The Lenten path to perfection

Well, that went over like a lead balloon.

As you may know, Lent starts today-- Lent being the preferred holiday season for those of us who like our personal growth both painful and inconvenient. It's the hard scrabble route to self improvement, insisting that through denying hedonistic pleasures true perfection is possible.

In other words, sign me up, baby!

This past weekend, Hubby and I spent a wonderful night at supper club--good friends, great food and enough wine to leave me slightly pickled, even now. Midway through the evening, I announced that I was considering following a vegan diet for Lent.

It was even less enthusiastically received that other of my grand schemes. I was actually kind of surprised, I mean, it's not that off the wall. It's not like I'm giving up television, for gosh sakes. (Before the season finale of Downton Abby?!! Let's not go crazy, here, people.) Besides, I already have a history of veganism, oh, so many, many years ago in college. Of course being young and invincible, I was of the french fry, tortilla chip and beer vegans. I'm fairly certain that it was the occasional jar of salsa that saved me from a nasty bout of scurvy.

These days, I'm wanting to give veganism another whirl for several reasons;

1- I am stupidly drawn to self-denial.
2- I'm intellectually curious about ritual fasting. Being a midwestern-born, German farm girl from a Lutheran family, we have no history of intentional fasting. Or unintentional fasting for that matter.  It was common to see me tearing outside to ring the dinner bell and yelling, "Grandma just put a pork roast in the table and there are three kinds of PIE for dessert!" And that was on, say, a normal Tuesday. Holiday seasons dripped with excess-- delicious, delicious excess.
3- My wintertime, non-race season reading has been trending towards books and blogs by ultramarathoners and extreme athletes who are, themselves, vegan. Books like Eat and Run by Scott Jurek or the contributors over at No Meat Athlete extol the virtues of a plant-based diet and swear by its power to improve performance. Since we already know I ain't gettin' anywhere on natural talent, this is an extremely attractive idea.
4- A while back, I had a thought that struck me as supremely mind boggling. Basically, it seemed to me that one could alter everything about oneself and yet remain, unchanged, at the core. I mean, I certainly feel that I am the same person I've always been, even though I've gone through so many behavioral changes already. I no longer listen to The Smiths every waking moment or decorate my home with cement block bookshelves and cow jawbones. I've been a waitress, a nanny, a prep cook, a caterer, a sign language interpreter, a cookie shop owner and a custodian. Why not a vegan? I could decide to wear overalls and a top hat and make everyone call me "Farmer Joe" and I'd still be the same Lanie underneath it all...the same dorky Lanie... The point being that this little foray into a new way of eating is the same sort of play acting we do our whole lives. Why not try it on, for a while, anyways?

I'll tell you the one thing that almost put a kibosh on the entire endeavor. Are you ready?

WINE IS NOT NECESSARILY VEGAN.

Good lord. I nearly had to put my head down until the queasiness passed. I mean, What. The. HELL. Wine is clarified, apparently, by adding a bit of protein to the mix. Protein in the form of fish bladder, egg white, gelatin or casein. What sort of twisted  tomfoolery is this, I ask you? I liked it a lot better when I thought that lingering aftertaste from my favorite vintage was the essence of blackberries or chocolate... Not fish.

No matter. Luckily there are several fish and egg free vino options to choose from, so we're all good, people! Operation Lenten Vegan is a go!

As long as they keep their fish bladders out of my salsa, that is.

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    Melanie Danke's picture
    Melanie Danke

    Melanie Danke blogs at http://plumbtuckeredout.blogspot.com/ and bakes cookies with her good friend at their cookie shop, Two Smart Cookies, 181 Snelling Ave in St. Paul.