By Shai

It makes me sad to see starting vegetarians suddenly turn part-time vegetarian or give up completely because the niggling flak attached to the meatless choice eats at their sensibilities.  From the first time I’ve disrobed the cloak of the omnivore a few decades ago till now, my encounters with that touchy word “vegetarian” has most often stirred fidget, fret and fuss…sometimes even downright rancor.  Through the years though, the rancor has turned to positive curiosity, the other f’s have let up just a bit.  So here’s some (sun)light at the end of the (green) tunnel.  The tides have turned and “vegetarian” has become cool—even here in the Philippines. J

Some familiar scenarios:

At a party (9 out of 10 are vege-unfriendly), host becomes flustered, embarrassed, flustered some more, sorry, then irate that she has nothing to feed the “grass-eating” guest that is you.  Behind the scenes, she orders the kusinera to tear up some salad greens and slosh it with some supermarket vinaigrette.  The night is saved, cheer up!  Though there may be a scar, Time heals all wounds.  Bright side, this may inspire party hosts to whip up vegetarian choices on the menu for non-omnivore guests.  Big plus for them and everyone else.  Supply follows demand.

At some corporate business meeting (what’s a Pinoy business meeting without the meating—er, eating), the caterers have only fish for the vegetarian that is you.  You refrain from saying that fish is not a vegetable, and you politely er, ah, take the tomato, iceberg, and cucumber garnishes instead.  (Sometimes, you’ll find a pineapple-watermelon centerpiece you can dismember, or a fresh fruit platter.)  A throat-clearing, awkward dense air slices through the business glee.  Thankfully, the meeting resumes and all is forgotten.  See?

Ah yes, we of the early P.I. vegetarian pioneers have weathered much rebuff & antipathy in the days of yore.  And here we still are, happily vegetarian!  To you who wish to embark on this blessed journey, or have just jumped in and are uncomfortable in the ride, allow me to lend some friendly advice.  

Firstà It does everyone good to nurture patience, perseverance, and spunk to ride thru any storm. 

Take comfort that:

o   The body can go many days without food, but not much longer than 3 without water.  So, if you find yourself without anything to eat at a chow-in, you can rest easy that you won’t be dying soon.  Just lots of juice and better yet, water, and you’re good!

o   This new chapter of your life could be a great entry into a brave new world of culinary adventures, if you aren’t already there.

o   There are such creatures called good cooks.  If you, like 30 million other Pinoys, are too busy or simply not a kitchen type, find time to find a good kusinera.  Good: adj., flexible, daring and positive about exploring new horizons.  (Remind the good cook that these aren’t new at all, just a tad different.)  I promise you, they will get the hang of it and get into the groove.  And you will eat hearty.

o   You are making steps in a positive direction—for the planet’s and your health. So stand proud :)

Some other tips:

In the past, when I’ve found myself in awkward situations where there’s nothing the host has for me at a gathering of eating, I deploy some default strategies: a) “oh no worries, I’m on a diet”; b) “Gosh, I’m so full—couldn’t say no to my mom’s casserole she prepared before I came here.  Maybe later…” (or, “maybe dessert” if I spot a rare vegan selection like fresh mangoes or bananas or kakanin); c) I bring a delish dish that everyone partakes of that becomes a hit; d) I seek fruits or nuts (the plant kind), whose richness in nutritious fats can do wonders at satiating.  

Since the tides have turned, I now just say “I’m vegetarian, don’t worry about me.”  More often than not, this spurs an engaging discourse.  Many are curious, awestruck, amazed or inspired.  It becomes an education-information exchange that can be very heartwarming.  No matter the option, do it as pleasantly as can be to chuck any discomfiture on both sides.

Knowing the vegetarian-unfriendly reputation of Pinoy cuisine, I always eat enough before going to a party or guzzle a robust glass of green juice before leaving.  This has the power to silence hunger nags for as long as the party lasts.

It’s no longer as thorny as it used to be.  Restaurants and airlines now offer more meatless choices, and more vegetarian restos have sprung up.  There’s pasta, better bread choices, sandwiches, power-packed shakes and a whole lot more options out there now than our peanut-butter/grilled-cheese/French-fries days.  Baons can be simple: brown rice, a ripe avocado with a little salt and tomatoes.  Possibilities are endless. 

So fret no more. 

Be mindful that we eat to live and not live to eat, that animals deserve respect for life no less than humans.  This makes the occasionally rough journey easy.

Don’t let living in one of the most vegetarian-unfriendly countries in Asia dampen your resolve.  Be imaginative, creative, soft of heart, and strong of will.  You will overcome.  Kiss hopeless resignation good-bye and simply enjoy the ride J.


2 Responses

  1. ralph lauren pas cher…

    I cannot thank you enough for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool….

    ralph lauren pas cher - June 10th, 2013 at 3:11 am
  2. thank you ralph! i’m sorry i don’t write as often as i’d like. but people like you inspire me! i shall post more soon!

    Shai Sangco Tamayo - June 20th, 2013 at 1:21 am

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