We come from a family where our dad’s side is thoroughly non-vegetarian. Our grandfather, it is said, could eat anything that walked. Once he got a duck-like bird that we kept at home. I remember it waddling around our courtyard. It wasn’t meant to be a pet, though. We all knew that. She was biding her time till she made it to our dinner plates. My sister and I grew quite fond of it and one fine day when we came home to find it gone we were terribly depressed. I think our grandfather was the only one who enjoyed his meal that day.
Enter our mother, a hardcore vegetarian. She came from a Jain-like family that shunned onion and garlic. How she must have survived in her new home speaks of an abundance of tolerance and more than a fair share of love for our dad. She agreed to include onion and garlic in her food but she balked at having anything to do with the non-veg part of the kitchen. She wouldn’t cook it, she wouldn’t let us talk about it. Leg piece-breast piece discussions at the dinner table were a complete no no. ‘Her’ food had to be completely insulated from ‘our’ food. More than once she left the dinner table unable to take in the sight of us enjoying our ‘tamsik bhojan’.
Despite her repugnance, the pragmatic mom that she was, she never forbade us from eating any of it. If anything, she encouraged us because she didn’t want us to have to endure what she did. While I was an enthusiastic eater, my sister remained choosy… as we were with food in general. (Which is why I was the plump one while she remained stick thin J)
As a result of the divergent attitudes:
- I never did develop our grandfather’s passion (even our dad didn’t get there)
- I grew queasy at butcher shops.
- But I savoured my biryanis, keemas, kebabs and Rogan joshs. (It seems a little hypocritical in hindsight but that’s the way it was).
- At parties paneer tikkas rubbed shoulders with chicken tikkas on my plate.
- I did learn to cook meat after I got married.
- But I could never bring myself to cut it up.
When Hrit Naisha were born the thought of turning vegetarian first came to me. I still have no explanation why that happened. It began as just a casual reluctance. (And at the back of my mind I was striking one thing off my ‘can eat’ list as an aid to losing some weight). I started off not knowing whether I’ll continue to be one. I was ready to go back to my tikkas and tandooris if I missed them terribly. I never did. Oh I won’t say they never beckoned at all but it wasn’t a huge drive. I’ve been a vegetarian now for over five years.
It has hardly changed anything in my life.. including my weight :-( . I still cook it and I hope the kids eat it till they are old enough to make up their minds. I do not want them to grow up with mental blocks. If they feel strongly about vegetarianism they can become one later on.
However the other day The Husband got some chicken. Like our usual practice it’s his job to wash and clean it after which I take over. For the first time, my stomach turned over at the sight of the raw chicken. The sink had red droplets and scraps of fat. That just made it worse. I have been a non vegetarian so it’s kind of weird to feel this way. In fact some times I’ve cleaned the chicken too, although reluctantly, so this comes as a surprise. I hope it’s a passing phase. I really have no tolerance for intolerance.. mine or anyone elses.