My decision to become a vegetarian took place in 1969. I was sixteen years old and living in the backwaters of Brisbane, Australia. It would be another year before the first local company sold yogurt in the shops, and another two years before the first wholefood health shop was to open in Brisbane.
I knew very little about a balanced diet except what we were all taught in primary school – the magic triangle:
- Fruit & vegetables Carbohydrates/grains
- Meat, meat, meat, meat, meat, meat!
Currently, after a couple of generations of people reaping the results of such advice (high cholesterol and heart attacks etc), children are taught a new triangle:
- Fruit & Vegetables
Unfortunately this was not the norm for eating in the 1960’s. My parents were convinced I would fade away in a matter of weeks without my daily plate of flesh. I probably would have come close to their predictions had I not eventually explored foods outside the realm of the standard three over-cooked, watery, mashed vegetables that were left on my plate after the “center of attention, show-piece, creme-de-la-creme” slice of cooked animal’s body (chicken, pig, cow or fish) was discarded.
So what do vegetarians eat?????????? This was the cry from all my family members. Even distant cousins who rarely acknowledged my existence, would whisper this to my mother while giving me sidelong glances. They would mock me with questions of “Don’t you get sick of raw carrots and mashed potatoes? Aren’t vegetarian men skinny wimps who bury themselves in books of poetry while their female counterparts are palefaced, anaemic waifs?”
How to become a vegetarian
For the first couple of weeks I lived on a diet of glasses of cold milk, fruit, cheese sandwiches and my famous attempt at vegetable soup – boiled, sliced carrots in salty water. Good grief! Fortunately my boyfriend (who I later married) was a little more mature in his attempts in becoming vegetarian. He read a recipe book on Japanese vegetarianism!
Brown rice! Seaweeds! Sauteing vegetables instead of just boiling them to death! Wholewheat flour crusts on apple pies! Wow. Now this was getting exciting.
Next we discovered muesli from Switzerland! My boyfriend’s mother was really starting to get angry now. Not only was her son rejecting meat, arguing against the value of white sugar, white flour, and lard, but he had now brought home this foreign breakfast cereal. Granted, it had good old-fashioned oats in it, but he ate it raw with dried fruits and home made yogurt! Funny how things change. Today, countless varieties of mueslis and yogurts are popular foods in the supermarkets.
Brown rice was not available in the shops for a while. The only place we could get it was from the horse feed sellers. But persevere we did, and upon the eventual opening of a wholefoods health shop, we thought we were in Nirvana. Wholewheat flour, raw sugar, tamari (soya sauce), Japanese buckwheat noodles, soya milk, carob lollies, fresh yogurt, vegetarian cheese and even packets of gelatin-free jelly!
Since then, I have met many people who changed their diet from meat-based to vegetarian. Now in Western countries with the multi-cultural array of wonderful vegetarian foods available, it is very easy to change your culinary choices.
It is only natural that when anybody changes their diet, initially they would like to find alternatives for certain flavors or textures that they like. So it is just a matter of experimentation to find delicious, nutritious vegetarian fare that appeals to you.
by Deborah Price