Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How A Meat Eater Became an Omnivore

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My family is a largely carnivorous group. And I wasn’t that different, for quite a long time. I grew up knowing the sweet crunch of pork, the neutral taste of chicken, and the strong, earthy taste of beef.

homer beef
Mmm, beef. Taken from Meme Generator.

Today, I can’t understand why the various members of my family keep on gorging on meat nonstop, only pausing to take in the random cabbage and lettuce. That’s because those are “salad veggies”, and therefore easy to prepare.

This is also one of the reasons why I distrust salads. I can eat them, but I’d much rather stir fry lettuce with chopped onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and some nuts. I mean, you’re putting olive oil over that vinaigrette anyway, aren’t you? Make it yummier by applying the science of heat!

But for all my bellyaching, the sad truth is that I could never bring myself to eat vegetables as a kid. My go-to meat was chicken for the longest time, and I have to say that it still remains one of my favorite viands to this day. In fact, I devoted a whole chapter in one of the stories I’m working on to the art of eating chicken.

I’ve made a couple of changes to the kind of food I try to enjoy in the past decade, though. It started innocently enough; I was getting sick of the fried pork chop and fried chicken being sold at almost all of the eateries where I was working at the time, so I wandered into this little lugawan that also sold a whole bunch of viands for cheap. I picked out something that looked like something I would eat—in this case, ginataang puso ng saging—and settled down to eat.

Thus began my love for the colorful foods from the vegetarian end of the spectrum. I never knew that something as simple as banana hearts stewed in coconut milk would turn out to be so good! I was soon introduced to its spiritual brother, ginataang langka, which was unripe jackfruit cooked as a vegetable in coconut milk, and that became my favorite vegetable dish of all time (which, for some strange reason, people can’t seem to understand).

I don’t know what it was about coconut milk-stewed food that attracts me. It could be because Filipino chicken curry always uses gata as a base ingredient, and I always loved chicken curry. So transitioning from curry to ginataang langka wasn’t that far of a stretch.

And you know what? I can no longer stand eating nothing but meat for days on end. When I start sweating sticky, oily sweat, I instinctively switch from meat to vegetable matter whenever I can. And it’s cheaper, too! An order of veggies is Php25 versus the average Php40 for an order of meat. I get the added benefit of feeling healthier and cleaner, to boot.

Do I no longer eat meat? No, I don’t think I can survive without eating chicken or pork. Or steak. But I think that I’m far better off having included a wide variety of veggies in my diet—not just langka or banana hearts. Currently, I am rather fond of yardlong beans, sigarilyas, pumpkins—a childhood favorite—and peppers! And I can’t wait to try other, more exotic veggies. Just don’t expect me to turn vegan, yo.

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