Today was an incredible day! I went to Real Food Daily in Santa Monica, which is a vegan restaurant/bakery committed to providing delicious, whole foods. I had an interview with Elisha Valdez, the Catering Director, followed by THE BEST meal of my vegan life thus far. Elisha is very kind, intelligent and funny, and her words of wisdom shed light upon the struggles I've been facing and made me feel so much better.
"Don't make it too hard for yourself," she told me. "If you eat something that's not vegan, don't freak out. Its just like any other diet where your next meal, it starts over.
I used to be really hard on myself in the past, if I had [eaten] something and later found out that it wasn't vegan. As I get older, I'm trying to not be so militant and just realize that what's done is done. Move forward and try not to get wrapped up in the emotional, beating yourself up aspect."
Elisha has been vegan for 16 years. She entered into it for health reasons, and stayed for ethical ones, and in this time her approach to her lifestyle has evolved.
"I used to be what they call an ‘angry vegan.' I used to be really angry and militant." Hmm, sounds familiar.... (ahemJOHNcough). "Somebody once said to me, ‘It must be really hard living in a world of imperfect people.'
"I realized that if you just do your thing and are happy, people will naturally be attracted to you and want to know what you're doing and want to be involved. Any time you start judging or comparing or being holier than thou, people automatically turn off to you. They don't want to hear what you have to say."
Elisha encouraged me to make eating convenient and not get overwhelmed. She told me of her favorite vegan hotspot: Trader Joe's. "Being vegan is expensive, and you can get everything you need there." She also underscored the importance of eating mindfully and eating with intention. "It might sound ‘hippie,' it might sound out-there, but you can truly heal yourself with food."
Elisha also answered a huge question that's been plaguing me throughout this experiment: "Being vegan is a diet, it means choosing what I put into my body. If you ride a bike, if you use gasoline, if you use petroleum based products, all these have animal ingredients. There is no such thing and being [entirely] animal free."
After our interview, I tried a couple menu items recommended to me by Elisha and Beth Griffiths, RFD's Director of Communications. The club seitan was amazing. The tempeh bacon was crisp, and tasted just like bacon. It was the best club sandwich I'd had in a long time. I also found out that they make all their seitan (made from gluten) and tempeh (made from fermented soybeans) in house, to keep it as close to the earth as possible.
The nachos were amazing. Loaded with barbecue seitan, cashew cheese, guacamole, a creamy sauce... the list goes on, this dish was beyond hearty. I didn't miss the animal products one bit.
And the desserts. Don't get me started. Everything in the case looked incredible, but I chose the cupcake. It resembled a Hostess Cupcake, dark chocolate with white icing looped across the top. But you know when you eat a Hostess Cupcake and you think, "I wonder why this has a 12 year shelf life," and you get a creepy feeling inside?
This cupcake was of a totally different realm. It was delectable, the cake was soft, the chocolate ganache was rich--but not too rich. And yes: it had cream filling, only this cream was soy-based. It was vegan heaven in my mouth. I will definitely be returning to Real Food Daily, regardless of being a vegan or an omnivore.