I’ve been vegetarian for a week now.
What? I thought you only swore off beef when this year began.
Yeah, that’s true, but starting last Monday, I took up the Vegetarian Society Singapore’s 21-Day Veg Buddy Program to see if I could tahan 21 days without meat. It was actually supposed to start last Saturday but I was spending most of the weekend at Changi Village for my 3-star kayaking course and couldn’t bear to be deprived of legendary Changi Village dishes such as chicken chop hor fun, so I postponed it till Monday. :P But since then, it hasn’t been too difficult to resist the urges at all, despite sporadic cravings for fried chicken. The vegetarian lifestyle, for someone who wants it, isn’t really difficult because of the feeling that you can’t eat meat, but more so because it’s difficult to eat collective meals with friends and family who do not share the same dietary habits or bother to understand the rationale behind it. My dad sometimes felt my personal restriction was ‘imposing’ on the kind of meals my mum could cook, even though I never told my mother that she couldn’t cook meat for the family.
Also, if you’re the kind of vegetarian who doesn’t even want a scrap of meat in your meal (although I’m allowing milk and eggs this period, I’m hoping my sauces and oils have no meat sources of possible), it is especially difficult in Singaporean food culture, where Chinese often flavour their soups with pork bones or chicken stock, and sambal probably has shrimp paste mixed in. Sometimes I think a little bit of compromise might be necessary if you are going to eat food prepared by someone else.
Which leads to my second conclusion about vegetarianism/veganism: the only way to adhere to such a lifestyle rigorously without compromising on health or variety of flavour might be to prepare your own meals. This would require more work but the results would ultimately be more rewarding. Due to a combination of laziness/busyness I haven’t really begun having fun with vegetarian recipes in the kitchen, except for last Wednesday.
Last Wednesday, gastronomically speaking, was the highlight of the week. I had agreed to meet my friend Joel at his place for a cooking session and when I told him of my temporary dietary restriction, despite his impartial love for the meats, he graciously suggested a vegetarian meal that was no less scrumptious than any meat dish: ratouille ala Remy, i.e. the ratatouille you see prepared by Remy in the eponymous Pixar movie. In turn, I also suggested a recipe I’ve been meaning to try, scalloped Hasselback potatoes.
After a few hours in his kitchen, the results were glorious.
This was why I decided to take up the 21-Day veg challenge. I’ve known for a long time the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption and also how the inhumane slaughtering and rearing processes of the meat industry has made us all complicit in the cruelty towards animals. I hope that swearing off meat for 21 days, while restrictive, may force me to become more creative about preparing and finding food that may not be flavoured by meat but taste just as good. The cookout I had with Joel proved that it’s possible.
Here’s to the next 14 days without meat!
If you’re looking for the recipes for the above dishes, Joel and I took them from the Internet. Click on the pictures to get to them.