I went vegetarian in 1998 and this lasted for more than 2 years. The reason was peer pressure. Well, not really. I worked in a company that teaches and publishes books on esoterica. The CEO and most (as in 80%) of the admin and technical staff were all vegetarians (in varying degrees). My immediate supervisor was a lacto-ovo vegetarian and because I was also fascinated by vegetarianism that time, it didn’t take her long to convince me to try it.
Did I like the experience? Yes, I did. I particularly liked the feeling in my belly. Because I had always been constipated for as long as I could remember. And no matter how much I was told to increase my fiber intake, to me it sounded as if it meant I should be eating hemp.
But kidding aside, I sincerely liked being vegetarian. I liked eating in places that served nothing but vegetarian food. I loved the vegetarian versions of meat-filled dishes. Mushroomburger, whose stall in the old Greenbelt I used to ignore, became a life-long favorite. The one thing I didn’t love–because I found it difficult to do, was replicating the dishes in my home, which one might regard as having a carnivore’s kitchen. One of the members of my merry family (my uncle, I think) labelled our household cuisine as strict “carne-tarian” (carne is a word play on karne, which means meat).
At home, veggies are nothing more than a side dish to accompany fish, chicken or meat. Even our veggie stir-fries have shrimp or pork belly as rekado, or in many cases, the oil used for sauteing comes from animal fat. Tofu is not eaten unless it is combined with boiled pork ears and belly or stuffed with minced pork and shrimp. You get the picture? Good thing I wasn’t a strict vegan.
So in the office, and through my colleagues, I was exposed to good vegetarian food. At home, I was laughed at for trying to eat vegetables only. Of course, many years later, my elders’ opinion on food has undergone major changes, due to health reasons. Unfortunately, my vegetarianism did not last after I left the company to go back to my roots in the NGO sector. I held on for months, but eventually made my way back to eating meat products.
Although since then, every chance I got, I would eat at vegan restaurants. When I’m flying, if vegan meals are an option, I’d take it. I was very happy in India, eating Indian vegetarian food in my many visits there. In Cambodia, my housekeeper/ cook did not eat beef so she knew many Khmer vegetarian dishes. Unlike the Philippines, there are many affordable vegan restaurants in Cambodia. So I’m probably what one will call as an “opportunistic vegetarian”. I view vegetarianism as a viable diet choice but I lack the will and the resources to make the shift. When I learn more about where to source key ingredients, I’d probably be able to do it.
Last year, I made a new friend at work. One of the reasons I’m glad to have met him is he’s a vegetarian. He has promised to take me to vegan places around the city. So far, the places we’ve been to are not really vegan, but we ate vegan food. Now I am so looking forward to going to more places!