All the apple products are getting bigger, including this Fuji, next to a two-pence coin for comparison.
I've been here more than three weeks, enough time to have formed an impression, albeit a sketchy, deer-in-the-headlights one.
There are some things I like about this part of America, a region I'd never explored, and some things I don't. But let me start with the food, because that's the most important thing, right?
Pro: The bread. It lasts for days! And then more days! A week, or longer, even. Back in the UK, a loaf of bread barely lasted three days, sometimes less. I'd buy small loaves, or the convenient half-loaves that some supermarkets sell, but even then, we couldn't eat a loaf of bread in three days. Here, I still can't eat that much bread—the loaves are bigger—but at least I don't have to buy them as often.
Con: The bread is almost all non-vegan. Most conventional store brands have dairy products in them. I even found one brand that has fish oil in it! I have to read every label, very carefully, to find a loaf that's vegan, contains 100% whole wheat, and doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup.
Pro: As in pro-duce: Yellow squash! And corn, sold still in its husk, for pennies! Exotic peppers, and other produce I haven't been able to get in ten years.
Con: Potatoes. What a joke. There are two or three varieties of potatoes, the same ones at every supermarket. Yukon Gold is as exotic as it gets. No Maris Piper, no King Edward, no Charlotte, no Mozart, none of the many, many varieties of potatoes, for every potato cooking need—mash, bake, fried, or any combination thereof, with each store specializing in its own varieties of potatoes. And they all taste better than boring Yukon Gold or Idaho Russet.
Pro: There's a plethera of vegan foods available. I've been able to find vegan staples at ordinary supermarkets, like Daiya cheese, Earth Balance, and lots of meat substitutes like Gardein, Tofurkey (their sausage is incredible!) and Beyond Meat. And then there's tempeh, good tofu, dairy-less sour cream and mayo—all this and more can be found without a trip to Whole Foods or some other out of the way shop.
Con: Vegan food still hasn't made it to every restaurant menu. At a Thai place we stopped at in Pentagon City, I expressed a great deal of surprise when there were only a few vegan items on the menu. I was told several entrees could be made with tofu, but that wasn't on the menu. I get the feeling me and my kind aren't welcome at most restaurants. But I am looking forward to checking out the restaurant list at VegDC.
Pro: The produce is huge. I ate a Honeycrisp apple (sorry, I don't see what the fuss is about) and it took about an hour.
Con: The produce is huge. See above. What kind of hormones are they feeding those plants, anyway?
Pro: The hummus lasts a long time, allowing you to stock up just in case friends drop by.
Con: It just tastes meh. Not worth taking up the space in the fridge for a few weeks. I found the same to be true of soy yogurt. I've tried three brands, and none of them are as good as Alpro.
Pro: There's just a lot of new items available, such as a veggie stock that's Asian flavored, quinoa-based ready meals, and coconut ice cream, that all look interesting. And right now, until my shipment containing my cookware and kitchen implements arrives, I'm relying on low-maintenance food more than usual.
Con: I have to read every single ingredient, on every single label, to determine if a product is vegan or not. Lots of seemingly vegan items (pizza crusts, for example) are not.
Vegan treats at VegFest: Worth crossing the ocean for, or at least a state line or two.
Pro: DC VegFest! What a great event. I went to a similar vegan festival in London last year, held in the dreary Kensington Olympia, where we walked around a huge warehouse with only a portion devoted to vegan booths and food. It was hard to get excited about any of it. Maybe it was the lighting. But VegFest, held at Navy Yard, outdoors in the blazing sunlight, was a very happy event, with giant carrots walking around (scaring some of the dogs) and long lines of friendly vegans at all the tasty food booths. Some visitors came from as far away as New Jersey to hear the speakers, which included Dr. Neal Barnard and Bryant Terry, author of Afro-Vegan. I wasn't going to buy his book, but then I saw a recipe for collard greens and cornmeal dumplings, and I remembered I now live in a land where I can go to the store and buy collard greens!
Con: Let's end on a high note, shall we? I'm still jazzed about collard greens, and this is about food, not wine, so I won't mention how very dear (as in $$$) French wine is here. (And also my favorite Maille mustard. Fortunately I mailed (ha!) a jar to myself before I left.)