadours for your health, Rachel’s Matbucha emanating a hearty yang, while the tofu cheese leads from the heart. When people think of “going vegan,” something that holds many back is cheese. “What will I do without cheese?” the mind screams. With this recipe, you can have your healthy diet and cheese too. Deliciously hitting all the cheese chords, your taste buds will wonder why you didn’t go vegan sooner!
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried dill
Put the tofu in a bowl and add lime juice and chopped garlic, with hand blender grind it and add the oil, salt and dill, stir and keep in the fridge for 1 hour.
1 garlic bulb
Fry the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes and add the tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes and all of the spices. Cook for 5 more minutes. Based on your own preferences, add a particular amount of spices and oil. This dish needs to come from your heart.
About the Author
Luke Maguire Armstrong (TravelWriteSing.com) is the author of the highly praised travel anthology, “The Nomad’s Nomad.”. He has been attacked twice by a raccoon and once by a Scandavian Santa Clause who was not in the Christmas spirit at all.
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