For the past week, I have been a strict vegan. In Orthodox countries, several times of year there is a post (a time of fasting), when according to church guidelines people should decline to consume any animal products. The longest post, called the great post in Russian, corresponds to lent on the orthodox calendar (Easter will be on May 1st this year). The list of valid and important reasons the people go vegan is long: animal rights, saving the environment, staying healthy, maintaining your relationship with God.
My reasons?
1. I wonder what it would be like to be vegan.
2. I should probably eat less chocolate.
3. That amazing vegan chocolate cake my host mom made makes me believe I can actually live without eating non-vegan chocolate.
My host family observes post, so the basis of my dinners and breakfasts was vegan anyway. That’s over half the time, right? Making up the other half should be simple. All I have to do is swear off:
-Milk in my tea in the morning
-All lunches except the 5 options on the vegan menu (borscht, arugula and potato salad, cabbage and peas, beans, cheeseless pizza).
-All the German chocolate I buy
-Coffee drinks
-Cake with those coffee drinks
-Ice cream (the program somehow managed to find occasion to order it twice for us in the last week)
-Random American candies that somehow make their way to people here
-Brinza (goat cheese) on my salads, potatoes, pasta, mini sandwiches…
You know what’s funny? If you told me I had to give up any one of those, I would probably tell you that I don’t have the willpower to do it. It is actually easier to go without all of them. I think the reason is that when you have such a limited diet, everything is framed in terms of foods that you can eat, rather foods that you can’t. No one bothers to go through the regular menu and ask if every item is vegan. They just ask for a list of vegan foods, and choose from there. Among the list of foods that have become my staples:
-Placinta, a Moldovan pastry with thin dough and various fillings. My host mom makes it often during post with cabbage or nuts and jam. The nut one is sweet and helps stave off cravings for other desserts. Both are an excellent thing to pack and take with me when I will invariably still be hungry after lunch.
-Walnuts and almonds have always been available, because my family has a nut farm. My consumption of them has resurged.
-Everything fried in sunflower oil. Because eating foods that taste unhealthy is a must sometimes. When I say everything, I really mean just potatoes. But I eat a lot of potatoes, so that almost counts as everything.
-Pasta with jarred tomato-pepper something. After loads and loads of potatoes every day, pasta raises my mood as much as candy used to. Simple white carbs.
-Jarred things in general. My mom was preparing for post back in August, when she filled our cellar with cabbage, tomatoes, jams, etc.
-Oatmeal. Are it before, eat it now.
-Golupsi. If you remember them back from my post about the holidays, then about double the love I expressed for them there, you’ll have an accurate idea of our current relationship status. They are just as good without meat.
-Beets. I might have to go ahead and call them my favorite food. Filling, healthy, and they satisfy my sweet tooth.
-My vitamin. Got to get calcium somewhere. And when I looked up online good sources of calcium for vegans, I found lists that included “foods vegans typically eat”: tofu, soy milk, collards, broccoli. Um…I had broccoli a couple times here in restaurants…and the western cafe now offers tiny amounts of soy milk to add to coffee…
My conviction is stronger than I thought it would be. Of course there have been times when I’ve thought “wow, that chicken smells really good” but I’ve never actually wavered about whether I should eat it or not. The worst moment was when I actually opened a peppermint patty from America, and just as the minty chocolate hit my nostrils, I thought: I can’t eat this. By far the hardest thing to deal with has not been denying myself foods, but being hungry. Before my hunger level ranged from I guess I could eat to stuffed. Over the past week, it ranged from starving to pleasantly satisfied.
I’m no longer fasting, because I had to move host families and my new family had a tough enough time with their previous vegetarian host daughter, let alone a vegan. I’m back to eating chocolate; so much for that. However, the fact that I started the fast planning to stay vegan for an entire month made the past week, I believe, representative of how I would have felt had I actually stayed vegan for a month. And I accomplished what I set out to do, even if I started on a whim and didn’t realize it at the time. I proved to myself that nothing, not even chocolate, controls my life. I treat myself because I want to, not because I need to.
In my last two months in Moldova, I will do a lot. I will also not get around to doing everything. And I will try to apply this lesson as much as I can to my life here: doing things because I want to do them, not because I feel like I should do them. I will work towards appreciating the simple, the beets and pasta, and not constantly craving something more–which, to be honest, may or may not have satisfied me anyway.
Simple things, like enjoying my new host mom’s fried eggs, packing brinza to put on everything at a picnic, and accepting gifts of German chocolate from my friends.


One thought on “Post

  1. Hi Katrina,

    Really busy. Just got back from Moscow, but had a few minutes to read your post. As always, love your posts. Why did you move host families?



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