I began this (semi) “verdant” lifestyle about a decade ago when my parents began exhibiting signs of illness, mom with breast cancer in the early 2000’s and dad with gall stones in 2005. It can be quite threatening for the kids, especially when the paranoid idea hits: Who’s next?
My mom was always barbecue’s numero uno groupie, and when she got cancer, her diet required a big fix. Getting her to drink fruit juices was such a chore, I’m pretty sure she snuck in some BBQ when no one was looking.
Whenever friends and family gave mom “healthy” gifts, I was normally the beneficiary of those organic goods. From bland chips to sugar free snacks, I felt like I was the one getting better!
And then, there’s dad. In all his 50+ years on earth, not even those pesky gallstones could get him to the hospital. So, with internet research and trips to the grocery, our family’s one-week gall bladder cleansing plan was calendared.
At the end of the seven days, my dad did shed his gall stones and my brother and I continued with the “diet.” I maintained it because I loved the feeling I got post-cleansing and it was sustainable.
So yes, it was the gall stones that transformed me.
I like to say that I’m “part-vegetarian.” I love salads and all things wheat, but to address the protein needs, I eat the occasional seafood, chicken, and eggs, which I love.
Oh my Gulay!
I read an article once on “the pains of being a vegetarian,” one of which was being a social burden. I can relate to that a lot. Whenever I go to parties and lunches, either I go home hungry or peers always have to make a special order for me. That’s when I started with the “I’m having dessert for lunch!” motto, and to further bring out the pakikisama attitude, I gladly indulge in buffalo wings, cheese pizza, grilled fish, etc. I also always have a banana or a granola bar ready just in case it’s an all-meat party.
In our country especially, not eating meat can be considered sinful; I’ve been regularly accused of belonging to a different religion, being a martyr, etc., accusations I’ve become immune to. People wonder why I’ve given up hotdogs and pepperoni pizza. I only have one answer: I don’t crave for them anymore. Feed me veggie tacos, Greek salads, hummus and dessert instead.
Green is In
So in my decade of green freedom, here’s some advice for those who wish to start a full or part-vegetarian lifestyle, Pinoy-style:
1.It doesn’t start on Day 1, so bring in the cavalry (friends and family). When I declared my no-red meat allegiance, I had Bolognese spaghetti that night. My mom, who was cooking for the family, had to adjust and came up with new dishes for me: chicken meatball spaghetti, chicken dumplings, tofu spaghetti, creamy spinach spread, and more. If it weren’t for her, I’d be stuck eating fried chicken and plain spinach forever. Amazing!
2. Find happiness in greens. I was never content with mediocre salad dressings so I shopped, made homemade concoctions and experimented. Whenever we dined out, I continued decorating my salad with anything edible on the table from stolen chicken tenders to someone else’s broccoli and carrot sticks.
3. Involve others. I’ve invited others to join me on vegan food trips, and supplied lettuce chips for my family and office mates. Watching them cringe while shouting lasang damo (“tastes like grass”) is both hilarious and bond-enriching.
4. Eat and Write. It may be odd to have limited food items to write about, but that means getting to write about what I love the most. I love salads and desserts, and these are what keep me (and my Instagram account) alive. When I look at photos of salads I’ve eaten in BGC or that cake in Las Vegas that made me dizzy from the sugar high, nothing beats writing about these treasured moments.
Get Jenina’s Fab Falafel recipe here.