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“Grandpa, if you want, you can eat the bean curry leftovers for lunch.”

Well, there it is in a nutshell. That’s what it’s like to live with a 14 year old vegan - left over bean curry for lunch. Maybe I’ll throw in some boiled quinoa for a kicker. How did it come to this?

Ana moved in with us to chase a dancing career that was impossible to pursue in Plano, Illinois. Reluctantly, her parents gave her the go. She is totally dedicated and disciplined, not just to her dancing, but her studies and her diet as well. I thought I knew what a vegan was. I had much to learn.

So now, the staccato rap of chopping blades on oak reverberates throughout the house. Onions, carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs go under the knife. Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop.......

Chilies bubble and cough on the burners like witches stew with every conceivable herb and lentil lurking on and beneath the surface. I push my nose into the steam wafting above the pots and wonder at the alien fragrances.

Then, you throw all this stuff into bowls, wait till the contents stop moving, and devour it with culinary lust.

Fresh berries and avocados and melons and peaches and apples and bananas and lemons and limes and pineapple populate the kitchen counters. We don't "chop" the fruits, we "slice" them. If any of this stuff starts aging we whip it up and drink it. The blender is exhausted.

It takes time to be a vegan. So one thing every vegan would love is a personal chef. Enter Judy. She has turned into that personal chef preparing new recipes with strange ingredients. Meals that once took minutes take... well, much longer. She bought new knives with which she chops and dices and shreds with her arthritic fingers. Bowls of all shapes and sizes are strewn everywhere. Washing dishes has become an occupation.

While many of you spend the weekends watching 3 hour sporting events, we spend our afternoons visiting farmers' markets and organic grocery stores. "Grandpa, look!", she cries, showing me yogurt made with almond milk instead of diary. "Oh good!", I say. "Get a dozen." The word bulk which I may have used 100 times in my first 72 years, is now used 100 times a week. We buy spices, detergent, dishwasher liquid, rice, cereal, etc. "in bulk". The refrigerator bulges with covered, glass bowls and packages with seedy looking contents. I'm constantly struggling to find my jalapeno-stuffed, martini olives that get lost in the shuffle.

At least 10 times a day I ask, "What is that?" I have never felt so ignorant in my life. At night I have dreams about falling off a cliff into the the abyss of vegetarianism. Judy and I know we are well on our way there. Meatless Monday is turning into Meatless Month.

Even Ana's dog, Mimi, now eats broccoli (but only the stems not the florets).

At times you have to get away. One day Judy and I slipped out and went to Culver's. I ordered a butter-burger basket. "One or two paddies?", he asks. "So, can you make a triple?", I ask.

Ana with her Mom, Kim, at the Madison Farmers Market.

Is there an upside to all this shenanigans? Well.... OK, I have lost weight. I am feeling pretty good. She has probably added a couple years to my life (if I don't get hit again by a pickup truck). I've saved the lives of at least one cow and one pig. Madison's organic farmers are little more profitable. My compost lady's business has grown by at least 32%. (See blog entitled The Woman who Makes Earth Stew). I actually like quite a few of the things Ana conjures up. I'm sure I won't get as sick nor as often as I did. To say that I'm "regular" (if you know what I mean) would be understated. While most of this is not cheap, the bulk buying probably saves a few bucks. I am making the planet smile.

Along the way she gently reminds us we are saving the environment. She articulates about the impact to the planet of raising billions of animals to slaughter and eat. It perfumes the atmosphere with methane, pollutes the land and sucks the earth's precious fresh water. On top of it all, it's cruel. All true.

This morning as I shaved I noticed my nose hairs are beginning to look a little green. Oh well, small price to pay for the education we are receiving. One thing I will have to say. If we want to save the environment, we'll get there a lot faster by listening to Ana.


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