Finest Blogs Contest - Oct 2008 - Winner! If you are a vegetarian living outside of India, you have most likely experienced some level of difficulty in getting a decent meal at some time or another. Maybe you've even been criticized for your diet. Imagine then, growing up in the 70's in the U.S. in a family of die-hard meat-eaters - as a vegetarian! Yes, that was me. There was no tofu, no boca burger, no huge selection of international foods to choose from. Just whatever was hunted by my uncles, picked from the garden, bought at the local (read SMALL) grocery and prepared at home back then. My parents, being an intriguing mix of South American, Cherokee Nation and Irish were baffled, to say the least, when trying to tempt me with something. I was told growing up that I simply refused to eat it, the smell was the turn off as an infant. Later on, that distasteful aroma was accompanied by the distasteful knowledge of what meat IS and how it gets on your PLATE. Yes, I have never had a hamburger, a hot dog, or even a ham and cheese sandwich - and have never had any desire to do so. Needless to say I had a rather boring lunchbox in those days - what else to make for me but PB&J? Some kids were mean back them, some were jealous - after all, I didn't have to eat liver and onions for dinner when I got home (and to this day I believe that was really a form of child abuse, LOL...) But it made me strong and proud to stick to my guns and be true to who I was. Dinner was pretty much pasta or rice, as my mother was not exactly Better Crocker. This led to much self-imposed experimentation in the kitchen! My mother would make tamales and tomatillo sauce - she'd stuff theirs with shredded chicken, I'd opt for black beans and pumpkin - YUM! My Irish grandmother boiled everything to death - literally - in a pot of salted water and called it dinner. I boiled my own pot of veggies from the garden with some spices and called it soup! My uncles would hunt deer and have venison steaks with Native frybread - I would feast on Navajo tacos from frybread folded up with hotsauce, cheese and beans. The older I got and the better my cooking skills developed, the more everyone left me be - sometimes they even asked me to make extra for them, which became more and more often as I improved. By the time I had my first taste of home-cooked Indian food at a friend's home, I was already well-acquainted with spices, but oooooooohhhhhhh the smells in that kitchen! It was like a veggie-lovers PARADISE! From that moment on, I had a whole new culinary universe before me, and will be forever grateful. I used to dream about becoming a chef one day and having my own vegetarian restaurant - today I settle for sharing my recipes and cooking for friends and family. A couple who we know are non-veg and have a daughter and a son. The daughter, like me, has refused meat since birth. They have tried in vain to tempt her, but to no avail. "How did you manage all these years?" they ask me - "I am just pig-headed", comes the reply, LOL. We eat only vegetarian food in our home. Hubby grew up in a South Indian vegetarian family, but he will occasionally have meat outside. He loves his beer too on game day - I am a teetotaller. Funny how opposite we are, my in-laws tease we are oolta, totally backwards! Will our daughter one day join the non-veg world? It is her choice - when she's older of course. For now she is happy to "be like Amma" and she loves her anna-saru. I hope she will continue to walk in my footsteps, at least on this anyways. I believe it will help build character - not only with her physical and spiritual health, but mental as well. It takes a lot of persistance and strength to stand up and fight for your beliefs, as I hope she will one day - unafraid and unapologetic.