About a month ago (a few days over a month, to be more precise) I went to Old Delhi with friends for a day out. We went to Jama Masjid and had lunch at Al Jawahar. For lunch we ordered naan, chicken saag, and mutton curry. My friend’s friend’s girlfriend is a vegetarian and didn’t eat anything. I thought it was a bit rude that her boyfriend didn’t concede and order a vegetarian dish! I said to take what I wanted off the order (saag) and order a vegetarian dish but they didn’t want to. So we had the saag, curry, and naan. Shortly after lunch, we walked around looking for dessert (shahi tukda – so delicious) and had to walk through all of the small, meandering walkways. This was around Eid so there were a lot of goats around. As we walked back to the metro, the girl with us was beginning to feel more and more disgusted with all of the goats, all of the meat being handled out in the open. Right after she made a comment about the smell of meat, we walked past a small store front that had two freshly decapitated goats heads on the table. Mouths open, eyes open, still bleeding. We had just eaten mutton about fifteen minutes ago (my host family and friends were telling me that while mutton is sheep, a lot of restaurants use goat; the point is that I possibly ate a goat then saw a dead goat head less than an hour later) and this, of course, made my insides feel all thrown out of whack.
I’m not sure why this bothered me so much. On New Year’s at my dad’s family’s lunch, we always have a full roast pig (with the head still on) and my uncle will carve it and give me the roasted skin as he cuts away. I love it and it’s my favorite dish on New Year’s. I see this every year and never cringe. At one of my favorite restaurants back home I frequently eat fried baby shrimp and fried baby octopus — bodies still completely in tact — and have no problem seeing the shrimps’ fried eyes as I put it in my mouth. One of my favorite dishes from an omakase (course picked by the chef) my fiancé and I had back home was “live” lobster sashimi, in which the lobster tail is torn off and the meat taken out and diced up, then put back into the shell to be served. The lobster isn’t actually still alive at the time of serving, but its nerves are still active so the lobster is still moving as you eat the meat (after the sashimi is eaten, the rest of the lobster is made into a miso soup that’s served at the end of the meal). But seeing the head, perhaps still bleeding and covered in fur, bothered me most? It’s also unsettling to see chickens being shoved into cages, wings and necks contorted, trying to make themselves comfortable in a cage they will never find comfort in.
But anyway, since then I’ve eaten meat twice, but because I had no other option for dinner. It was in Meghalaya – A and his friend made dinner but made chicken, though A knew I was already on this pseudo-vegetarian kick (he was with me in Old Delhi that day). But other than that, I haven’t eaten meat. I barely even ate the chicken then, but A kept telling me to eat more which irritated me since he had already fudged our trip and was then making me eat something he knew I was trying to avoid. I’d say no and he’d put more on my plate anyway. I’m still upset with him, haha. Anyway…later throughout our trip any time A would eat meat – even fish – I would just internally cringe. I don’t know why the flip in my head was so drastic after the goat heads but it was and even watching people eat meat now makes me feel weird. I was a vegetarian in high school but that was for other reasons, namely to lose weight and because it was trendy and uncommon among students in my high school…it lasted about two years.
I’ve also inevitably considered going vegan when I go home and will have full control over my diet. Here in India, I take my meals at home with my host family most of the time unless I’m in school (lunch), and though they have chicken maybe once every five or six weeks, they consume a lot of animal products and I don’t want to seem rude and reject food that is freshly prepared every evening. When I go home, I’ll have the power to choose fully with what I stock my fridge and pantries, so I plan to attempt veganism when I go home. I love eggs, milk, and yogurt, but consuming the milk of a cow is basically the same as consuming its flesh, considering how cows for meat and dairy are both treated. I relentlessly make fun of vegans so my fiancé and friends had jokes for me when I said I was considering it, but I make fun of vegans that don’t shut up about being vegans, the ones who talk about vegan pastries, vegan makeup, vegan shampoo, vegan air, vegan water, etc. You get my point. The vegans I personally know and am friends with are not like this, and I am thankful for that.
So, does anyone have any tips, I guess, about starting a vegan diet? I don’t eat a lot of meat to begin with so I know adopting a vegetarian diet won’t be difficult for me; the only real challenge will be sushi and sashimi. I do, however, consume a lot of eggs, yogurt, and milk, and know that that change will be far more difficult. I also foresee running out of energy and/or patience checking ingredients to make sure I’m not consuming some animal byproduct…but I’d still like to attempt it. So please, do give me any tips you have! Thank you!