About "Prefer Vegetarian Food"

With a title like this, it becomes obvious that this blog is about food. Since I live in Singapore, most of my posts will revolve around food found in Singapore. Majority of the Singaporeans love to indulge in food, hence eateries are ubiquitous in this country. Being a multi-racial country is an additional blessing as it creates diversity in our food scene. Apart from ethnicity, there are also eateries that cater to individuals with certain restrictions in their diet, such as halal, vegetarian, vegan, you name it, most likely we have it. To me, that's a good thing as it adds on to the variety of food we have in Singapore.

The kind of food that is featured in this blog is apparently influenced by my dietary pattern. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) I do not eat anything under the sun. People who dine with me always mistake me for being a vegetarian. Personally I do not feel the need to attach a label to my diet. Should you insist that I have one, since I don't eat everything deemed to be edible, then you can consider me a "Flexitarian". According to wikipedia, flexitarians avoid, but occasionally eat, meat. In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word and defined it as "a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat". Despite this definition, please note that flexitarians are not typically considered vegetarians. Currently, I have no intention of progressing to a true blue vegetarian or vegans.

Reasons For Choosing a Flexitarian Path

I am not a religious person. However, growing up in a Buddhist family does exert some influence on my mindset. One aspect of Buddhism is compassion for living things, hence Buddhist generally do not consume anything on the expense of the life of another living thing. I have also heard of cases whereby monks are okay with eating meat from animals that die of natural death. For me that's fair enough. I respect this teaching a lot, to the point that I despise religions that restrict the consumption of certain meat because they think the animal involved is dirty. (I don't wish to offend anybody, so I shall compromise by not naming any names.) Is there anything dirtier that human beings themselves? Okay I better stop here before I digress further and turn this article into a human berating essay.

Anyway, back to the topic. At this point, you may be wondering, since I do not advocate meat eating, why not become a vegan, or at least an ovo-lacto-vegetarian? Well I've tried. In fact I had no issues with meatless diet. Even as a kid, who had no prior knowledge about nutrition, religion, etc, if you asked me to draw a list of my favorite food, you won't find meat or fish inside. Instead, you would see tofu and tomato. Hence the task of eliminating meat from my diet isn't much of a challenge. The difficulty arises when I am eating with my family. The Buddhist family I grow up in isn't vegetarian, and staunchly believes that one must consume some meat to be healthy. My family is so "healthy" that diabetes runs in it. Initially I was upset with my mother's cooking. I enjoy the soup she brews, but I hate the idea of adding meat to it. If she chooses to cook according to my diet, my sisters will complain. As time passed, I realize that my steadfast belief in vegetarianism is making things difficult for the people around me. Guilt wavers my resolve, and I decide to allow meat to be found in my dishes. If I don't wish to eat them, I can just leave the meat there for anyone who wish to eat them. Under such circumstances, I can no longer be considered a vegetarian, can I?

A more trivial reason for treading this path is my preference for food cooked via lighter methods, such as steaming or boiling. I used to enjoy sinfully deep-fried food. While my weight remained ideal at around 48 kg (My height is 1.6m), the toxins, or whatever you want to call the unhealthy stuffs found in fried food, manifested in the form of acne. Although my life and self-esteem were not seriously affected, if there's a way to rectify this problem, why not? Once again eliminating fried food, including stir fried food, wasn't difficult since I was finding it hard to digest them anyway as I got older. Yes, another information about myself, I am close to 30. While resisting the temptation to eat fried food wasn't hard, finding vegetarian food cooked using light methods was the challenge. Sometimes even an innocent looking bowl of soup noodles had to contain fried mock meat. Although vegetarian food sellers were usually more than happy to customize the dish to fit my taste, diet of this nature was a problem by itself.

Before I elaborate on the problem, I need to bring in the yin-yang theory about food. I am no expert in this area, so I shall only provide a superficial explanation. When yin-yang theory is applied to food, yin describes food that gives body a cooling energy while yang describes food that gives body a warming energy. Ideally we should strike a balance between the two, hence neutral, to be healthy. Whether a food is yin or yang depends on 2 main factors: its intrinsic energy and the method of cooking. Boiling, steaming or no cooking at all (Raw that is) are considered yin cooking method, and the other spectrum consists of methods like frying, grilling, braising and baking. Most vegetables are inherently yin, hence light cooking methods enhance the cooling energy, which can upset the balance of the body on the long run. In my case, the excess yin energy was helpful in the beginning. My acne recovered, except for some scars, which if I insisted on getting rid of, I had to go down the path of plastic surgery. I was like, forget it. I thought I had discovered the "perfect" diet. However, when my digestive system suddenly turned sluggish and my weight plummeted like nobody's business, I knew something wasn't right. Knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which I used to be skeptical about, explained what I was going through nicely. My hypothesis is that my body used to be very yang, due to over-consumption of yang food. Hence the introduction of extremely yin food neutralized the problem. Unfortunately I went overboard and ended up with yin-associated side effects.

Even today, I am still psychologically uncomfortable about fried food, although I am starting to accept some sauteed and stir-fried food on rare occasions. Most of the time, I would rather eat some meat, which is yang intrinsically, to get my supply of yang energy, so that I can avoid fried food.