Is it possible to change the way you live and rethink fundamental elements of how you view the world after almost 40 years of life?
The answer to that question, of course, is yes.
Is it easy?
The answer to that question, of course, is no.
It was more than a month ago when I idealistically declared that I would stop eating meat and then proceeded to sit my better half down to discuss a plan on how we were going to make the transition (which thankfully was a simple enough conversation). It was unchartered territory. I was nervous. I was not sure if, or when, I was going to break. Now, six weeks along, I am taking stock on how we are going. And, what have I learnt about this process (and about myself), in this short period of time?
Well, here are a few things.
On food and routines, I am proud to say that I have not eaten meat in over six weeks, with the exception of the occasional seafood. Although it has not been easy, it has also not been as difficult as I initially thought. There were the moments of weakness when I would imagine (longingly) the taste and feel of a meat’s fatty and chewy texture at the tip of my tongue, savouring it in my mind, more so when I was watching a cooking show or reading a menu in a restaurant, but those moments were brief and I was able to move on quite quickly. Mostly with the help of videos of a cute lamb or piglet cuddling up to their mothers.
I plan my weeks. To ensure I do not lapse midweek due to not knowing (or caring) what to cook, I rely heavily during weekdays on delivery meals – those that come pre-cooked (ie. Soulara), and also the ones that come with pre-packed fresh ingredients and handy recipes (ie. HelloFresh). This, combined with my curiosity to try out new recipes over the weekends, seems to work.
The kids, however… that is a different matter. As much as they love baby animals, they also love their meat and are exhibiting some sort of withdrawal, almost rebellious, behaviours from being given less of it. I have decided that they will continue to eat mostly as they always have, but I will also gradually introduce more plant-based dishes into their diet to allow them to adopt to and appreciate the flavours.
Lastly, I realise I love mushrooms – all kinds of them (white-capped ones, portabello, enoki, king oyster mushrooms) and would happily eat them any time of the day, grilled on toast with avocado or on top with rice or blended into soup.
On eating out and deliveries, Perth has surprised me . Most restaurants actually have a good list of vegetarian options, and it has been a really fun process exploring them. It is like being exposed to a whole new culinary world, something that I did not know exist, even though it has always been right underneath our noses!
The following is quickly becoming our go-to options for delivery and / or eating out meals: curries (especially palak paneer and malai kofta), meat-free pizzas and pastas (think simple and delicious aglio e olio), a variety of piping hot and delicious Korean soups, bibimbap, vegetable soups with bread, curry laksa with tofu, roti canai with dhal, fried rice or noodles without meat, spinach and feta pide, and falafel kebab (one of my all-time favourites). Despite being traditionally associated with meat, most burger shops also have hearty vegetarian options, either replacing the meat patty with mushrooms, or those meat-like patties, all of which are finger-lickin’ good.
On the other hand, I am disappointed that I have not been able to find a meat-free pie that can satisfy the craving for hot gravy-filled stuffing enclosed in buttery crusts, even after having tried several bakeries and pie shops. In fact, the best one I have had is actually from the frozen section of the supermarket aisle. For now I will persevere on this challenge, but perhaps until one day I may realise that I will never be able to join a savoury pie again the same way again and decide to give it up forever.
It has also been most difficult with Chinese restaurants as this has been the palate that I grew up with and I have many memories associated with eating Chinese meat dishes, especially with big grand and happy occasions. I am nervously anticipating the day when we will celebrate the next big festival in a Chinese restaurant. That will yet be the test.
On coffee and beverages, I am a habitual coffee drinker. Twice a day, for many years (not stopping even during pregnancy). Although I have not decided to go full vegan, I have been swapping the dairy from my barista-made coffee to other alternatives, and have not been missing it. I frequent a café near my work place that makes the most chocolatey mocha. They make it so well that I cannot even tell the difference when they use soy milk. I also find that I actually like the rich taste of soy milk and the creaminess of oat milk, although not so much almond milk. I have rekindled my love with sweet bottled soy milk (the type that you get in Asian shops), a drink that my childhood memory was made of.
On general health and well-being, I was worried about my iron and energy level when I decided to stop eating meat. To my surprise my energy level has pretty stayed the same. Sadly, so has my skin, despite what the websites told me. My skin has not miraculously become glowing and radiant (shame). For my own mental wellbeing, I have stopped hunting for articles and documentaries that show the pain and suffering we humans impose on animals, but rather focus on more uplifting and inspiring stories where we help animals. I would like to develop another dimension of viewing the world and humanity, and also to shift my thoughts to what I can do to advance the cause, as opposed to what has been done and conditions that are outside of my control.
So, then, back to the original question – is it easy to change? The answer is still no, it’s not, it hasn’t been, and this is only the beginning. But it is necessary. It is necessary because change helps me grow. It opens my mind and challenges me to continually explore, question and adjust myself and my own beliefs that have been built up over time through a different set of circumstances, to be the person that I believe I should be.
After all, as the wise man Socrates said (and I was often reminded by my better half): –
An unexamined life is not worth living.