Posted in Of Psyche

Of Diet

Fried Chicken

I realize it has become too easy to find a diet to fit in with whatever you happen to feel like eating and that diets are not there to be picked and mixed but picked and stuck to, which is exactly what I shall begin to do once I’ve eaten this chocolate croissant. – Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’s Diary

For most of my life, I have been semi-vegetarian. Or flexitarian, as it is also called, though that is deceptively flexible. I explain my diet as simply, “One that I can’t make anybody happy with.” In practice, it translates into, “I generally eat vegetables, fruit and grain but, sometimes, I eat meat and dairy, but there’s no pressure involved.”

I have experimented, though. Towards the beginning of 2011, I decided to become vegetarian. Some of it was on principle, but it was mostly boredom. I just got bored of something that has a ‘treat’ status (as meat and fish do in India, even if its part of the daily diet for many) and thought, what the heck, let’s experiment. I did it for six months, and felt no inner-conflict whatsoever, though much external criticism. I had a party where I ordered non-vegetarian fare, but felt no temptation despite having such power over it. I went for a beach holiday, and felt blissfully impervious to all the seafood around.

I finally gave in when, after a long day applying for jobs in the blistering sun, I felt I was about to collapse unless I filled my belly, and the only restaurant my friend and I could afford in the area happened to be a meat-heavy one. I was neither relieved nor grossed out to be having meat again. Just disappointed at what emotional and intellectual baggage it was to be carrying around a diet ethic that was not popular where you live, but that only concerns your own body and nobody else’s.

And so, I decided to stop claiming anything, unless it was absolutely necessary to. What had mainly been an experiment, an attempt to be relieved of boredom, had also been a social struggle. What I ate seemed to matter more to who ate with me, than myself.


I also tried going gluten-free for a month. This time, it was to see if it aids digestion. I thought it would be easy, because I love rice, and don’t care much about flour. Or, so I thought. By the end of it, I was sick to death of even my favourite rice preparations, and craved rotis. Sure, if I had taken a more active role in the project, researching and trying various gluten-free recipes, maybe it would have worked. But, I’m not that person. I need fast, I need convenient, I need comfort. I also needed to start loving rice again, by denying it to myself for a while.

I’ve never done a proper weight-loss diet. I never had to before, even when my body filled out a bit in post-pubescent years. I’ve struggled with weight gain 2013 onwards, but I know if I approach my diet as something rigid, depressing and self-denying, I won’t last a week at it. I enjoy food, as you might tell by now by the profusion of food-related blog posts lately. I am completely emotional about it. If I am faced with drab, dreary stuff, I crave for technicolour. If it’s too rich and indulgent, my gag reflex buckles up. Food is a simple pleasure for me. It has to be simple, but it has to be pleasurable, in order to be true.

My aunt kindly sent me some homemade chicken curry on Sunday. It’ s always a pleasure, but I had difficulty having it this time, and ultimately had to throw away half of it. The reason was, I had been to the market the previous day, and a bunch of chickens had been staring very intently at me, as if they were looking into my soul. It weirded me out, and I could not remove that image whilst having the curry.

I remember I am a complete hypocrite everytime I have meat. Because I’ve always been disturbed by the ‘act’ of getting it from life to what’s cooked and served on the plate. And I know I could completely abstain from it, as I have done before, without going militantly vegetarian on anybody. But, I know I enjoy it (I’ve only ever had chicken and fish), I’m often in close proximity to it, and even if I refuse to have it, which still happens from time to time, it automatically urges people to go on a mission and make me have it, or judge me because I won’t.

Indian Buffet

I wouldn’t recommend semi-vegetarianism to anyone, as I’ve struggled with it health-wise. I’ve had protein deficiencies, because there are very few foods I enjoy that can make up for the daily requisite amount of protein (I don’t like dairy). But, it’s just a way of not stepping on anyone’s toes, because the best way you can please people diet-wise is telling them you follow none. Tell them you eat whatever you want, and then eat what you want.

What diet do you follow?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

11 thoughts on “Of Diet

  1. Oh, my, you have a complicated relationship with food! I’m Jewish but have never kept strictly kosher. I’ve never attempted to go vegetarian, either. At this point, I just try to eat things that don’t irritate my sensitive digestive system 😉

    1. Yes! We’ve discussed that before, haven’t we. I’ve heard fruits aid digestion and though I really like it, I’ve been so bad with it. I made myself have an Indian pear and a pomegranate today!

  2. It’s too bad that people are not understanding about how you want to eat. In my experience, at least some of this tendency of pushiness has to do with people not dealing with their own self-worth issues, and needing others to eat the same way to feel ok about themselves.

    I was a semi-vegetarian for a while, but, like you, my body does better with some meat. I try to eat lots of green things, root vegetables, acorns I gather myself, wild meat, homemade condiments and farm eggs along with the occasional panful of grocery store thick cut bacon. In small amounts, I love kettle cooked jalepeño potato chips, red wine, and Guinness! And I love chocolate, good cheese, homemade bread, and really dark gingerbread cake or cookies! Food to me once upon a time was full of stress and guilt. Food to me now = happiness and joy!

    1. How I’d love to get back to that! I’m salivating just reading your favourites list! I did tell you about my love for okra/lady’s finger, I think. Not many are fans of it like I am!

      1. What are your favorite okra preparations? I love it fried, or stewed with tomatoes, mint, and cumin!

      2. Gosh, it’s been such a while since I’ve caught up with you Elka! I hope you’re doing well. Did you manage to see the video I sent you?

        I can’t pick a favourite, because I’m always up for it in whatever form! I suppose I like it best when it’s made with mustard, whether it be seeds, with mustard pickle etc. I don’t mind having it boiled with rice and butter, when it’s all slippery! I’m not a big fan of mint, or even cumin for that matter, but if okra’s involved, I won’t mind!

  3. Mustard pickle sounds interesting, I will look up more about it, thanks! And I will have to try okra with mustard seed– sounds great!

    Now I’m curious, what spices and/or other flavorings do you put in your dahl? I have to put cumin in every pot of beans and lentils I make, or it doesn’t taste right to me!

    I haven’t been online much, just checking emails occasionally, busy with piles of pears and peppers and grape leaves and other lovely things to harvest and process!

    Yes, I did get to watch the video you sent me, and I really appreciated getting to see it, thank you so much! It seems like something everyone interested in writing, and in other cultures, could benefit from seeing. I really liked how she talked about the ways that cultures can get too myopic, and of her own efforts to counteract this tendency. And of the ways she has been expected to represent “the Turkish woman” in her fiction writing, instead of a writer who is simply a writer with an imagination, who can speak from many different points of view.

    I also got to hear you reading Shakespeare! Beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time, especially with your problematic wi fi!

      I’m a big fan of mustard, and pretty much have it with anything non-sweet! It is very difficult to make food without cumin here, as it’s so central to even the most basic of dishes. I don’t avoid it, but I just don’t like it. There’s something called jeera (cumin) rice which is very popular in ‘eating out’ situations, and I can’t stand it at all! As to dal, I could write an entire book on the subject! There are endless varieties and preparations, but my fave is probably anything to do with moong (or green gram), even if it’s just a basic one with chillies and onion. The best thing about Indian cuisine is, other than the fact it’s so varied, that you make things as simple or as complicated you want them to be. As a general rule, I like my food simpler, with less spices, oil et al, and let the actual flavour of the veggies, meat or fish do the talking. I feel too many spices can often mask their flavours. It’s better for the stomach too!

      Elif Shafak’s TED talk changed my life. And the perceptions she talks about isn’t limited to just a Western perspective on literature from the East. There are also some inherent attitudes that are not necessarily traditional, but strangely limiting. Like the multicultural literature panel she talked about, where she got clubbed together with other writers from other cultures who had nothing in common, except that they write in English. That is so true in the academic and publishing world, and people don’t seem to have any problem with it.

      1. I will look up moong/green gram— never heard of it!
        I’d imagine not liking cumin would be a good incentive for making dal just the way you like it – at home! How annoying that must be to you that cumin is in so many things there! Do you like turmeric? How about curry leaf? Someone sent me a lot of fresh curry leaves a few years ago, which I dried, and they are so potent I have to cook them outside or some people in the family will literally choke when they walk into the kitchen!

        That’s great that you are so familiar with so many different dal preparations. I like simple preparations often too, but I like to have a lot of different foods served like condiments along with simple foods in order to vary the experience– yogurt, lemon, herbs, garlic, chiles often served on the side. Plus that way different people sharing the meal don’t have to eat chiles or lemon, or whatever, if they prefer the meal without these things.

        Yes, that was ridiculous how they grouped all the “multicultural” writers together, but unfortunately typical of the Western mindset. Of course people in general don’t have a problem with it. Let’s just keep everyone in their handy little boxes and we can pretend that we’re all so open minded because we were so generous to fashion such pretty little boxes for them!

        I also loved her speaking of the tradition of covering the mirrors with velvet– I want to watch that part again, actually. The image stuck with me so strongly but not all the context. Do you remember if she said that the tradition was created so that people would be reminded not to be so self-involved, and for us to look within and to look for connection with others outside our limited spheres of influence rather than being so focused on ourselves? Or was she taking a tradition and speaking to the ways we might apply it to our larger actions?

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