Today I celebrate my 30 years as a vegetarian. The last carnivorous meal I had included lamb chops. My impetus for beginning was my health, not the welfare of animals. I began in a time when we all read Diet for a Healthy Planet and The Moosewood Cookbook was fresh off the presses. Growing your own sprouts was popular and I even bought mesh lids and gave it a try. Mostly, I forgot they were around until it was too late.
I have appreciated the reports that say the vegetarian diet will save fuel, is cleaner and makes for a safer and more equitable food supply. These are nice benefits to have for something I’m doing for my own reasons. Believe me when I say, I don’t deny the claims that vegetarians are better looking and look younger!
I have been macrobiotic, ovo, lacto, pesco or dietarily vegan at different times during the years. I remember going to Whole Earth Expo 1982 in New York City and coming in contact with many different philosophies I had never heard of before – Raw Foods, Sproutarians, and others. I remember how surprised I was at the sweet taste of sprouted bread.
Some trends in vegetarian food have come and gone. Some remain constant. I’m grateful that it is much easier to find vegetarian options and the improved labeling.
If I had never become a vegetarian I would not have trod the path I did. I would probably not have studied cooking at Lima Cooking School in Tokyo nor the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts. I wouldn’t have learned to cook from so many wonderful people including Wendy Esko, Sarah LaPenta, Avelyn Kushi, Lima Osawa or Noa Otomo. I would not have spent hours making Japanese sweets with my friend Atsuko Nagashima with the youmogi (mugwort) we picked on a mountain hike earlier in the day. I’d have missed the joy of growing food, buying from local farms and cooking fresh. In short, I became a better cook.
As a vegetarian I have been adventurous in going to new neighborhoods to find vegetarian friendly food. For a while, I wrote restaurant reviews for an English language newsletter that catered to the natural foods crowd in Tokyo. I never would have been asked to do this had my journey not begun.
I traded lamb chops for chick peas, a trade I have never regretted.
Today I had Chick Pea Salad, one of my favorite recipes from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking to celebrate 30 years of good, vegetarian eating.