I began life like all my peers, a meat and three veg guy. I didn’t choose this cuisine, I was born into it. My father once said he would only eat meat, potatoes, carrots and peas because that’s what his mother fed him. Dad had an Elvis-Presley-like devotion to his mom.
Diet became important to me in my late teens when I met a spiritual girl, Sharne, who showed me it was possible to survive without meat and maybe a little fish.
I didn’t take it seriously, it seemed a possibility and a good one, since I have always had a sympathy for animals and small creatures.
Throughout those years I considered it. Back then it was seen as a weird and antisocial act. One time, I went into the tiny restaurant of a group known as the Divine Light Mission, they served me a vegeburger with mango chutney.
It was memorable. A man standing behind me said to his partner:
“Oh my God, fucking weirdo food.”
This comment made me enjoy the burger so much more. I just love the taste of subversion.
Coll, (never Collin) the Hare Krishna neighbor was the real catalyst. We used to call him a “true commie,” because he’d come over and open our cupboards and treat everything as his own, never contributing himself.
Coll would raid the fridge and knock us up a delicious curry.
I was turning.
First came the pescatarian, that’s the fish, no meat.
One of my spiritual influences, George Gurjieff, wrote that a vegetarian diet made us too sensitive on this planet — which was a harsh place, and we needed bloodied meat to sustain us.
I felt there was some truth in this especially in a cold climate. There never seemed to be enough calorie heat, to warm the blood on a cold day.
My moving to a warmer clime, made it easier. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had already made the basic transition prior to the move. That is, to the ovo-lacto vegetarian diet —a gourmet diet of the whole food range, bar the fish and meat.
Most people would have heard of the vegan diet, which is at root morality based, with the emphasis on animal (and insect) welfare, rather than the health aspect, even though the two may go together.
There is a joke, which is not offensive and understandable, in an eye ball rolling kind of way, by vegans and vegetarians in general:
“Q : How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?”
“A: I don’t know, but where do they get their protein?”
The protein thing, still persists in spite of much education, as does the pale skinned, anemic, skeletal stereotype.
And there is some funny stuff there as well. I once called in unannounced on a friend of my sister, Neil. Neil was a conservative man.
Unfortunately for me I had arrived just on lunch. He sat me down warmly and pushed a plate of lamb chops, bacon, sausages and liver, with what looked like a sprig of parsley for a tossed salad, in front of me.
I was flummoxed. What to do? How to get out of this situation without causing offense?
I ran though several possible scenarios in mind, none of which got me off the hook.
There were a bunch of people eating and enjoying their meal while I held knife and fork in hand, as if awaiting the end of grace.
“Neil, I’m um, vegetarian.”
All sound ceased, the happy chatter of a table of diners, transitioned to a group of insulted starers, stared in my direction.
Neil, obviously a man of action, jumped to his feet and grabbed my untouched plate.
“No problem. I have something for you, don’t worry.”
He quickly returned with an armful of Swiss chard from the garden and thumped it down on a clean plate.
“There you go, mate, get into that.”
The table of starers waited to see if I would start hoeing into the chard like a starving rabbit.
I disappointed them by making excuses about not being hungry and they, as a group, lambasted me royally, regarding the local vegan princess who they all hated.
For those who don’t know there is a progressive road for the ultimate health food freak, it goes like this :
Full plant based>Raw plant based>Raw plant based, no nuts or seeds or grains>Fruitarian>Breatharian.
A friend on this road, once joked, with a hint of sarcasm (I may have upset him) that if I was a Breatharian, I would accuse another one of taking in too much oxygen, of breathing in greedy gulps.
Breatharian is the holy grail, I’ve never met a soul doing it, but a YouTube search will reveal some hopefuls.