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Social Encore: Tuohy tries something new
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
There are so many things I’d like to do on my personal bucket list, including traveling, swimming with sharks and hiking to Machu Picchu — the list just goes on and on.
I’m hoping to knock off at least one bucket list item every year, but Honolulu resident Matthew Tuohy is taking the concept of trying something new to a whole new level with his blog, somethingnewforamonth.com.
Tuohy had a co-worker who blogged about his goal to be fluent in Mandarin over a 90-day period, and was amazed by the international support he received through various social media outlets. Wanting to do something similar, Tuohy decided to modify his co-workers’ concept and explore different ideas over a 30-day period.
Being a freelance writer, Tuohy said a month is a good enough length of time to try something out while keeping his readers and himself entertained and interested.
Before starting a new month, Tuohy said he conducts research on his personal interests and random ideas to see if they can fit within his 30-day criteria. After creating a prospective challenge, he asks his friends and fiancé for their feedback; sometimes this helps add to his idea or even inspires him to take a different route.
According to Tuohy’s blog, these are his criteria for picking something new to try:
» The subject has to be something outside of Tuohy’s normal routine
» Tuohy has to spend 30 days sticking to a regimen, or pay a penalty
» Tuohy will update his blog as often as possible (at least two to three times a week)
» At the end of the experience, Tuohy must give a synopsis of his experiences in video form
» None of the activities can be potentially harmful or life threatening, and the challenge is void if it creates a medical emergency
» It has to be fun!
» Tuohy must interview at least one expert and one person who participates in the activity
After hearing an episode of the Nerdist podcast on his phone, Tuohy learned actor Michael Dorn was a vegan. Dorn is famously known for playing the Klingon warrior Worf on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He found it interesting that an actor famous for being very vicious and carnivorous was living as a vegan.
Inspired by the podcast, he decided his first challenge was to be a vegan. This meant he could not have food or wear any clothes that involved an animal — no meat or dairy, and no wearing wool or leather — for the month of January. Tuohy felt this experience would help him gain a better understanding of what vegans go through in their everyday lives and provide insight into the physical and mental pros and cons of this very limited lifestyle.
A big fan of poke, burgers and honey, the Colorado native thought that he would be doomed when he went on his first vegan grocery run, but found out there are a lot of vegan alternatives. He discovered food items like taco “meat,” “cheese” slices and “kielbasa” that fit the vegan diet, but thought it was odd to have vegan food that were created to have flavors that weren’t necessarily vegan.
Tuohy wrote in his blog, “It seems like a bit of a juxtaposition — here are some food products meant for a group of people who want nothing to do with meat and cheese, but desperately need those tastes in their mouths.” He admitted adjusting to the new diet was rough, and he experienced headaches and felt a little sluggish in the beginning.
Eventually Tuohy learned to create his own vegan-friendly food from his first grocery run, creating dishes like vegan stew and tofurky kielbasa jambalaya with a tortilla filled with fresh avocado and salsa. He also was surprised many local restaurants have menu items that cater to vegans.
“When I became vegan the convenience factor went out the window since there are only so many restaurants that cater, and do it well to vegans,” he said.
While living as a vegan, Tuohy interviewed Joannie Dobbs, assistant specialist for Food Composition and Health Education in the Human Nutrition at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Although Dobbs said there are some benefits to eating more nutritious and naturally grown foods, there are also downsides.
For example, some people who are vegans lack iron, nutrients like vitamin B12 and essential fatty acids that help prevent memory or retinal problems.
According to Tuohy, being vegan helped him lose weight and obtain clearer skin. He was also thankful the new diet regime affected his asthma in a positive way.
“I didn’t have to use my inhalers once, even after contracting a cold, which would normally take me out for a week,” he said. “My lungs felt great.”
After a month of being vegan, Tuohy was finally able to go back to his normal routine of eating food he enjoyed. His first meal was a pizza from V-Lounge covered with smoked mozzarella and prosciutto.
“As I took the first bite it felt like I was betraying the vegan in me, but I also felt a need to see how my body and mind would react when I went back to my regular diet,” he said.
For the month of February, Tuohy decided to take a deeper look into playing the harmonica, a personal interest of his. One of Tuohy’s favorite bands, G. Love and Special Sauce, have used harmonica on several tracks, and he thought what better instrument than a portable one?
When comparing his previous challenge to the current one, he said both require effort but the harmonica makes it a little more complicated.
“Eating is something you have to do several times a day,” he said. “There’s no avoiding it. As long as you avoid the foods you’re not supposed to eat, you’re already a pro at it.
“The harmonica takes a lot of practice and time. Time that I don’t always have.”
Since his work hours differ from week to week, finding a place to practice was a little difficult. Tuohy often found himself practicing in his car, where he learned a variety of ways to hold the harmonica and learned to coordinate his lungs, tongue and breath so he can hit the right notes and play with rhythm. He said he felt he learned a lot of things but didn’t really feel accomplished; even though he had resources like books, an expert and videos to help him, it wasn’t enough for Tuohy. He said he simply needed more time to improve.
Tuohy said he hopes to become a better person while having a better understanding of the world that we live in through these challenges. In the process, he hopes to spark other curious minds by inspiring them to try something new themselves or at least have the courage to better understand their curiosities.
“We live in a society where people are afraid to leave their comfort zones or try some great new things like being a vegan or learning the harmonica,” said Tuohy. “I constantly hear, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that,’ or ‘What, are you crazy?’
“As long as you have the time and patience to learn about something new or different, there’s no reason you shouldn’t.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.