'When you are a vegetarian who isn't terribly fond of cottage cheese, choices become somewhat limited, but I have never understood why everyone also conspires to gang up against the vegetable eater?' asks Kishore Singh.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
For some while now, and yet again -- previous attempts having proved unsuccessful -- I have been a vegetarian of sorts.
Not a religiously-aided, hymn-chanting vegetarian, but, as my daughter is wont to describe her parents' efforts to do anything apart from the usual, a "just like that" vegetarian.
On earlier occasions, having eschewed meat of lamb and fowl, I had qualified my choice as that of a pescetarian.
All things fishy were fine, which change was a manageable and even a healthy one, I thought, except the family was going through a mutton phase.
My son wanted his grandmother's version of lal maas; the cook insisted on serving us dosas with attiraicci chettinad; on good days, my wife's spare time was spent in the preparation of shammi kebabs.
When you are a vegetarian who isn't terribly fond of cottage cheese, choices become somewhat limited, but I have never understood why everyone also conspires to gang up against the vegetable eater?
Why order chicken stew with appams, but with a side order of bottle or bitter gourd (lauki and karela to you and me) for the pacifist vegetarian?
Why, when so much time is devoted to thinking up elaborate recipes for gosht biryani, furnish the less exalted diner with baingan by any other name -- aubergine, brinjal, eggplant?
Why, when a host is having a meltdown about the lack of vegetarian choices, is it okay for your wife to say, "It's all right, he'll just have some dahi," while cribbing on the way home that the hostess might have considered putting more than one meat dish on the table?
The real problem about being an occasional vegetarian is the confusion it causes with regard to one's dietary preference.
"Here, have a bite," said my son the other day, sharing a burger he'd ordered with me. It wasn't till I'd bitten off and chewed up a sizeable chunk that it occurred to me that it was tasting so good because its content was banned to my palate.
I polished it off anyway since wastefulness is not a quality my parents have instilled in me. There are honest mistakes and dishonest ones.
On flights, trying to find breathing space in a cramped middle row seat is enough to make one forget one's culinary choice, not that what passes for chicken on most airlines is any different from things inedible and tasting of blotting paper in curry.
But for a vegetarian starved of flesh, even rubber vindaloo can taste of gastronomic heaven.
On a family visit to a restaurant recently, I confess to deliberately ordering an array of dishes for their quantity of meat, everything from keema sliders and chicken wontons, to various forms of crustaceans, calamari and duck.
When breaking from the norm, why not make a virtue of it and go the whole hog?
Mostly, though, I'm an accidental non-vegetarian.
Not myself averse to eggs but seeking to order a quiche as a takeaway for a family member allergic to them, I assured myself that the pie was eggless without checking its contents, which is how I came to consume a quantity of ham and sausage for no fault of my own.
Last night, the macher jhol on the dining table smelled so delicious, I helped myself to a little curry with my red rice.
If some fish found its way -- entirely inadvertently -- on to my plate, how was I to blame?
I may be vegetarian by choice, but can’t fight the misdemeanours willed by fate.