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Growing up veg in a non-veg world...

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by likemychai, Oct 7, 2008.

  1. likemychai

    likemychai New IL'ite

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    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.
     
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  2. sundarusha

    sundarusha Gold IL'ite

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    Indeed it does take a lot of persisitence and strength to stand up and fight for your brliefs- unafraid and unapologetic. When my son was in elementary school, he would only take PBJ as some mean kids would ask curious questions if he had brought any other lunch.
    Enjoyed your blog.
     
  3. Mindian

    Mindian IL Hall of Fame

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    enjoyed your blog...me too a strict veggie after travelling quite a lot ..
    regards
    Mindi
     
  4. sowmyaganesh

    sowmyaganesh Senior IL'ite

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    Hi

    Life is tough for us die hard veggies especially by fellow Indians who are not veggies. But believe me perserverance pays. It makes us more determined to follow our culture.
    After sometime people come to respect us for our principles. :)
     
  5. likemychai

    likemychai New IL'ite

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    Thank you all for your replies, I am glad you are enjoying my thoughts, as I am enjoying all of yours.
    Yes Sowmya, I agree that Indians who eat non-veg have most difficulty understanding this, especially those who grew up veg and later started eating meat. I think NRI's have it worst - sometimes people living abroad turn out to be more strict in their beliefs than those at home, but I think this is necessary to maintain the culture. People do respect you though in the end if you stick by your principles, very true indeed.
    My daughter is not quite 3 and is already asking me why her classmates eat chicken nuggets and my reply is that they don't understand what it is. Already she understands this and will say "poor so-and-so, they don't know what it is", LOL...
     
  6. likemychai

    likemychai New IL'ite

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    Sundarusha, I sympathize with your son - I too was a PBJ outcast, LOL... Kids can be cruel, not necesarily intentionally, but out of lack of understanding I think. Today's kids are much more fortunate than we were I think because there is more awareness about diversity - the school district here has a daily vegetarian choice on the lunch menu - unheard of in my generation!
     
  7. Srama

    Srama IL Hall of Fame

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    Finally, I found your blog - I searched under this heading yesterday and it didnot show up! Welcome to IL. Loved reading this blog. As you guessed we are vegetarian too and we have travelled quite a bit and now I can honestly say that America truly understands what vegetarian is. There is a choice and it is easier to be veg here.

    That said, however, it is one thing growing up vegetarian in a veg family and it is another to choose to be one! It is usually the other way - parents wanting to introduce kids to meat just to ease their lives. It is no doubt difficult for kids to stand up for themselves when they do not understand so many things - my son doesn't know why we don't eat meat but knows to refuse if some one offers to him. Infact when he was about three there was an embarassing incident - in his day care he was asked as why he won't eat meat and pat came the reply from him 'because pigs eat meat' yes from the little rhyme 'this little piggy went to the market'. I must have told hime roast beef is meat and that we don't eat. By 'we' he has assumed all people!

    And as you have rightly pointed out, it is easier now a days to say this is how we are and not feel embarassed about it than probably while you were growing up.
     
  8. Ria2006

    Ria2006 Silver IL'ite

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    Wow! I loved reading your post. Such a engrossing read.

    Ria
     
  9. likemychai

    likemychai New IL'ite

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    Thank you for all of the wonderful feedback on this one.
    Yes, it is good being in U.S. nowadays, thank God for it. Not so very long ago it was really hard. I am sure there are some great stories from some of the babyboomers out there about coming to U.S. 20 or 30 years ago about this topic as well. I have an auntie who came here from India a looooong time ago and stayed in the south for sometime (Alabama, I think) - can't even begin to imagine how hard that was.
    :O)
     
  10. shree

    shree Silver IL'ite

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    hi,

    interesting blog. i really feel proud to be vege and i love to be a vege also i want my family to be vege. just for this purpose i want to bring my kid in India.so we have planned to go little early
    .i know some people who want to bring their kids as non veg eaters though they r vege just b'cos they need not suffer like them in US. no words to say hearing all these.

    love
    shree
     

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