Tuesday, January 01, 2008

30 Years Ago Today

It was 30 years ago today that I became vegetarian. No, it wasn't a New Year's resolution, something I've never subscribed to. I figure, if you're going to do something, you'll do it because you want to, and that should be drive enough, any time of the year. People rarely keep NY resolutions.

I knew someone who, at the time was around my age now, approaching half a century. He considered himself a yogi and had an amazing youthful aura and an amazing physique. At that time, he'd spent some 47 out of the previous 52 days on an orange fast - consuming nothing but oranges or fresh orange juice.

It was on this day 30 years ago, at the age of 17 that I attempted that fast. The first day was OK, the second was difficult. The third day was really hard, as the toxins in my body leached into the blood stream (this was all anticipated). Towards the end of the fourth day, it got too much. I started feeling nauseous with hunger, and the thought of orange juice also made me nauseous. It was far from ideal, but I broke my fast with some hot chips. But I never ate meat again.

My girlfriend at the time was vegetarian, clearly an influence. When I was nine years old, I had a friend whose older brother became vegetarian at eleven, and that's the first time the idea appealled to me. While these were influences, for some reason, after that fast, I just did not want to put meat in my body again.

Up until my twenties, I was perhaps a bit of a zealot about vegetarianism. I read a lot, learnt a lot and came to the conclusion that while humans clearly have been given the capability to eat meat (for example in times of emergency) - that's why we have two canine teeth - our natural diet is meat-free. That's obvious for two big reasons: first, the rest of our teeth are clearly the same as vegetarian animals, and perhaps more importantly, our colons are long, like vegetarian animals. Meat-eating animals have short colons, so they can quickly expel the digested meat before it becomes putrid. A long colon keeps the putrifying material leaching toxins into our bloodstream for much longer, which is why bowel cancer and many other prominent diseases (such as heart diseases) are prominent among meat-eaters but almost absent in vegetarians.

Most people who attempt vegetarianism ultimately fail because they do not learn or practice sufficient nutritional habits. Pasta may taste great but won't sustain. Vegetarianism is not about vegetables. There are the main food groups, and one must eat in sufficient quantities from each. I don't want to go on about this here, but am happy to discuss if anyone is interested in how I've maintained a vegetarian diet, and what my recommendations are.

It was harder to find vegetarian food when eating out in those early days, and people would look at you like you were crazy (as if, how could you live a healthy life without meat?). Things have changed a lot, and I have changed a lot. Vegetarianism is such an intrinsic part of my life, and has been for so long that I don't really think in terms of it - it just is. I also have a live-and-let live, non-judgemental attitude to non-vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is a personal choice; it is my choice.

I have learnt a lot about health, nutrition and diet over the years, though I can't necessarily quote facts that well (I kind of digest information, but forget small details). I have been passionate about cooking all my life, and as my partner can't cook (by my estimation, and occasionally she'll admit to it), I do all the cooking. I can still remember the first time I made pikelets in prep grade at school which left a strong impression on me. I regularly baked cakes as a child, with the encouragement of my mother. I love food, I love cooking and I especially love cooking for others.

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