What We Ate Wednesday: Celebrating My Joyful 5-Year Veganniversary

August 13th, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles



The first day of August, 2013, marked my fifth year of being vegan. Five years, can you even believe it? As I wrote on my Facebook page that night,

Today, all day, I celebrated the best decision I ever accidentally made. It was a day of joy and love and magic – a perfect commemoration for this compassionate lifestyle. 5 years today. Go vegan!

And I really did, it was celebration from start to finish, because, man, I can’t think of anything else worth celebrating more than this happy accident (you can read my “going vegan” story, here). This is how the day went:


Violent Femmes station on Pandora is the best. BEST. Best way to wake up.


As always, first comes the coffee. It was a late and lazy morning, as weekends without the kid tend to be, and so we rolled out of bed at a truly obscene hour (though it WAS before noon, I’ll have you know) and set about making iced coffee and brunch.

And I was excited, ’cause we were cooking something I’d never cooked before . . .



See, they’d put in a new fence up at the preschool, and they’d had to clear a huge nopales cactus to make room. So they sent us home with a few of the pads to eat! I didn’t really know what to do with it, but luckily my beau has worked in restaurants all over Texas and California, so he knows his way around a cactus.

Here’s how you prep nopales:


Rinse ‘em. This is especially important if they’re wild-foraged like ours were.

Use a knife to carefully remove the spines and nodes, and cut any tough areas around the edge.

They should look something like this.

Next, you’ll need to boil them for 15-20 minutes. This softens them up and also helps to remove the mucilaginous gook that’s characteristic of the cactus.

Finally, rinse ‘em. And then rinse ‘em again. And then, rinse ‘em one more time for good measure. Get all that gook out of there! Otherwise it might be slimy, which is no bueno.

Nopales wasn’t the only thing we were eating, of course. And so as the cactus was boiling, I set the mise en place for the rest of the meal. Breakfast hash!

Onions, garlic, and nopales in the cast iron.

The rest of the goodies into the cast iron!

And what was in this fantastic hash? Man, more like what wasn’t in it! I think the final plate was something like onions, garlic, nopales, tofu, golden potatoes (pre-roasted), crimini mushrooms, and anaheim chilis, all sautéed up together and topped with fresh cilantro, diced cherry tomatoes, and guacamole, which looked something like this:


During brunch we had a long and lovely conversation, about veganism (of course). About what it means to each of us, how that’s changed, and what it could mean for the world.

I’ve been a vegan for five years now, and like I’ve said before, I first went vegan for silly, selfish reasons. I was just going to “cleanse” for a week, see. I never expected a week to turn into five years, or a lifetime. But my vegansim changed and it continues to change, evolving as I evolve, strengthening as I’m tested, and deepening with each new discovery. I’m an ethical vegan and have been for many years now, but I didn’t start out that way.

His own story is different. An ethical vegan from the start – 17 years going strong and a vegetarian for 6 years before that – he’s vegan for the animals, period, and considers the health advantage simply an icing on the [vegan] cake. Just a teenager then, moved from within to stop eating animals, in a very small town, in a very traditional home. He’d made the connection.

It gives me so much hope.

That we can all come to this place, this beautiful vegan place, through so many different avenues. By our own meandering paths that start out one way and unexpectedly lead us somewhere completely different, we get here. Even the most unlikely of us, we get here.

It was an inspiring conversation and the perfect way to start such a special day. And it led perfectly into our next project!

So, do you remember that bee fiasco? Those 3,000 bees that had been living in the side of my house until a few weeks earlier? Well Nick the bee guy had removed a bunch of siding, and then we’d had to wait for all the bees to clear. And now it was time to nail the siding back in place.

But not, we decided, before we’d hidden a time capsule inside!


Yeah, super dorky. I know.

We put all sorts of treasures into our pickle jar – a photo of the two of us, various trinkets to represent the goals and ambitions that each of us have, some beach glass I’d collected with Waits and one of his first drawings, secret notes that each of us wrote to the other, and of course in case someone else found it first – plenty of vegan messaging! A little peek:


And into the wall it went!


Time flies when you’re having fun, and before we knew it we had to get cleaned up, showered up, and dressed up. In the early evening we took Harley-dog on a walk down to pick up my CSA box . . .


And then dropped off the box, turned around, and headed right back out the door. Dinner had to be early so we could catch my favorite local band play a festival at sundown. And for dinner?




Seaweed salad.

Do you know what the difference is between good sake and bad sake? Apparently, everything! This was GOOD sake, and I never realized sake could taste so amazing, chilled and sipped and savored like wine.

Sautéed shiitake, maitake, enoki, shimeji, crimini, asparagus, avocado, chives, and white truffle oil.

Inari (tofu), avocado, cucumber, carrots, and lettuce leaves with white sesame sauce.




Artichoke, asparagus, avocado, sun-dried tomato, pine nuts, and white truffle oil.

Asparagus, enoki mushroom, yamaimo yam, avocado, and daikon sprouts.


It was a fantastic dinner, truly fantastic. Such incredible flavor that struck a perfect balance, great food and great drink and of course, excellent company.

Afterwards we hightailed it down the street to catch my friends’ show. My very favorite local band is The Mutineers, and I love them so very much that I’ve befriended all of them (doesn’t hurt that one of my oldest and bestest is engaged to the upright bass player). But really they are the best.


Check it:




It was an amazing night. We didn’t stay out too long, and ended up back at my place playing cards and shootin’ the sheez, just like I like it. We did stay up late though, because that’s also how I like it. And we both got nibly, and since it was a special occasion and all . . .

Vegan cheese plate!!!

With Kite Hill vegan cheese in both White Alder (our fave) and Cassucio Truffle, Dill & Chive, plus crackers and gluten-free bread, olives, heirloom tomatoes, and grapes.

Now THAT’S what I call a midnight snack!

♥ ♥ ♥

PS – Go Vegan!

  • http://luminousvegans.wordpress.com/ luminousvegans

    Happy vegan-versary! There is so much good food in this post, it’s ridiculous. I’ve always seen the cactus leaves in our local farmer’s market but have been too scared to try it. What does it end up tasting like?

  • Sonja

    Happy vegan-versary, Sayward! 5 years! That’s so great and I love how you celebrated it!

  • 28 Cooks

    You look radiant! Congrats on your vegan-versary!

  • Deirdre

    Happy vegan-versary…and way to go – you shine with happiness & your hair looks good too ;)

  • Rachel from The Vegan Mishmash

    Happy Veganniversary!!!! What a milestone and it looks like you did it up right.

  • Rachel Piotraschke

    You look so glow-y and happy and gorgeous in that first pic! Sounds like a wonderful day… happy veganniversary!!

  • Lynn

    Happy Vegan-versary!!! You look so lovely and so happy!!!

  • lysette

    F*#k Yeah! Go vegan!

  • Rachel Goldstein

    holy shit, that sushi!!!! happy veganversary!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Rachel – and yes, that sushi definitely deserved a “holy shit!” =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Not a ton of flavor on it’s own, maybe reminiscent of okra?

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Sonja!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you!!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aw thanks Deirdre, I certainly felt shiny-happy. ;-)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Rachel, we sure did do it up didn’t we? So fun!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Rachel! I was sooo happy, it was quite the milestone and a perfect day. Glad it showed thru!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Lynn!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    EFF YEAH!!!

  • Jennifer Goldman

    Fantastic post and congrats on 5 years!! Do you mind sharing the name of the sushi place? Would love a place to be able to go like that in the SB area: )

  • veronika

    happy veganniversary! and man – we, your readers, have certainly been reaping the benefits of your continued commitment, excitement, and wisdom. here’s to many more veganniversaries!
    i like how you’re titrating *the dood* into your posts. so coy :)

  • andrea

    Happy veganniversary :) This is such a beautiful post and you look gorgeous!

  • http://vegenista.com/ Vegenista

    Congrats! And wow, what a way to celebrate 5 years of fabulous & compassionate vegan living! Everything about your day looked just perfect! And yes…that sushi! Pretty, pretty please share the restaurant name? Oh & I absolutely loved the time capsule. What a cool idea! I live in a 1920′s bungalow—makes me wonder if there is something special hidden in these walls. :)

  • Cara

    Congratulations! Someday you’ll have been vegan so long, you’ll lose count!

    I never understood how you could blog so often & still maintain a life so although I’ll miss your posts, one a week seems more realistic.

    I’d like to vote for my favorite which is this WWAW!

  • Lindsey

    Your teasing pics of your beau are killing me!! Show him! Show him! Show him! ;)
    Congrats on 5 years. That is Awesome. Think of all the animals you have saved!
    Love your blog. Love your pictures. Love your words.

  • skeptk_vegan

    Are you kidding… that sushi is BEAUTIFUL! Gah! Congrats on the veganniversary, I too went vegan in August (1 year ago). Definitely an evolutionary decision. I ran into something yesterday that I encounter ALL the time… a lack of consistency in lifestyle choices fueled by values. Does that makes sense? This hairdresser that I found in Colorado owns an all vegan/organic shop. Of course I was excited and my boyfriend got his cut there yesterday. As we were all chatting though, turns out she still eats chicken, and sees herself as a potentially future vegan. This is so perplexing to me, to pick and choose where you apply your critical thinking. In effect, it’s all better than nothing, but STILL.

  • skeptk_vegan

    Also, the blonde hair. Yes.

  • http://eerosa.com erosan

    Congrats, sweetie.

    Nopales are a big favorite of mine. You should try them pickled along with some some carrots, jalapenos and onions… great to add some spice to your meal.

    And you are a fan of juicing IRRC… try a mixture of pineapple, parsley, celery, grapejuice and nopales, awesome to kickstart your morning.

    (and for all your omnivore readers…. try making a hot salad sauteeing them with bacon and panela cheese). –Sayward, pretend you didn’t read this last bit, ok? :P

  • http://howtofeedawookie.blogspot.com/ WookieWifey

    Firstly, you’re lucky you’re so much thinner than I am or I’d stalk you if I had to in order to steal that amazingly stellar ladybug dress.

    Secondly, hug your new beau for me. Seriously. I see Napoles all over the flea market here, but haven’t been brave enough to buy any because I had NO CLUE how to even begin to prepare one and when I tried to ask for help from the vendor there was a bit of a language barrier! I’ve heard they taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans, both of which the Wookie and I adore. Truth?

  • Adwilson

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I came here to pull up the recipe for laundry detergent and I was pleasantly surprised by the life update! I am so happy for you and your klan!

  • Rebecca

    Congratulations on 5 years! I love that you have inspired your readers every step of the way! I have been vegan for a year and a half now. I even read your blog before I transitioned and always aspired to the lifestyle. I agree with you that going vegan was one of the most amazing decisions I have ever made!

    On another note glowey happiness is radiating out of you! And I love the sneaky hints of your new beau.

    Love and happiness to the both of you!

    P.s that sushi looks amazing! It has given me so many ideas for combos to make at home.

  • Lauren

    Firstly, I just wanted to say that I *love* your blog! Keep doing what you’re doing! Secondly, I just was wondering what the name of the sushi restaurant you went to is? I live in Santa Barbara so I have my fingers crossed it was there :) Thanks!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Lauren – the sushi spot is Arigato, right across from the Granada. It’s AMAZING!