Unintentionally, I’ve been increasing the difficulty of relatives and friends to invite me for dinner or eating out. This started when in 1996 I became a vegetarian, and that’s a very long time ago, but take two prodigal years when I vacillated with my food.
For a long time, I couldn’t understand why other people thought a vegetarian could set aside the meat from a vegetable dish and go on just fine. I later realized that this misgiving is not their fault, but mine, since I would have to give extra time and effort to explain to people my food preference. So I started explaining that I was lacto-vegetarian, eating dairy products but not egg, mushrooms, onion and garlic (although I got to eat them unconsciously a few times). People always argue that mushrooms, onions and garlic are vegetables but my diet is much like Jain food, vegetarian with more restrictions. And yes, no eggs. People sometimes couldn’t get that eggs become chickens, ergo, I couldn’t eat them.
Until several years ago, I was perfectly fine. But I felt that there was a growing desire in me to be much more, to raise the bar for myself and be more authentic to my feelings of compassion to sentient beings. It didn’t occur to me right away that I wanted to be vegan. But when it finally did, all sorts of negative stuff entered my mind. I thought it was difficult enough being a vegetarian, why would I make my life harder? I wanted to cling tight to my comfort zone but the other side of me just wanted to take the leap.
It was a desire that just sat at the background of my life, but once in a while coming out and slapping me in the face. It took me a while to give in and I even chose an auspicious date to assign my vegan birth, September 21, 2015 Jagat’s birthday, and International Day of Peace (not to mention Martial Law Anniversary!).
So now, I have radically cut the list of the food I can eat. And although there was no struggle on my part, people around me were immediately shaken. The other week, when I facilitated the Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) Workshop for local Red Cross Staffs, the caterer asked me what I wanted for my lunch. I said boiled okra and eggplant would do, as my diet is simple and it’s easy to feed me. The poor lady scratched her head and said ‘Ma’am, minsan yung simple ang mahirap (Ma’am, sometimes the simple things are difficult)’.
There. Empathy. It should be a vegan trait. So here’s a guide to make it easier for you should you wish to invite me for dinner some time.
What I can have:
Grains, pulses, and lentils
Native delicacies that do not have any animal ingredients
Vegan food (usually marked with green V), but it depends since I have cut off considerably on processed food since four years ago).
What I can’t have:
Mushroom, onion, garlic
Milk and all dairy products
All meat, fish and seafood products
Practically all breads and cakes, unless explicitly vegan
Probably 99% of all food that comes from factories (so don’t even try)
And if you are planning to surprise me with a gift, let not those be with leather, wool, ivory, pearls or anything from animals. And definitely no butterflies in frames!
And since it’s such a chore to invite me to dinner, why don’t you just let me do the cooking? I can’t promise to serve you great food for your palate, but I promise you good food for your soul.