Friday, October 3, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 3: Staving off Starvation

Have I mentioned yet that I'm a grad student? I am. I'm meandering ever slowly towards a phD in Computer Engineering. Or at least, I have been. Today, that pace got kicked up to a brisk trot. All at once, my advisors told me to get to work on a monstrous application for an incredibly competitive fellowship AND to start writing a paper to submit for publication about nine days after the fellowship application is due. Combine that with a class in which I'm literally doing 2 hours of reading before each session in order to keep up and a class where the professor expects me to do something like 160 hours of work on the class project alone... and you've got a recipe for my life over the next month and a half.

What the hell does this have to do with food? you think. Answer: EVERYTHING.

Being a lofty academic (or at least aspiring to be one), I spend maybe half of my waking life engaged in the real world. That's a generous estimate, too. The rest of the time, I'm lost somewhere under the salty seas of academia, either going to classes, working on projects, going to research group meetings, working on work, thinking about work, thinking about projects on which to work... you get the idea. Necessarily, the busier my intellectual life gets, the more immersed I am in my mental world... and the less attached I am to my physical surroundings. This becomes very evident very quickly.

The first thing that happens is that I'll stop clearing things from whatever area I do my work in. A friend of mine dubbed the debris that collects around my workspace "the homework circle". Books, papers, calculators, pens, pencils, notebooks, printouts of all descriptions... it gets pretty built up.

The second thing to go is the dishes. I hate doing the dishes to start with, and confronted with a semi-plausible excuse not to do them ("but I'm so busy!") I will just stop.

The third thing is food. I'll stop actively engaging in feeding myself.

The three things go together, actually-- I can't put food on the kitchen table because it's covered in homework. Even if I could, I couldn't cook anything because there are too many dishes in the sink and I need to get to the sink to cook. (And I guess I need dishes to eat off of, right.) And... ah, screw it, might as well not cook. Hell, might as well just not eat! I'll have time for food later!

So why am I not some sort of sad, emaciated little creature? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that I have a totally awesome husband. When I played rugby, a lot of the girls I knew said they didn't have time to have a boyfriend... I was like, seriously, I haven't got time to NOT have a boyfriend. Who feeds you in these situations if not your significant other? Sheesh!

The other two things that have always gotten me through these periods before are delivery food and microwaveable food.

But wait a sec! Holy shit! I'm a vegan now. I live in a town with almost no delivery options whatsoever and only one vegan delivery option that I'm aware of. (Incredibly, incredibly bad Chinese food.) AND I DON'T OWN A MICROWAVE ANYMORE!

Ah jeez, I'm going to die, aren't I? They'll find my skeleton years from now, hunched over a laptop, fingerbones still tightly squeezing my TI-86. And they'll probably attribute it to veganism. "CRAAAAAZY VEGAN grad student starves to death!" I can see it now. They'll probably sue my spouse for not feeding me some beef or something.

Of all the unsolicited reasons people give me for why they're not vegan, I've never heard anyone say "because it's too much of a time commitment." And yet, here I am. The only thing I can think of that really meets my laziness and nutritional needs are things I put in my rice cooker and ignore until they're ready to eat... rice (naturally), quinoa, lentils.

So I'm thinking that maybe my focus for the rest of MoFo will be to collect and test a number of vegan recipes that fit my insane and stressful lifestyle while also giving me the nutrients I need to survive through said life. It seems like a pretty good use for October.

Tonight, though... tonight we're getting takeout Sri Lankan food. Hello, vegan coconut roti. Hello, coconut and kale. Hello lentils! Hoo boy, I am going to eat the heck out of this meal. All this thinkin', I've worked up a powerful appetite.

PS: the kaffir lime vodka I mentioned yesterday is pretty close to unbelievably good. They've managed to capture the kaffir lime flavor perfectly... I'd forgotten just how different kaffir limes taste from normal limes. But the delicious punch in the teeth that is this vodka has reminded me in a wonderful, wonderful way.

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