To Be Or Not To Be, A Vegetarian that is…
Posted by Ivan Olarte on May 30, 2010
I have not made any posts about my journey towards a healthy lifestyle especially in regards to cooking and eating, and so to start, I would like to share with you a short essay that I wrote in response to a thread (at the NewBuddhist.com online community that I belong to) about being a vegetarian. If you would like to see the complete post that triggered this short essay, you can find it here.
For me, I don’t like to use the label of being a Vegetarian. I find that most people that I have met that wear this label as a badge of honor, have no more or less compassion for other living things than the average person, or like I did in the past.
Yet as I follow my own path, embrace the act of cooking and healthy eating, I cannot help but eat a mostly vegetarian diet, I have developed a strong aversion to red meat, but do eat very little chicken, and some fish.
I find that my diet is quite healthy and satisfying with following a mostly Mediterranean diet consisting of a lot of legumes, vegetables, grains and fruits.
After watching the movie Food.Inc (which I highly recommend to you), I try my best to avoid processed foods as much as possible. This movie changed my lifestyle dramatically and will affect you in a very positive way if you give it a chance. You can find more information about it here.
Most of the foods that we buy at the market are processed. And because of that, most of them contain toxins and corn byproducts which result in obesity, diabetes type II and many other chronic and life threatening illnesses. I now buy the raw ingredients and make all my own foods from hummus and related recipes to breads, and pasta. I have learned to embrace the act of cooking and so eating is really only the climax of the process and no longer the central focus of my nourishment activities.
As mentioned, I do eat some meat but I would say no more than 5-10% of my diet. There is no need to eat more than that as I find my recipes quite delicious from Tabouli, Hummus, Falafel balls, Stuffed Grape leaves, Spinach Egg Rolls (my own invention!), breads, pasta, salads, baked goods etc.
More importantly than labeling myself a vegetarian or going to either extreme (meat and potatoes or complete vegetarian) is my personal responsibility to respect all living things including the Plants that I eat, which also includes not wasting food by choice.
So I try to use all the materials wisely, eat what I can, freeze the rest and use good sound reason in what I buy and cook to avoid spoilage or unneeded waste. I see a lot of waste in how people eat, by refusing to eat left overs, or by eating what they “want” on a whim instead of what’s already available in their home and which will spoil soon if not consumed.
I follow the teachings of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, and so when I eat, I focus on the act of preparation and consuming. I’m mindful of the present moment, and of how all things are truly inter-related.
When I eat my food I know that it is not just a piece of fruit, vegetable etc, but that it includes everything from the sunlight, earth and water that it needed to live and grow, to the human efforts, labor and toiling that were involved in planting, growing, reaping and bringing to market.
With this in mind, I eat with purpose, enjoyment, gratitude and respect. It goes beyond just paying for the food and thinking I own the food because money was exchanged. I see it more as a gift of nature and am very grateful for being alive and being the recipient of such wonderful and delicious materials that serve to nourish me and maintain my health so I can continue in my path.
We in our society, take so much for granted and are so bombarded by the media and advertising that we turn a blind eye to the suffering around the world. When we eat, we don’t even focus on just how lucky we are and so we don’t appreciate what we have to eat, and just how precious it is. As we eat without thinking, and carelessly throw away the rest as we become full, fat and satiated, we neglect (or turn a blind eye to) the suffering around the world and often in very own “back yards” and the thousands upon thousands of starving people who would do anything to be able to eat what we discard as garbage.
It’s amazing how much we as a people throw out not just us personally but the food and restaurant industry as well. Yet people die by the thousands daily because of the lack of nourishment and edible materials!
And so with this attitude my respect is pretty much the same for all foodstuffs be it plant or animal, as well as for all the elements that were involved up to the point of my consuming of the food. Now, this is how I enjoy what I eat, how I lost 60+ lbs, and how I managed to get rid of my self made illnesses like high cholesterol, type II diabetes etc, obesity, and at the same time enjoy cooking and eating more than I ever have in the past.
Life can be so good if we just let it be, and are awake enough to realize it!