Having spent the last month of my life eating unbelieveably tasty but primarily vegetarian food, I realize that we in the West miss out on a lot of culinary wonders by generally insisting our food have meat in it. And having spend the last month in a primarily vegetarian country, I also realize why, exactly, I’m not a vegetarian.
Ya’ know the stereotype of India where cows roam the streets with impunity? Where crossing a street means taking your life in your hands, but cows nap peacefully in the middle of traffic, unmolested?
Unlike most stereotypes, this one is true. All true.
So I walk past cows wandering the streets on my way to school. And on my way home. And pretty much every other “on my way,” too. Some of them are tied or restrained; most are not. They roam the streets freely, foraging for food in trash piles and generally making a mess of everywhere. There should be something incongruous about cows wandering around lazily in busy streets, but somehow… it fits. It seems natural. It’s India: everything seems a little incongruous, from a western perspective. But nothing seems at all out of place from an Indian perspective. Or such has been my experience, thus far. So the cows wander the streets, unfettered. What does that have to do with my vegetarianism? Well, it goes like this…
I was walking down the street today, or the sidewalk, rather, on my way to the post office. I hardly gave a second thought to the cow on the sidewalk– not until it head-butted me, that is. Ya. As I walked past the cow, it took a step or to, and gave me an unfriendly shove on my way. Maybe it was bothered by my bright-orange sidebag. Or maybe it sensed that I’m from a country where beef is what’s for dinner. Or maybe it was just an honery cow. Regardless, being half-charged and head-butted this afgernoon brought me to an important realization: I like my steak on my plate, not on my sidewalks. The worst a well-cooked steak has ever done to me is leave me a little fuller ’round the waist, and not without providing a hearty and pleasing meal along the way. Never in my life has a steak attacked me. Or made me feel endangered. Or angry. Never has a steak made me want to take off my sandal, swear profously, and beat it soundly. Never.
And, as much of a social blunder removing one’s shoe in a busy restaurant and proceeding to beat (or “tenderize,” as it were) a steak would be, I suspect it would be still less than beating off an overly aggressive cow here.
Of course, Indians have a thing about shoes. Not about feet, like the Thais, but about shoes. Right.
So why am I not a vegetarian? Go figure. =P
More seriously, though, I’ve seen nothing in India that would induce me to become a vegetarian. The only discernable difference between a vegetarian and a non-vegitarian here is that… the former doesn’t eat meat. No, that’s not completely true: vegetarians often have a more prominent role of fat, partially hidden by a sari: so it goes with vegetarians. But that’s it. Are vegetarians happier? More at peace with nature, or more at peace with the earth? Maybe. But not that I’ve observed. Conversely, are the rest of us any better off? Of course not. But I’d argue that our lives has an additional pleasure. Of course, most of the vegetarians here have been vegetarians since birth, so they don’t know what they’re missing.
And then there’s the fact that beef isn’t consumed here. Non-vegetarians have a choice between pork, chicken and mutton. Not beef. Never beef. I’m rather ashamed to admit that I don’t even know the reason why cows are revered, consecrated. It seems like a rather illogical choice to me. I mean, why not forbid the killing of platypuses? From five feet away, is there an uglier animal than a cow? An animal more contemptably stupid and slovenly? Worship lions, monkeys or bears. Fine. I understand. But cows? Notoriously dim-witted, unkempt, more often covered in its own feces than not… yes, a cow is a fine animal. Heh. When cooked medium rare and served with A1 sauce, that statement wouldn’t even be sarcastic.
Right. In summation (for all you TLDR people…): cow attack precipitates realization that I love steak.