“Mom, we’re out of cream!” came a distressed call from within the fridge. Never what we want to hear at coffee time.
My husband can’t stand the fact that I don’t drink black coffee. Not that he’s ever taken an intentional sip of any joe variant in the 24 years that I have known him. (I have to say “intentional” due to an unfortunate incident in Florida two summers ago when a Dunkin Donut cup mix up in a hotel room led to him swallowing a mouthful of brew instead of his hot chocolate, reducing him to a shaken, sputtering state and making fond vacation memories for the rest of the family. “Remember the time Dad drank coffee? one kid periodically says to the other as they both dissolve into hysterics. That sort of thing.) But I digress from my point.
What my coffee-loathing husband has difficulty with has nothing to do with the java bean and everything to do with logic. See, I subsisted on black coffee throughout high school and college and into our second year of marriage until the day when an aide at the school for which I worked mistakenly brought me a creamed coffee and from that day onward there was no looking back.
Despite my husband’s complaints (which, in all fairness, typically surface when he, the sole non-coffee drinker, finds himself trucking to the store during a No Cream crisis) I haven’t questioned my cream-in-coffee stance at all, ever, until a Winter Project cast a milky cloud of doubt over So Much.
In the bowels of winter I decided to embark upon a season-long adventure of Discovery and Awareness wherein I would watch a documentary each day. The project was inspired by a couple of mind-stretching evenings with my son over Chinese food.
The first was well over a year ago. The Minister, who loves off-beat ideas and discourse, and I decided to watch Life in a Day—a snapshot of life on earth on a single day—July 24th, 2010, to be exact—and traversed the world through the hopes, fears, and commentary of ordinary earthlings, posted on YouTube for filmmaker Kevin Macdonald to cull and craft. Using evidence from this very blog as source material, The Minister and I were able to construct our own activities on that random day and add our stories to the global narrative. It was absorbing entertainment, and superior to most Hollywood hijinks.
So finding ourselves alone in the house one Friday evening this past winter, we rounded up some Chinese food and delved into Forks over Knives, otherwise known as The Reason No One Easts Meat or Consumes Milk Products anymore. Indeed, about 20 minutes into the research-based Case for Vegan Living, the General Tso’s was rejected, save the rice, and our minds mentally ridding the fridge of milks, cheeses, and creams.
When the film was over, we were intellectually spent and inspired to pare our intake of animal protein down to, if you’ll excuse the pun, bare bones. Better than any run-of-the-mill celluloid offering, this film brought us into the action as dynamic characters eager for change. Of course, this meant different things for the Minister and I. Already a near-vegetarian and lover of natural, whole foods, veganism for me meant conquering the final frontier of non-flesh sources of animal protein: eggs, cheese, and milk, which often gave me a stomach ache anyway. The Minister faced bigger challenges, and, frankly, decided that his approach wasn’t as much to remove meat as it was to add vegetables. For better or worse, I was hooked: not just on finding ways to replace animal products in my food, but to learn more about, well, everything.
So as the days went on, I explored the ins and outs of not only the food industry (although I did watch just about everything Netflix has to offer on the topic), but also plastics, exotic animals, subway tunnel dwellers, graffiti artists, and even learned more about my bff Audrey.
I loved everything about documentaries: the camaraderie with the filmmaker, the story behind the story, and even a whole new cast of antagonists: ocean gyres, Big Business, and GMOs. And, yes, the interactivity: the feeling that you can walk away from the film and continue the story with your choices about what to eat, buy, or think about the topics of the day.
And documentary by documentary, my deconstructed woman-vs.-nature plot continued to unfold, as I slowly learned that sandwich goodness isn’t proportional to cheese content, avocado toast beats eggs any day of the week, almond milk is delicious, versatile, and painless, and vegan baked goods are often legit. Still, every day I consume (sometimes with delight) non-vegan content, most notably in the form of the cream I continue to pour into my coffee. Even as I inch closer and closer to veganism, I have certain things I don’t see doing without, ever.
Which makes me vegan-ish. And wondering if that’s anything like being “Christian-ish” or “Amish-ish” or “honest-ish”: as in: is vegan something you can “sort of” be without reeking of compromise?
It’s an unfair sort of guilt that I didn’t ask for. After all, I just made some research-based dietary adjustments! I didn’t sign, pledge, or commit to anything! Why, then, must I spend time completing my integrity in the wake of a cream cheese icing (on carrot cake, for pete’s sake!) or parmesan on pizza?
Confronted, then, by the Voice from the Fridge, I calmly convinced The Minister to supplement his brew with chocolate milk and I…well, I decided to try mine au naturale. No need to involve my husband who’d intercept me on my way out to the corner market, simultaneously insisting on going himself while murmuring his confusion over my preferences.
Nope, Not this time. I’d take it straight. Another step toward being a Real Vegan. Yep, black coffee it was!
A bitter sip later, my frown disappears as I remember the creamy goodness of Almond milk. Yep, that’s all it needs. A splash of Almond milk. OK, um, well, maybe more than a splash, I think, inspecting the resulting murky color.
Maybe more of a latte, I think, remembering how much I enjoyed some iced almond-milk lattes at our local coffee house. I poured the Almond milk liberally into the brew. Noooo…no, not there yet.
Maybe a splash of coconut milk would help? Ewww. Heck, no.
In desperation, I poured in some of the chocolate milk I’d passed off on my son. I took a big sip.
I am fairly certain my face rivaled my husband’s countenance the night of his accidental swig in the Florida hotel room. And what’s worse? I might just be more annoyed than he is that I don’t drink black coffee.