Dear Vegans, stop eating like a cow!

Three simple changes that will help your new ‘vegan’ lifestyles.

For Indians, the term ‘vegan’ is new. While vegetarianism has been there in India forever, veganism seems to be a Western concept. Vegans are like Indian vegetarians but they do not consume any animal products, not just living creatures. This means they avoid dairy products, honey, eggs, fur clothing, and even leather products. (No, I am not implying that Westerners eat fur or leather.) In his book My Experiments With Truth, MK Gandhi also expressed his frustration with being unable to avoid diary products.

Recently, I saw a video of an American woman making ‘chili’ using her mother’s ‘secret recipe’. (I wanted to know what Johnny Bravo meant by chili, which is different from chilli.) Throughout the entire video, she used took one ingredient after another from a store-bought sealed package or bottle. Everything seems to be packaged in the West. Not one item seemed to have come whole from a vegetable store.

When vegans embark on a journey of animal-free diet, they repeat the same mistake as before – they continue to leave behind a trail of plastic packaging. This is wasteful and not making a difference to the environment. All their vegan meals lack one important item. Another mistake they make is to find alternatives for everything they used to eat. The worst among these is soy milk, taken in place of cow milk.

India has been vegetarian for millennia. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, Western vegans should learn Indian recipes. So, what are they doing wrong?

  1. For one thing, a vegan eats like a cow. Raw foods are great but only if taken in proportion. The human alimentary canal has adapted/evolved over millennia to cooked food that is soft and easily digestible. Cows have many stomachs because cellulose is difficult to digest and is only partially digested. Humans have only one stomach. So, vegans, please cook your food. You are putting too much strain on your system by trying to eat everything raw. Yes, you can survive that way but do you have to? Raw foods are not making you feel better. It is the absence of processed foods that caused the change. You have crossed over to the other side. Well done, so far. Why not make it comfortable too?
  2. Secondly, make rice or roti/chappathi (wheat) as the base. If you try to eat just fruits and vegetables, it will cost a lot. It is also not a well-balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables will not give you slow-release energy that you will need throughout the day. Cereals like rice and wheat are ideal carbohydrate-rich foods. Carbs should form the bulk of your diet. Even non-vegetarian Indians follow this principle. Meat, fish and eggs are always side-dishes for them. Wheat flour needs to kneaded before being ready for making roti or chappathi. But, rice is simple. Boil it, drain the excess water, and it is ready. So, I would suggest to vegans that they go with rice. (You can however eat roti or chappathi without any side dishes.) This part of your meal remains the same. The side dishes change with each meal. Rice is taste-less and requires side dishes or further preparation. An Indian family of four will typically buy a sack of rice and it will last them for more than a moth. I have a rice-based food recipe on my website with which you cook the rice, vegetables and spices at the same time. The meal is ready-to-eat when the pressure cooker cools off. South India has a rich and varied cooking recipes with rice as the base. So, just switch over to South-Indian cooking and you will have a much more healthier and satisfying vegan diet. And, you will have enough energy to last an entire day. If you have an Indian friend, go for shopping with him/her and get the basic ingredients required for making Indian recipes. Indian cooking uses a lot of spices and only a few of them are hot. I have an online playlist of useful videos for vegans to embark on this journey.
  3. Indian foods are extremely rich and varied to suit every taste. Do not go for vegan substitutes for things you used to eat. It will only increase your craving for the real stuff. Branch out. Enter the world of Indian sweets, savories, pickles, and drinks. (However, I would draw the line at chewing _pan_ or drinking desi brew. Never go fully native. We also have bad habits, get rich-people diseases, suffer a lot and die prematurely.) You will be spoilt for choice. And, it is all stuff you can make at home. It will be cheaper and less of a hassle.
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