This hilarious video says it all: If you’re born filipino, pork is practically your middle name. Oh wait, so is beef, chicken, and salted, deep-fried fish. Before my health forced me to consider becoming a full-fledged vegetarian or vegan, the thought never occurred to me. I couldn’t imagine cutting meat entirely out of my diet. I would literally starve at my family’s dinner table!
About four years ago, after my anaphylactic adventures with Celebrex and a sobering afternoon watching the documentary “Earthlings,” I gave up red meat. I still ate chicken and fish from time to time, but for two years, I turned my back on a startlingly huge portion of the filipino dishes I knew and loved. My digestive system and I felt great, but it was a struggle to refuse favourites like filipino pork barbecue, lumpia (pork spring rolls), and sinagang (filipino sour stew). I was surprised to realize how emotionally attached I was to these foods and how isolating it was at family events. Fortunately for me, my parents were highly supportive and ensured that there were dishes that I could eat at immediate family gatherings. My mom even started making a healthier, baked version of lumpia with ground chicken instead of pork. I was slowly working up to cutting out chicken and fish entirely, but my efforts were curbed by lupus cerebritis. I was fed red meat in the hospital and during my recovery. Almost two years later, I eat very little red meat, but I have yet to cut it out entirely. I have no reason or excuse for not going back to my red-meatless life or why I haven’t taken it to the next level in order to completely forgo my meatosaurus self. I’ve been content in having the choice to taste a co-worker’s beef stir-fry, bite into a bison samosa, or enjoy Filipino dishes as they were intended. The option has felt too sweet to give up, despite the fact that I would usually only indulge in a bite or two.
Well, my friends, this two year stretch of dietary limbo is coming to an end. It’s time for this Filipina pork goddess to give up her barbecue skewered crown. After this upcoming Easter weekend meal with my family, I will say good-bye to red meat. After that, I will wean myself off of chicken and fish gradually while I learn how to properly and delectably replace animal protein through research, cooking experiments, and consultations with my naturopath. I’m not saying that I will be fully vegetarian forever, but I think I need to try it in as pure a form as I can in order to observe it’s effect. It might take months for me to say that my diet has totally crossed over, but the journey officially begins next week. I’m feeling fully intimidated by the task, but a google search led me to burst of motivation and inspiration in the form of a vegan Filipino cuisine restaurant in California called, “No Worries.” Yes, I said VEGAN. I stumbled across the No Worries Menu as I contemplated the idea of a vegan version of my most beloved, favourite Filipino dessert, “halo halo.” If vegans can have halo halo, then I am confident that with some creativity, I can still have the tastes and comfort of the food I grew up with!
I mentioned trying to whip up some vegetarian Filipino dishes a while ago, but a busy schedule has kept me in a narrow, tried and true daily meal plan. I promise to follow through in the very near future, so keep an eye out for some “Cooking for the Wolf” experimentation while I keep my eye on the prize: A medication-free, healthy life!