The sky was an eery shade of red and the vermillion hues in the grass matched it perfectly. The sounds of cattle crying out sounded throughout the field. A baby piglet stared up at me with its lifeless eyes, its mouth slightly ajar. Blood was pouring out of its neck profusely.
This was the nightmare I had as a teenager that made me want to become a vegetarian for the right reasons. I had tried it once before, with the goal of losing weight by taking meat out of my diet, but it didn’t work out. Now, I can happily say that I’ve stuck with my vegetarianism for the past six years because of that conscious decision I made.
As a Pacific Islander – who are infamous meat eaters in their own right – living life as a vegetarian in a family full of carnivores is definitely as difficult as it sounds. With my busy schedule of combining college, work and my outside hobbies, I barely get enough time to cook a decent meal for myself. When I get home and there’s a chicken dish sitting on the kitchen counter, it’s either my job to a) Pick around the deceased animal and eat or b) Think of something quick and easy to make. On my most busy days, a pot of boiling water and a bag of pasta becomes my best friend.
Nine times out of ten, I have to cook for myself on my days off. Dinner will usually consist of meat which means I’ll have to cook my own vegetarian option. If my family is feeling sorry for me, they’ll either make the main dish vegetarian acceptable or take out a bit for me before they add the meat. When I go to extended family events or social gatherings, the meat-eater in my relatives and friends are very apparent and my options are very limited. I am usually only left with a bit of salad and baked potatoes on my plate.
Dining out as a vegetarian has become a lot easier than it was when I first started: I am aware of my options and know which restaurants cater to the eating-conscious. There are a few restaurants that have little to no vegetarian options so I’m left with ordering an egg and mayo sandwich and a glass of water.
I’ve learned most of the dishes in my arsenal from my mother. When there’s meat involved, I easily just substitute it with tofu and my own version of the meal is created! One of my go-to dishes is called a “Hawaiian Haystack” which was passed down from my mum: it’s basically a dish where you have rice and stack honey mustard tofu on top of that, and you continue to stack various ingredients on top of that, including cheese, dry noodles and pineapple. Seriously. Try it. Honey mustard tofu is to die for.
Life as a vegetarian in a family full of meat eaters is challenging, but it’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible for me. Insert arrogant hairflip here.
– by Noah La’ulu