Slice of Life: Meat, the fockers
Meat is murder, right? Buddhist monks know it. But most of the world is yet to embrace the life-affirming notion of a flesh-free diet. And that included me. Right up until the start of June.
Under the influence of self-motivation (and probably a touch of alcohol as well), I decided a month without meat or fish would be entirely beneficial for my overall well-being and a relief for my clogged internal system. No religious influences. No notions of saving pigs, chickens and salmon. Put simply – a challenge. I’ve feasted on flesh every day for my entire life (sometimes three times a day or more) and the thought of shifting my consumption focus to those green shoots I shy away from filled me with a sense of purpose.
But little did I expect that ‘going veggie’ would, in a very short time, come to define me. It’s a veritable magnet for discussion. What, you don’t eat meat? What, you’re just doing it for a challenge? What, you’re missing out on some of the best carnivorous cuisine in Asia? Yes, I was – and everyone would have their opinion. One of my pals, a vegan, gave me health advice (‘no, you can’t just eat bacon-flavoured crisps’) and also told me ‘you’re part of a select society now’. Others thought the whole thing ludicrous, pointless, almost sacrilege. Cue debates that lasted for hours on end about ethics, East v West views, cooking tips, health effects (my poor stomach…) and how difficult it is to get a good, green meal if you rock into a cha chaan teng and trust the chef (it may be meat-free but who knows what it’s been cooked in).
This – trusting the chef – became an increasing dilemma. Three times in a month did I sit salivating over the prospect of bok choy with noodles or tofu with rice. And three times did I find offending chunks of meat or seafood in my meal. It’s not that there’s a lack of vegetarian restaurants here – but, in a regular eatery, don’t be surprised to find bits of pork or prawn in a dish which, on the menu, promised only plants. It was like they were sneaking bits of flesh past me as if I wouldn’t notice. Maybe I was unlucky. Or maybe that’s the norm. Like Forrest Gump, going veggie in Hong Kong is like a box of chocolates.
The challenge, however, definitely gave me more energy. It also made me appreciate veg, nuts, fruit and new ways of cooking far more than before. When those meataholics quiz you for hours about this – albeit month-long – life choice, it makes you feel enlightened and full of spirit. And the more my vegan friend got in my ear, the more I felt like I’d been let in on some big secret. Yes, there were sushi and pork chop cravings – but it taught me I don’t always need to feast on beast.
So, with broccoli in my belly, I’m heading for my next month-long challenge. No alcohol. But I’m not so confident I’ll complete this one. Without a few beers, Matt Fleming will undoubtedly go, well, bananas…