J. readers, I have some news: I am converting. No, not like that. I have decided to become a vegetarian and graduallytransition into a vegan.
That’s right. I’m turning away from mouth-watering prime rib, succulent barbecue chicken, rainbow rolls, spicy tuna rolls, California rolls. Oy, it’s not going to be easy.
But here we are in an awkward week, foodwise, between Thanksgiving and Chanukah.
For me, the sight of turkey and mashed potatoes conjures up a tryptophan-induced trip I’d rather forget. And yet I’m not quite ready to wolf down that brisket and potato latkes.
What better way to snap out of my culinary coma than to swear off meat and dairy forever, and adopt a plant-based diet?
To borrow a line from “Clueless,” the 1995 hit film starring Alicia Silverstone — who is Jewish, grew up on the Peninsula and attended Temple Jacob in Redwood City — as if!
But if I start small, say a week at a time, going “green” seems like less of a challenge.
I do have some inspiring trailblazers — like my cousin Jill, who progressed from vegetarian to vegan in 2004 while attending U.C. Berkeley. She’s been a tofu-eating, soy-latte-drinking, faux-leather-wearing happy person ever since.
Then there’s my colleague Emily, who politely rejects any and all dairy-laden delicacies that taunt the rest of us in the break room. Her self-control is nothing short of commendable.
And Silverstone — an actress, activist and conservationist whose love for all animals prompted her to swap childhood favorites like shepherd’s pie and pork chops for daikon, couscous and umeboshi plums.
These days Silverstone, 33, would never have eaten the foods that her “Clueless” character — the ditzy, yet oh-so-endearing Cher Horowitz — rattles off with guilt as she walks to class with her BFF, Dionne:
“I feel like such a heifer. I had two bowls of Special K, three pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, five peanut butter M&Ms and, like, three pieces of licorice.”
How do I know Silverstone would reject such munchies in reality? She told me, and about 100 others who gathered recently at the Osher Marin JCC to hear her talk candidly about her new book, “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet.”
It even has a preface written by longtime vegetarian Paul McCartney.
“This book means so much to me,” she told the predominantly female audience, many sitting around small tables with flickering tea lights and vegan trail mix. “Hopefully I inspire you tonight to come on this journey with me.”
She began by describing her journey to becoming a “superhero,” her nickname for those who follow a diet that revolves around whole grains, vegetables, beans and “lots of other good things,” she writes in her book. And if that’s too drastic, you can “flirt” with going vegan, or fully commit to a vegan lifestyle.
Though she swore off all animal-derived products for good in her early 20s, Silverstone didn’t initially go “superhero.” She dabbled in the raw food movement and the macrobiotic diet (svelte actress Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan) before adopting her current eating habits.
As a result of her revamped diet, Silverstone’s gone from, to quote Cher, a “full-on Monet” (“It’s like the painting. From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess!”) to a “total Betty” (“Clueless” slang for a gorgeous, timeless woman, derived from the 1930s sex symbol Betty Grable).
“I’m thinner,” said a beaming Silverstone. “I’m healthier. I have no need for antibiotics. I don’t need aspirin. I don’t need coffee. My nails are really strong. My hair is stronger and thicker. Look, no extensions!”
Sure, those are fantastic side effects. But I still had reservations as I flipped through her book. Get this, she eats miso soup for breakfast — what?
Then I tried the food and I was no longer “buggin” — that’s freaked out.
After Silverstone’s talk at the JCC, we scarfed down vegan chocolate peanut butter cups and cheesy, oozy guacamole bean dip with tortilla chips.
It was the perfect way to end the event and begin my journey toward becoming a “total Betty.”