June 3, 2010

Pizza: My One Obstacle to the Pure Land of Veganism.

Only The Mighty, Cheesy Pizza Stands Between Me and Culinary Moksha

I’ve been vegetarian for a couple of years now. I slowly let a vast array of meats fall away as I settled nicely into the very comfortable dairy and eggs only category (octo-lavo-something or other, right?). That was fine for a while. But alas, I now feel a tug toward the next step and find myself faced with the toughest food choice ever: Vegan or pizza?

I know what you’re thinking: Hey Coe, they have vegan cheese and vegan pizza now.

And there lies the potato starchy rub. You see, I love, love, love pizza. I’ve driven miles, hours even, to try great pizza. One of those long drives was to try a vegan pizza. Which is why I am now struggling so much with the final big step into culinary moksha. The vegan pizza, while decent, just wasn’t pizza-esque enough for me.

So now what? I’ve come too far with my diet to stop now. Can I go just a little bit further?

My Wisconsin upbringing weighs heavily against me for sure. The good old dairy state is a magical place, a land of giant burgers with scoops of butter thrown on top, juicy bratwurst, homemade ice cream, Cocoa Pebbles with half and half for breakfast, steaks that would make John Candy proud (ever see The Great Outdoors?) and truly amazing pizza.

I remember a conversation I had with a Vegan friend when I was in my mid-twenties. “You should stop eating meat,” she preached. “Yeah, like that’s going to happen,” I responded with as much sarcasm as I could muster. But, that was where I was then. At that point in my life I couldn’t fathom forgoing the burger or saying good bye to the mighty bratwurst.

Then something interesting happened: I started meditating and doing yoga.

I often say that yoga has changed my thinking far more than it could ever change my body. With each labored posture in the primary series of my Ashtanga practice something burned away inside. I read somewhere that one shouldn’t worry about becoming a vegetarian or giving up meat. As we grow in our practice, as we become more aware, meat will give itself up. That same quote sadly said nothing about pizza.

Which is why I now find myself standing before a giant wall made of mozzarella. It’s blocking me on all sides from the Pure Land of Veganism and I don’t know if I can or even want to get out. A little voice—it sounds like Thich Nhat Hanh’s—is telling me to let go of the cheese, to stop clinging to the idea of pizza. But I’m not sure if I’m ready.

Will I ever be?

I didn’t think I was ready to give up burgers and that came pretty easily. So why is pizza so difficult? That damn, cheesy, saucy, yummy pizza. It is my Mara and it is unbelievably tempting.

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