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veggie good life

By KATHY MORAN, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 06, 2021 4:00 pm

I have been a vegetarian for the last 30 years of my life, and although the first 10 years were not easy, I must say that the last 10 has been a world of many new veggie food discoveries and meeting like-minded individuals. 

Last year was not a good year — with the pandemic and all — but one of the things 2020 helped me stay focused on was my health, what I ate and how I kept fit. That was one good thing that came out of last year: fruits, home-cooked veggies and lots of exercise kept my body healthy and my mind focused.

When I started out as a vegetarian in the late ’80s I was in my late 20s. Most Pinoys thought me queer and offered me the leftover vegetables, the salad or the sidings of meat meals that were usually overcooked and robbed of any nutritional value.

What began for me as a journey to control my weight became a life of respect for animals and all life forms, too.

Truth to tell, I never really lost too much weight, but the desire to care for animals and nature began to take center stage — and continues to do so for me in the year 2021.

There are all sorts of theories about diet and eating choices. 

What began for me as a journey to control my weight became a life of respect for animals and all life forms, too.

One that has made me who I am as a person is the theory that you are what you eat. I read up for years about the food we eat and didn’t want to become like a meat-eating animal that was fierce, like a lion, for instance. Yet the gentlest animals are vegetarian: a rabbit is one example.

Not to brag, but I became a champion power-lifter in my late 30s, having joined the Asian powerlifting competition in India in 2000 and placed second in my weight class and then again much later in 2019 when I won the best woman lifter in the senior division. It has convinced me that being vegetarian does not make you weak; only healthy, strong and focused.

Let me share with you the dining places my vegetarian journey has taken me through the years — and the discoveries I have made.

 One of the first: The barbecue at Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurant... now in malls.

1. Bodhi — I used to frequent the branch at Banawe. When I started out as a vegetarian it was easy to spot Bodhi, a veggie Chinese resto frequented by Buddhists. At the start, I liked Bodhi for the vegetarian siopao and barbecue, until I learned to prefer veggies to veggie meat. It was a welcome move when Bodhi went to the food court of SM Megamall. It is still out there with a whole slew of dishes that look too much like meat now. I still like a veggie siopao every now and then, but haven’t had one for a few years now.

 Not just rice and sidings: The Daily Veggie ‘N Cafe's rice meals are truly filling.

2. Daily Veggie N Cafe — Another cafe on Sto. Domingo street in Quezon City. When I wanted a quick rice-meal fix, Daily Veggie was the answer. The food was served hot and there was a corner grocery in-store where I could get some faux meat if I felt like having it at home.

 With fries, please: I love the falafel at Café Mediterranean because it has fries — a childhood fave.

3. Cafe Mediterranean — I like the falafel and although a good falafel can be had at other places, Cafe Med is where I got to love it first. There are lots of veggie choices at Cafe Med and that is always a good thing. The veggies are cooked well and not loaded with sauce to disguise the taste.

4. Corner Tree Café — I used to frequent the one on Jupiter for a fancy veggie meal. Now I go to Power Plant Mall. The food is good and the choices are many.

5. Any Indian or Chinese station at a hotel buffet. But my fave is the Indian spread at Spiral in Sofitel. I like the selection and Indian spices are truly flavorful.

 Had to try: The Good Burger is a vegetarian one at Shakey's

6. Veggie burgers – I must include The Shroom of Shake Shack, The Good Burger of Shakey’s, and the veggie burgers at Good Burgers in Pasig and Ecstasy on Jupiter. All are yummy with their own flavors of patty, sauces and fillings. 

 Always yummy: The ’Shroom burger at Shake Shack

I must not forget two of my newest resto discoveries: B and G for the vellychon, which I discovered at a food stall of DOT’s Kain Na Food Festival, and The Vegetarian Kitchen on IG for delivery during this pandemic.

 A surprise at a food fair: The Vellychon of B and E stall of DOT's Kain Na food fest

Vegetarian food offerings have grown in the last 30 years, yet many are copies of meat dishes made with vegetarian ingredients. Not food that a true, green-blooded vegetarian looks for.

I have heard a lot of meat-eaters say that they would rather have the real beef burger than eat a copy that is vegetarian. For me, I would rather eat a patty made of real green veggies than eat an imitation meat product. 

Well, at the end of the day, whatever your reason for eating what you do is a personal one, and I am happy that 2021 promises to be a year where healthy eating rules — vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, fruitarian, meat eater or whatever — let’s be happy for every eater and share a meal with all.

 #GoodBoy and corndogs: I had to have a corndog, too... and be a #GoodGirl. I got it at @corndog28ph.

Before I end, here’s a funny, yummy story. I watched Start-Up, a Korean TV series where the corndog as a Korean street food was at its center. Whenever the corndog was served I secretly wished a vegetarian version would be made; it wasn’t, in the series.

Recently, I was able to taste the mozzarella potato corndog at @corndog28ph. But their cheese is dairy and not vegetarian. 

It was yummy, still. I think I will order it again.

The choices of vegetarian meals are growing that there are too many to mention in one article and so, are the people opting for it. That can only be a good thing – for a gentler and kinder world.