On the Viability of Going Vegetarian

My 21-day vegetarian challenge ended last Sunday. And based on my experiences, I’ve decided that I can’t be a vegetarian.

It wasn’t too hard at first. During lunch breaks at work, I would simply eat from the mixed dishes and rice stalls – Chinese, Malay, and Indian. It was good enough. For dinner at home, my mum turned out to be very understanding and always made me something I could eat. She bought loads of portobello mushrooms, which I would toast with mozzarella cheese.

I also found that vegetarian breakfast (allowing eggs and milk) is certainly an easy compromise for me. I can definitely do without bacon or sausages in the morning. Scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, jams and peanut butter, milk, yogurt…there is a wide choice of of non-meat options. For the couple of lunches I had at home, I practised making rosti.

A full brunch of rosti with portobello mushrooms topped with cheese and tomatoes, and an egg.

But the problems arose when eating out with friends. Eating is not only a nutritional activity, but a social one. And I found that vegetarianism hampered that social aspect of eating. Despite telling your friends not to mind your diet, as friends they will still be mindful of it and naturally some places become off-limits to your group due to your restriction. I suspect vegetarians tend to only eat with other vegetarians.

Being a vegetarian is by no means impossible. But as someone who has grown up in Singapore and tasted the inexhaustible variety of life that is Singaporean food, it is very, very, difficult. I missed my barbecued chicken wings, satays, and nasi lemak. I will always love chicken rice. At Chomp Chomp or Changi Village, in these foci of Singaporean gastronomy, all I could eat was carrot cake and rojak.

The past 21 days weren’t in vain, though. It reminded me how much meat was in my diet, and allowed me to assess which foods I could do without, and which I couldn’t. I still don’t need beef, and I can reduce my meat consumption by eliminating meat dishes I could do without, or at least making them an occasional treat. I daresay it might be possible to keep meat eating to less frequently than once a day, perhaps even once a week after a while. It would increase my enjoyment and appreciation of meat.

I would certainly recommend anyone to try this out. It reveals how much meat you put into your mouth. But I would advise you to try it with your group of friends, instead of just by yourself. It helps to share in the experience at the same time.

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