I am a true omnivore. I like almost any dish you can lay out in front of me. It’s rare that I shy away from any kind of food, be it exotic or normal. I love vegetables, fresh fruits and I also love steaks, pork and chicken adobo, all kinds of sushi and even cheetos. I am grateful for all the food I have consumed and will consume for the rest of my life. Now, after this glutton-like confession why oh why, would I even think of re-visting Vegetarianism, and why re-visit? Especially after starting my blog with that omnivore line.
Health reasons. People around me, those only slightly older, and scarily enough younger and even much younger are dropping like flies. When I was growing up, heart attacks were “reserved” for people in their 60’s-80’s (my grandfather died at 92 from his first heart attack) and now they’re hitting my peers in their 30’s. Lifestyle diseases are the new norm, scarily enough, and I attribute this to food intake that is loaded with meats (poultry included) that have been injected within an inch of their lives with growth hormones and other toxic substances. I also re-took Part 1 of The Art of Living (AOL) course where my teacher, (a graduate of Agriculture and Farming) explained that she saw exactly how much “enhancement” went into the our local game. What took 60 days for a chicken to grow to slaughter size was reduced to 30. You can only imagine what chemical cocktail came in that supermarket-bought winged creature.
One of the commitments during the three day AOL course was to go vegetarian. To you other Pinoys out there that doesn’t mean you can eat seafood 😉 . We all agreed (although some grumbled) to go through the next 72 hours turning our noses up at our usual Filipino meat-laden feasts.
The first day was relatively easy for me, as I munched on a lot of fresh fruit that day to cleanse my system. If I got really hungry I grabbed some raw almonds and enjoyed their crunchy texture and sweet taste. That day also brought me back to a distant memory of when I was in Highschool and I actually decided to become a vegetarian for a year. Don’t ask me how that happened, even I can’t remember what took over me that day I turned my back on all the foods I usually ate.
I honestly don’t know how I lasted that long during those days, especially since veggy options were relegated to monggo (mung beans) and some pretty nasty tasting vegetables. Going to a restaurant and asking for something vegetarian meant “chicken or fish”. As that was over 20 years ago you’d think that perception has changed, sadly in Manila,(and worse in most of our provinces) you will still come across the same misinterpretation; although now they think it’s “I can eat fish”. After about 12 mos. of struggling with unimaginatively cooked greens or having to sorrowfully pick the veggies out from a meaty dish drowned in sauce, I caved. How it happened is actually funny (in my opinion) but I’d rather not share that here right now.
This tale of greener eating doesn’t end unhappily since in the last five years more restaurants and even food delivery services have sprouted in the Metro that offer real vegetarian fare. Corner Tree Cafe, Edgy Veggy, Wabi-Sabi, EchoMarket to name a few, and even the menu options in establishments have expanded. Of course many Vietnamese, Japanese and Indian Restaurants have always had veggy choices on offer but they’re not for everyone’s tastes.
The second day of vegetarian living found me and my friends at Corner Tree Cafe were we were heartily surprised with a scrumptious lunch of teriyaki tofu steak, kofta in tomato sauce over rice, tofu burgers and sinigang na miso. I thought wistfully to myself, wow, if this restaurant had been around when I was in HS my cook could have gotten a bit more inspired as I would have taken her home some of the dishes to try!
On the third and final day of our AOL course, we were all asked to bring something vegetarian to share for our lunch. The smell alone of the food as it was being brought in was excruciating, so fragrant and yet not overwhelming. By the time we finished our last meditation I was the first one (as usual) at the buffet table. Among all the dishes I thoroughly enjoyed the tofu rice care of Edgy Veggy-I am a rice queen for sure, oh and a pasta princess and bread baroness-yes carbs are my best friend. I also had salad, paneer, spring rolls and enjoyed all the different flavors erupting in my mouth. The rest of the day I felt satisfied and full and my body had a lot of energy.
Dinner that night found me with some other foodie friends at Azuthai on Pasay Road. Being respectful of my plated preferences they compassionately ordered dishes that I could eat. The tastiest among them was the eggplant salad. I swear, it was so good, I thought it actually had fried pork in it! The proprietor of Azuthai just laughed when I said this and said that absolutely no meat went into its making. Delicious!
I am realistic and know that I will probably fall of the vegetarian wagon one of these days. Although I have been practicing Meatless Mondays for almost a year, the call of the steak will eventually make me answer it. No matter, vegetarianism will always welcome me back as a beloved prodigal omnivore daughter again and again, and again. 😀