Saturday, November 2, 2013

#36 : A Vegetarian's lunch table

Being a vegetarian isn't easy these days.

Why really? Cooking vegetarian dishes isn't exactly rocket science. Its simple in fact. Then why? I'll elaborate.


My office has a small pantry with about seven four-seater tables. Most of my colleagues who carry lunch hit the pantry to eat. That's roughly about 20 people on an average. Out of which just 2 of us are vegetarians (Ovo-Lacto vegetarians to be specific....Folks who abstain from eating meat but consume eggs and dairy products).

In my table, I happen to be the only vegetarian. I don’t particularly follow a diet chart. My lunch ranges from the typical South Indian meal of rice,sambar etc to North Indian rotis and fulkas (Majorly depends on my mum's mood!).
Every single time the others bring some non-vegetarian dish my stomach takes to cart wheeling. Thanks to that "aroma". Over the time I adapted to it. But then, that isn't the worst part.

The worst part is when try to force me to give that dish a try. Their common excuse is this : There are a lot of Brahmans who eat non veg food. So it's okay. You could eat too.
Every single time they say that, I dive into a really lengthy explanation as to why I am a vegetarian ( My caste has nothing to do with it!). But then no matter how many times I ask them not to force me they still try.

Their excuse : Vegetarian food has limited options. It is majorly bland and doesn't deliver the nutrients a meat based dish would. The most common of all : It's way too tasty and you are missing something big-time!

And that's how exactly a vegetarian is always “converted" to a non-vegetarian.
My excuse not to eat Non-Vegetarian food: I am a mellow person. I prefer to eat things which don't cry out loud or ooze blood when washed/cooked. It's not that my caste forbids me from eating non-vegetarian. My caste has got nothing to do with me being a vegetarian. It's my own choice.

Since school days I have been used to my friends taunting me to take that bite of that supposedly tasty chicken dish. They even tried  to trick me by switching my plate of Ghobi-65 with a Chicken-65. I agree the shape is more or less the same. But come on! for a seasoned vegetarian the "aroma" is gut wrenching (Some purpose my tiny nose served finally.......apart from breathing of course!)

There is this common misconception that vegetarian food is rather bland and is not tasty. It's ordinary. I strongly disagree. I haven't tasted any meat dish or seafood. But I can "proclaim" with confidence vegetarian dishes are as tasty (Or may be even more) as some meat based dish/Seafood. It's simple logic. Upon watching many cookery shows ranging from Masterchef Australia to Kitchen Super Stars, one thing I noticed is that be it meat or fish or vegetable, it has to be seasoned properly to taste good. Standard seasoning include salt, pepper and various spices like cinnamon, bay leaf, clove. Technically, be it meat or vegetable the same seasoning is added and is cooked/boiled/steamed. How is even possible for some vegetarian dish to be "bland" with the same seasoning added?

I just don't understand how meat can add that special taste. Typically meat contains  75 percent water, 19 percent protein, 2.5 percent intramuscular fat,1.2 percent carbohydrates and 2.3 percent other soluble non- protein substances. No way  75% water going to contribute to the taste of the dish given that both vegetables and meat are seasoned more or less that same way. 

Then there is this famous argument of lack of "options" in vegetarian food. That's one truckload of garbage if you ask me. Heard of Fox-tail millet dosa? Pearl millet upma/dosa/pongal? Red rice upma? I bet for half of us all that sounds like Greek or Latin. There are "plenty" of dishes out there waiting to be discovered. Ask any Indian to make their grandparents "talk". I bet there would be tons of recipes lost in that generation gap. Panner butter masala isn't the only "it" dish around if you ask me. 

As to nutrient value comparisons, it requires a separate post ( I am not elaborating now! Let's just say I need some fodder to chew for my next post!) But let me give you a small example. I had white patches on my hand. When I consulted a doctor he suggested I eat eggs and fish. When I told him I was a vegetarian, he said I have to live with vegetables maximum. One month I went on a fruit and vegetable eating "spree" (Not that I don’t eat vegetables otherwise). I had plums, kiwi fruit, Passion fruit, apples, pears........goes on and on my long list. My patch disappeared like magic! That's my fruits and vegetable at work!
Have you ever observed an animal being culled for your meal? I have. That poor croaking animal croaks its way to the butcher house. When the butcher places it on the table, it stops croaking. Why? It really knows it is going to be culled. It knows it doesn't stand a chance. It’s a horrible sight to watch. I had to endure that torture almost daily during my college days. Thanks to a lot of butcher houses near my college. 

I was wondering if I was the only person who had to endure this lunch table taunt. Turns out I am not alone. Many of my vegetarian friends seem to go through the same! 
All I ask is this: We vegetarians can't stand that "aroma" of non-vegetarian dishes, yet we sit next to you and tolerate. Don't taunt us and force us to eat what we don't want to. 

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