Sunday, 20 March 2011

The accidental vegetarian

I seem to have become vegetarian by accident.

It's quite difficult to be a carnivore in India. In some towns, like Pushkar and Hampi, you'll not find any meat at all. In others, you'll find meat if you look for it, but still a majority of the restaurants will be pure veg, or predominantly veg, and if you want a thali, it will probably not have meat in it.

So I was pretty much eating veg most of the time in India; I can count the number of times I ate meat, and tell you exactly where it was. Five times, in three months.

So when I came back to France I honestly thought the first thing I'd order would be steak tartare; one of my favourite dishes.

Instead of which, I found myself staring at choucroute and thinking; all those pieces of dead pig. Oh dear... not so much that I have qualms over eating animals, I just somehow didn't feel like eating it. My appetite for meat had gone.

A month later, I haven't really got it back. I find myself cooking veg, and thinking I really should get round to cooking some meat, but just bookmarking the veg recipes in my cookery book. How strange.

Vegetarian food, and Indian food, can on one level be deeply boring. Dal fry is dal fry however you serve it up. India is a bust for gourmet travellers. (The south is worst; idlies for breakfast, idlies for elevenses, idlies for lunch, idlies for tiffin, and for dinner - more idlies. Idly-idly-idly-idly-tum-te-tum, can't bear any more of the bloody things. And don't say 'You could have a dosa'; I got tired of those, as well.)

And yet eat dal fry a hundred times, and each time it will be different; a different spicing, consistency, flavour. The same for mutter paneer, or paneer butter masala (good in Puri, great at the German bakery restaurant in Hampi, too hot to handle in Ahmedabad).  A simple veg curry will be sour and hot in Kerala, richly spiced in Rajasthan,  sweet in Gujarat.

So that I haven't missed my meat. But I still find it perplexing that I've dropped into vegetarianism so very accidentally. I wonder how long it will last.

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