For as long as I can remember chicken has been one of my favourite foods. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, chilli chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken burger, roast chicken; you name it and I loved it. I grew up loving chicken. My mum loves to tell at a story from when I was younger, about the time I had a tantrum in a fancy restaurant because there was not enough chicken in my cream of chicken soup. Apparently, there I sat in my baby high-chair, demanding more chicken. I was only satisfied after the poor waiter placed a bowl full of boiled chicken in front of me.
Fast forward a few years, I’m having a very serious conversation with my friend about what kind of future husbands we’d like. We both agreed, high on the list, was that our respective future husbands would have to be “non-vegetarian” so we can share food, especially on a date. It was an important logistical concern. After all being married to a vegetarian person would be so boring, wouldn’t it?!
Now that I’m older and wiser, my criteria for best husband no longer includes this. Quite the opposite, in fact. While I’m not a full vegetarian, I find myself eating meat only once or twice a week, opposed to lunch and dinner every day. How did this happen?
Over the last decade there has been a steadily rising consensus that excessive meat is bad for health and the environment. There have always been people I knew that were vegetarian for religious reasons or because they abhorred the idea of eating something that had once been alive. But this movement struck a different chord.
For years I refused to watch documentaries that showed the reality of how pigs and chickens bred for meat production were treated because I loved my chicken too much. Pretending by not watching something that it could change reality…ah the folly of youth.
After some adventurous travels and horrible stomach infections, in 2016 I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It was like a kick in the gut (literally) for a food lover. I now couldn’t really digest some of my all time favourite foods. My journey began, spending time figuring out what type of food I could eat without causing pain. This was a challenge in itself. Dairy, which included my favourite morning coffee, was no longer an option. Any eggs and meat I chose to eat would have to be organic. Pizza, everyone’s favourite food, was a monster in my stomach.
Research started showing how eating meat could lead to antibiotic resistance and unbalanced hormones in human beings. There was more evidence to show that breeding animals for consumption contributes hugely to carbon emissions. In fact, a 2019 study by Cambridge University showed that the biggest step human-beings can take to prevent climate change is to become vegan – aka stop eating meat or dairy and have a plant-based diet.
The Netflix documentary – The Game Changers, further dispelled any beliefs that eating meat was essential to build muscle and improve athletic performance. I began to think that maybe having IBS was not the worst thing in the world. It had inadvertently propelled me into doing something that could positively change the future of our planet. And you know what, that felt good.
Being strictly vegan is not easy and frankly it’s not always possible. Europe is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world, ensuring large scale availability of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy. When you travel, alternatives don’t always exist. On my work trips to Nigeria, I found it really hard to get anything vegetarian to eat, as it isn’t part of the Nigerian staple diet. We need to be aware that it’s not correct to have blanket expectations on everyone’s diet or judge them on what they can and cannot do.
My motto is anything in moderation is okay as long as you are doing your bit, in your own way.
I don’t like lentils, so instead I eat a lot of eggs and tofu, and occasionally some meat. I’ve given up dairy, as that is something I can easily do. A friend of mine is strictly vegetarian but loves her cheese so isn’t dairy free. My motto is anything in moderation is okay as long as you are doing your bit, in your own way. I like to think we’re both contributing in our own way. Whether its ‘Meat free Monday’ or No Meat lunches or Veganuary – do what you can. No step is too small or any action too big.
Don’t let the daunting goal of being strictly vegan intimidate you. You don’t have to be! The key message to remember is that every action matters. Don’t ever doubt if you will make a difference. You always will.
London is an amazing place to be when looking for vegetarian or vegan options, whether in supermarkets or restaurants. I’m particularly excited about Tula’s upcoming menu – soon to launch across South London. They’re always aiming to be 50% vegetarian within it’s tasty Indian food. Good vegetarian food does not even require any artificially created substitutes like meat free sausages, which is exactly what Tula’s menu and food proves.
On World Environment Day 2020, make your pledge. How will you be adapting your diet to help your environment today?
Check our menu, dedicate to 50% of dishes being meat-free!
Roasted lamb chops with ginger, toasted cumin, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
A delicate cod curry cooked in coconut and spiced with peppercorns, clove and cardamom.