Choti Mata's Notes: Choti Mata has just been informed by Bear Grylls on her television that she can eat a particular variety of scorpion raw, if she manages to remove its stinger. He has skipped the part where he was supposed to tell us that it is imperative that we do not shriek like a banshee and faint the moment we spot that scorpion anywhere within a 100 meter radius of our person. He, however, did not skip the part where he told us, matter of fact, that it is entirely possible that we might be dead before we manage to take the first bite of this culinary delight. Choti Mata thinks Bear Grylls is badass and should never ever consider turning into a vegetarian. She also thinks food is a choice and gets severely offended when someone passes a judgment on that choice.
Choti Mata is a vegetarian. Vegetarian. Not vegan. Which means that she loves her daily glass of milk and prefers it to be sourced from four legged creatures of the bovine family instead of some foul plant derivative that works too hard to pass itself as milk. She also loves cheese in all its forms and versions, including the ones that she cannot pronounce to save her life. And threats of an expanding waistline notwithstanding, she refuses to give up butter and believes that she is a valid option should Amul decide to replace its famous Amul girl with someone who looks a little more human and a little less cute.
Choti Mata is vegetarian who has nothing against eggs either. Google tells me that this means I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian. And for a moment there, I had actually believed that there wouldn’t really be a term for people like us—that civilized society has not really matured enough to accommodate our freaky kind who refuse to fit in the well defined boxes of eating habits.
Apparently, the civilized society is more mature that I was giving them credit for. At least within the confines of Google search pages.
I am vegetarian. And it is not a religion issue. It was at some point of time. But it is not anymore. I continue to be a vegetarian because I think it is a gentler, kinder way of living and I do not intend to alter it as of now.
That in no way implies that eating non-vegetarian food per se is vile and cruel. It is just a comparative idea. So may be, being a vegetarian is a little more kind. A little more gentle. But I totally am with all the non-vegetarians on the idea that there is a particular way the food-chain had been set up in nature and that human beings are omnivores. But you dare throw the ridiculous argument at me that ‘plants have life’ and that ‘vegetarians too are guilty of murder…of plants”; I will first throw something at you, something that will be solid and will hurt like hell and then, I will tell you that if nature really wants me to ‘kill’ something to feed myself, which it seems it does, I will rather kill something that does not spill its guts all over me when hacked with a knife, does not scream in agony when its throat is slit and does not taste like blood if undercooked. If that means I have to hurt a few plants’ feelings, I think I am okay being that monster.
This is a ridiculous line of argument no matter how you look at it. And it is pointless. As I said, it is a pretty much a matter of personal preference that should ideally need no arguments, idiotic or otherwise to justify it.
I don’t eat animal flesh. Or beef. Or poultry. Or sea food. But believe it or not, I have absolutely nothing against those who do. I do not automatically make moral or religious or character related presumptions about people based on their eating habits. I just wish everyone around me returned the favor.
Being a vegetarian had interesting ramifications. Like our persistent inability to find five decent things to eat everywhere we go. And the presumption that we will bite the head off anyone who dares mention the word ‘chicken’ in front of us. It is believed that it is the principle of things.
It is not.
Being vegan is the new fad. Being a vegetarian is pretty close to being a vegan. So, I am counting them in. Still, the fact is, we are and perhaps shall always remain in a painful minority. I don’t mind being in minority. What I do mind is when it is automatically presumed that being vegan/vegetarian means I am a prude. Too stuck up to enjoy life. That all vegans/vegetarians deserve sympathy because we are missing out on vital, shiny parts of life.
Newsflash, we are not. Not really. And you would have known if you had bothered to ask.
It is a universal issue. For people who don’t drink. For people who don’t stuff their faces with animal flesh. For people who genuinely do not like shiny bright lights, random sweaty strangers and deafening loud music in the middle of the night and therefore, do not like the idea of parties.
I’d know. I am all of these people.
Having fun is a subjective idea. Different people have fun in different ways. Just like different people have different tastes. And like to eat different things. It would really be a very sad, monotonous world if everyone likes the same thing in the same way at the same time.
As a general overarching idea, I am having fun. Irrespective of what I eat/drink/do, I usually work very hard to ensure that I am having fun. Just like, I presume, everyone.
Going back to where this post originally precipitated, I work really hard to not label people as savage monsters just because they are sitting next to me digging into a bucket of chicken pieces so huge, it makes me want to mourn the loss of mother hens, all 25 of them and shed silent tears. As I said before, it would be nice if everyone around returned the favor and stop labeling me as a grass eating whatever. Because not only is it offensive, it is a little reductive in an ill informed sort of a way. Vegetarian food is not grass. And even when it is, it is usually a very well tasting grass. And for anyone who is willing to give it a try with an open mind, vegetarian food, without exaggeration offers incredible variety in terms of options and is scrumptious if done right.
This, however, is not a pitch to turn everyone into a vegetarian. This is not even an argument. Because honestly, I don’t care. In that sense, I think I am more sensible and have more life than several governments and politicians put together.
Food is an incredibly personal choice. It is sacrosanct. And I firmly believe that nobody has any business interfering in what one chooses to eat or not eat. And more importantly, nobody has any business passing judgments on that choice.
I am vegetarian today. I may turn into a flexitarian tomorrow. And a non-vegetarian the day after. I can change my mind. And I am pretty sure that if I do, I will not sprout fangs. Just because I am eating something today and something else tomorrow, does not mean I have changed as a person. Or maybe I have…but food has got nothing to do with it. So long as I do not switch to cannibalism and start hacking fellow human beings for food, I don’t think it matters.
Food is a choice. A luxury. A gift for humans who have been blessed with the ability to taste and savor and enjoy their food. Food choices are personal. And a lot of times, a function of our socio-economic settings as well as our given circumstances. Sometimes they are a part of our identity, religious and otherwise. Sometimes they are a part of the journey that we undertake to discover our identities. And a lot of times, they are just a wonderful exercise of a privilege that has been exclusively bestowed on the human race.
It is easy for me to convert this post into a representative piece about choices and our innate right to exercise them without being restricted or judged. But even that would be a disservice to an idea that is as beautiful and intimate as food. Food is one of those rare human necessities that are also an absolute pleasure. And it is the only one that is mostly non-controversial (the other one being sex…but it is hardly non-controversial).
I think we will do everyone a favor if we stopped making food a moral or a religion or a character issue. Or an issue at all. Food should be uncomplicated. And enjoyable. It isn’t half as difficult as it sounds…and is totally worth it!