Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Healthy Vegetarian: Why I became a Vegetarian

The Healthy Vegetarian

Why I became a vegetarian: 

Nothing with a face thank you

I'm squeamish. As a nurse I can deal with anything, the bloodier or pusier the better. When it comes to food, however; ask me to put something in my mouth that bleeds and I want to vomit. Even as a child, my mother had to disguise meat products, make them into mince or cut them up very small in soups and casseroles, that sort of thing. That was in the 1950s when being a vegetarian in a small Scottish community wasn't an option. That said, our diet was pretty much vegetarian because of the high cost of meat, poultry and fish right after the Second World War.

Living in Japan finished me completely. They have these grill restaurants where the chef stands in front of your and grills your food. The night I sat and watch a live prawn being put on the grill and a mesh cover put over it so it couldn't get away, was the night I gave up eating anything with a face, forever. My husband and I were entertaining his business bosses so when I up and left, I was none too popular.

We were living and travelling abroad extensively in those days, so it wasn't easy to be a veggie. We had to entertain a lot, and being the 'good wife', I continued to queasily cook meat and stuff for my husband and guests and cook something else for myself. I soon learned to cook multiple servings of my vegetarian dishes since everyone wanted to try them or to have them as compliments to their meal.

Even in England at that time it was difficult to get a vegetarian meal when you went out to eat. You would be offered a salad or an omelette and that was it. Being abroad though, was a nightmare. Living with a family in Albania, when I said I couldn't eat meat, she just served me up the same meal and took out the meat. This is a country where hospitality is important to them, and trying to explain that wouldn't work for me, left me feeling guilty and ungrateful. I did, however, manage to get by with a little humour and by offering to cook. They didn't mind my meals but 'there is something missing' and I'm pretty sure I saw them all rushing back to the kitchen to get their fix.

We told my mother-in-law I had become vegetarian before we visited, just to give it a chance to sink in. We arrived and I was presented with a plate of tongue salad - because she thought since I wasn't eating meat, a nice bit of tongue would be just right. Where she thought tongue came from I have no idea.

At the time I overheard my husband tell her it was a phase, I would get over it. Well the phase has lasted over 30 years and there is no sign of it abating. It is still difficult to be a vegetarian when you go out and eat. Friends panic when inviting you to dine and most restaurants have very few veggie options. However, I've found if you ask the chef what he could provide for you, they are mostly very willing to show their skill in turning out something delicious. Friends? I'm still working on that one.

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