First, let me get this straight: what you eat is an intimate story between yourself, your body and your conscience. Your stomach is not my controversy. I am not seeking to teach anyone a lesson. I just wish to share something, and I hope you enjoy!
OK. So here’s my coming out. When I was fourteen, I suddenly turned vegan. In fact, I started cooking macrobiotic for my family when one member had become very ill: inspired by the books about health I schlepped home from the library, I was hoping to make everyone fit again. At that young age, I already loved getting creative in la cuisine and sharing my fun with others. I believe a few people did benefit a bit from my health obsession at the time. And, oh, let me thank the bunch of Hare Krishna people (with the most delicious food in the world) that were the first ones to talk to me about vegetarianism in the ’70s (I was 12!) on the Dam in Amsterdam
A few months ago, I sighed loudly: “There is nothing vegan in Brussels! No inspiring places with exciting new food, always the same old stuff!” when suddenly last month, TWO vegan shops opened, the fabulous ‘Vegasme’ store being only a few houses away from where we speak (and in Liege a great store that even sells vegan boots in organic microfiber…) There does seem to be a certain need for change, even in Belgium!
OK. I have watched a number of people jump ‘on the vegan wagon’ for all kinds of reasons, and jump off it as quickly. Most of the time this happens when their ‘reasons’ (justifications) anxiously point in all directions (politics, environment, medicine, science… click here to find 101 good reasons) except to themselves. Yes, we all know about the horror of the meat industry, and how consumption of misery turned into flesh contributes to cardiovascular problems (and depression and aggressiveness), and how the feeding of cattle uses up crops that could feed a hundredfold the number of people fed by a steak. Obviously the human body is not made for devouring a cow: we don’t have the teeth nor do we produce the necessary acidity in our saliva and our stomach. Our intestines are too long, and meat ends up rotting inside of us. Our mouth is too small. And if at this point you start about proteins and muscle growth, have a look at an elephant, or a gorilla. And still, despite all those good reasons, most people maintain their attachment to an old habit, or an ancestral craving of the caloric comfort of salt and fat, culturally translated into bacon. How come?
Well… my point is that for an emotional thing like food, facts and figures are not enough. If you rely only on them, you are following a diet at best, and maybe creating a temporary eating disorder. If you ‘do’ vegan with your mind alone, there barely is any pleasure and you’ll feel like you’re starving all the time. Veg(etari)an cooking means fun, creativity and joy, and not simply replacing meat with a sad lump of tofu! :)
Personally, I don’t feel the need to ‘explain’ my choice. (Hey, have I ever questioned a meat eater on their weird choice?) And why not? I guess because my choice of food comes from a deeper place than the regular bar counter (or Facebook) discussion. The more your motivation reaches beyond the mind, and touches a physical, emotional and even a spiritual conscience, the bigger the chances are you will never want to consume flesh again. Also, once you stop meat, it is like with quitting cigarettes: your senses come back to life as your system gets detoxed. After not having had meat for years, I can testify: it tastes sour and smells like rotting death (I once accidentally took a bite of a ham quiche). And the last time I had battery chicken in a Thai restaurant, I could sense its sadness all through the green curry. So it was a natural evolution for me to also stop eating chicken and fish. And recently I quit eggs (male chicks ground to bits while still alive because useless for reproduction, chicken beaks chopped or burnt off) and milk (artificially prolonged lactation, premature confinement of veal) products because they no longer felt right. Veg(etari)an, or whatever you call it: my mind alone will not decide upon the rules that will direct my choice; my heart and my body tell me loud and clear what food makes me happier and lighter. And to me, eating pieces of an animal that suffered an unnatural life and a violent death will not make anybody happy (and look at the state the world is in).
For anyone who struggles with these questions, I have one piece of advice: keep it simple. Listen to your body, try out different ways of feeding yourself (there are plenty of sites with recipes!), and see what really makes you feel good. You’ll find out soon enough that what is good for you, is inextricably good for animals and the environment. Reconnect with other life forms, take your responsibility and your body will thank you. I am deeply convinced that the more people will do so, the sooner the mad destruction of life on our dear planet will stop.
PS: Changing the world, one lunch box at a time: a few years ago, I shared my Indian (vegan) lentil dishes with all kinds of people through a foodies website. One non vegetarian customer kept coming back for more, saying: “This food makes me feel joyful. This is happy food.” His smile made it worthwhile. And that is exactly my point: veg(etari)an food is healthy for body, mind and soul. And almost karma free ;)
(c) photos: I got them from someone who took them from a vegan website :D