Food: Giving Up Meat?
For a guy brought up in the western world, it is natural to eat meat, infact, his society will insist that meat is a necessity and that anything to the contrary is practically abnormal. Then there are the delights, the delicacies, the tastes, flavours, varieties of marinated meat for the good food enthusiast, or even the rushed, no-time-to-taste lifestylers.
I’ve grown up loving a good pepperoni pizza, butter chicken, sweet and sour pork, so on, and so on, and so on. For most of my life I couldn’t imagine not eating meat, It felt to me that if I did stop for all the reason that I may have passingly wanted to (animal slaughter, etc), that there would be something missing in my life. I would never feel that eternally satisfying bliss of a full tummy again. To quit meat was impossible.
My fiance however, is a Brahmin girl, and a rare one at that because she has poured her soul into the love of the Gods in a manner so pure, so clearly without superficiality that one often sees among Brahmins. To her, there was little superstition involved in her rituals, because she was consistently witnessing the proofs of her efforts, if she meditated, chanted, did yoga, by the end of it her mind would be elevated, brighter, clearer – she had grown up in this way.
And two opposites approaching spirituality with the same pure intent and core passion, that’s what brings us together. The last time I went to India, I decided to devote myself to vegetarian foods – the first misconception that broke was the common belief in the western world that there’s only so many kinds of “salads” you can make. Oh, lo and behold, India had an infinite variety of delicious tastes in pure vegetarian foods alone.
That however didn’t quell my thirst for meat. And every now and then I would indulge in a carnivorous act. Perhaps once every 2 weeks. The tipping point, though, came two months into my stay in India, when one day I ordered a mutton curry and they brought a well cooked plate with meat so filled with soul that you could literally breathe in the lamb that was slain. My fiance was beside me, and as I ate, from my peripheral vision I could see what she was imagining – she could literally see the doe eyes of that innocent lamb that I was devouring. My body then felt like a graveyard filled with carcuses to her. At that moment, I put myself in her place and fully identified with the killing of the animal. It turned me off meat for the rest of the trip.
After I returned to Australia I continued to remain vegetarian, but I am a lazy eater, more prone to take away foods than to cook my own, and in Australia there is hardly any options for delightful vegetarian foods… so slowly, I assimmilated meat back into my life. After all, the only thing that held me against meat was the shock of killing.The west has mastered the art of desensitising people to that sort of thing.
Recently I went on the lemon detox diet… it is widely reputed from ancient times that a true form of diet can heal any ailments in the body, and I felt a cleansing was certainly needed after a year of going wild. The diet consisted of, upon waking in the morning, drinking 1 litre of sea salt water (this was mainly as a laxative and to clean the colon), then I would prepare 2 litres of a drink that consisted of a special kind of maple tree/palm tree syrup mixed with 3 squeezed lemons, 2 pinches of cayenne pepper. This, I would sip on for the remaining day, during lunch a cup of peppermint tea to help release toxins into the bloodstream to be cleansed. End the night I’d have a cup of laxative tea. This process is recommended for 7 to 14 days.
During this process, my fiance related to me how in her teenage years she would lavishly drink a bucket of sea salt water, savouring the feel of it. It astounded me, as the worst part of the diet was drinking the sea salt in the morning. It was so discomforting, my body would sometimes spew it out minutes later. But the experience my fiance related was intriguing – she explained that she savoured it because she ate things that tasted good to her body, not her tongue. And the saltwater is reputedly very good for cleansing the body.
What blew me away first of all is how well the syrup dispelled all hunger pangs. But the real realisation happened at the end. Coming out of the diet, it is recommended on the first 3 days to eat only vegetables, vegetable soups. The very first time I had the vegetable soup, I couldn’t believe how divine it tasted, so pure – and there I for the first time realised what she meant about tasting something according to how good it is for the body.
I had one other realisation for the first time – you see, for a long time I could perhaps reason and understand vegetarianism. But I felt that vegans must be fanatics – it’s far too extreme and unnecessary a step. Not a part of me validated any just cause for being a vegan. But I remember having creamy sweet corn on the second day after the diet, and how my stomach hurt and my entire body felt uncomfortable, foreign, at the very feel of lactose. And in comparison, how purely illuminating a lentil and bean soup had been. I was tasting with my body, and a door opened. Suddenly, I felt I could make these shifts in my life… paradigm shifts… see and taste the world in different ways unimaginable to who I was before.
For those interested, this is a good start: Ayurvedic Cooking For Westerners.