Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How a family of four turned veg(etari)an

I have always loved food. Even more than the eating of it, I love the process of making something that nourishes the ones I love. I love the way it looks, feels, tastes. I love the enthusiastic “click” sounds my baby makes as she nurses, I love Big A’s post-prandial cough, li’l A’s too infrequent scraping of an empty plate, I love hearing my sister say she lost ten pounds she wanted to lose, I love the pediatrician slotting my babies above the 90th percentile on the growth chart. I love making big, healthy colorful presentations of food, I like taking pictures of it; my collection of cook books almost rivals my collection of South Asian fiction (and I’m paid to work on only one of those).

Somewhere around the time I acquired a household to run, meals became about (an animal) protein volumized by sides of veggies, grains, and beans. This wasn’t the way I ate growing up, although, I’d grown up in a meat-eating household and even at my most anorexic, I’d still happily eat a little bowl of my mother’s chicken kurma (hold the rice) once a week. It was safe to say I thought of meat as necessary to a well balanced meal and that I enjoyed it. As recently as last year, when Chai embarked upon a month-long vegan challenge—I found it frighteningly austere and extreme. I thought I could never do without sushi, without a cup of morning milk, without a nibble of cheese now and then.

I thought that even if I made the shift, I would crave animal products. I did make the shift about four months ago. Can’t say I’ve craved any kind of meat.

I don’t intend to be a vegan vigilante, so skip this paragraph if you don’t want to give up animal derived products. All I had to do was read about factory farmed animals. That’s it. Even as I read that hens cluck to their unhatched chicks to teach them different calls, I knew my scrambled eggs were, in a manner of speaking, toast.

I’ve continued to cook meat for the family since then—it seemed like the caring, Buddhist thing to do. But Big A has been unhappy about the unfairness of the situation and yesterday we decided that he and the babies would join me. I’m glad; lately I’ve had doubts about the health benefits of meat/milk/eggs and have felt that I’m putting unhealthy, unhappy products into my children’s vulnerable bodies. So for now we’re keeping a bag of microwaveable chicken nuggets for Li’l A because that’s the only food he really pines for and otherwise eating more veggies, whole grains, and beans. The babies and Big A will still use eggs and a minimum of cow’s milk. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer—our farm share has the exciting job of fully filling our bellies.



ZenDenizen said...

Do keep me posted on how this goes. I never hade to make the switch since I was raised vegetarian so I'm always interested in how people learn to give up animal products.

Anonymous said...

As an admirer of "Big A", you have a lot to be proud of. He is an amazing and caring doc. NY is safer when he is around.

maya said...

Zen : i've been veggie on "vrath" before--but this time feels different. More natural, easier. I'll update if i return to mah evil ways ;)

Anon: I think i know who you are :)

Amit said...
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Amit said...

For Indians who decide to go veg*n, it's not that difficult as for most of us, even our non-veg diets are not so non-veg heavy. During my childhood, meat was a treat to be had once a week/10 days and not a daily fixture on the plate. For those who may miss the taste, there's NutriNugget - taste w/o guilt. The way animals are raised in CAFOs, it's just so cruel and unnecessary.

Chai said...

wow! to hear the transition work so smoothly is great news!

maya said...

Amit, you're so right about that. Meat was never a daily feature at home.

Chai, i guess my family has you to thank ;)

I should write a followup post soon, because it hasn't been entirely smooth. I still eat cheese for eg.