A Vegetarian Parsi

By Rakshande Italia / Inside TORONTO

DESI DIALOGUES: Turning vegetarian leaves a pleasant taste on the palate

The past 15 days have been one of my most testing times. That’s because I decided to turn completely vegetarian. The reason – my Ayurvedic doctor suggested that the herbal medicine he gave me for my knee joints could work more effectively if I gave up non-vegetarian fare.

I know a large majority of South Asians are vegetarian and I have many friends who swear by it, but I am not one of them – not by a long shot.

Not that I dislike vegetarian food. Having lived in an all-Hindu tenant building in India I’ve grown up with my share of non-meat alternatives.

But to turn vegetarian here is no easy feat since my family does not favour green food.

The no veggie concept, right or wrong, also stems from my background.

My family is Zoroastrian (also called Parsis in India).

This community is notoriously famous for being extremely partial to meat. For instance, other communities in India will love to be a guest at a Parsi wedding. I’m told it’s due to the gastronomical meat delights served with much fanfare and gusto.

At the weddings there are several chicken, goat, liver and meat dishes. Even the rice is topped with spicy lamb meat.

In fact, the obsession with non-vegetarian food is so strong that many Parsis will even top vegetable dishes with meat. For instance okra has meat in it, cauliflower can have meat in it and if meat isn’t available, then we would throw in some eggs.

Now that you have a picture of my household, you can imagine how my parents reacted to what they call this sudden "green revolution". Despite not-so-supportive remarks from my husband, I decided to stick to my new meal plan.

The change has been refreshing to say the least. With so many tasty South Asian dishes that can be cooked sans meat, I have not had to worry about what to cook?

In fact I think that because of the high percentage of Hindus, Indian food is perhaps the only cuisine in the world that has so many vegetarian options.

As well, the fact that South Asian vegetarians make use of several lentils and tropical vegetables and prop them up with spicy masalas and condiments only brings zest to this cuisine. That can be borne out by hundreds of vegetarian restaurants in India, that now even adapt to other cuisines such as Chinese, Mexican and Korean to make their own concoctions of veggie fare.

But the biggest myth I seem to have broken, is that I can survive Canada’s cold weather – even if that means staying on vegetables. My concerned neighbours and friends were apprehensive initially and told me that with Canada’s chilly weather, the intake of meats providing high protein and iron content is mandatory, and that veggies and lentils alone may not suffice.

But I feel good after a fortnight, and most importantly have lost a ton of weight, which makes me feel 10-times better.

The only question for me now is: how long will the honeymoon last? As I continue to make non-vegetarian fare for my family and the party season sneaks up on us will I want to dig into those lovely pork and chicken dishes laid out at parties?

Or, will I call for another batch of herbal Ayurvedic medicine once the current batch runs out in the next two months to keep me on track?

  • Swell article… makes me wish to write one on my own!!! I live in Ahmedabad, which is in Gujarat, which means no-non-veg, and certainly no drink…
    The sentiments are the same, though i wouldn’t think that i am a habitual drinker, but once in a while i do miss the little tipple or two… fortunately, mumbai and the extended family is not that far off..

    🙂
    shehzad

  • upendra

    Hello Rakshandeji
    I wish you sucess in your new menu. Of course when you cook for them non-veg then it will difficult, to have a flavour but can’t touch just like sweets for diabetics people.
    In gujarati story book “Ame Bhanvagarna” by “Shri Kishor Raval” are living tales “Bhavnagar” the letter v change with n for intensely. In there one story grandama of guj veg family in usa makes non veg dishes for pleasant of grand kids.

    I know the cold in NZ and during sapare time colected veg cooks from diff regions dishes, video, receipes from diff blogs, now that has reached to 5GB. So if you have interest let me know.
    For Adult:
    1. Take one spoon of CASTOR OIL every month for lubrication of our body.
    2. Take butter milk (chass-lassi) or yogurt in a day two times after the meal. or after dinner. With any allopathic medicines bad and good bacteria dies in stomach. Without good bacteria many other body diease created which will keep doctor and keep healthy.

  • upendra

    Hello Rakshandeji
    Shri Kishor Raval is living in Philadelphia and his wwww.kesuda.com site many interesting things you will find. upload Gujarti fonts from site.

    “Dhansak” is my favorite dish thanks to GITs India.
    Best wishes

  • Rohinton

    Hi Rakshande, I was so tempted to read an article since in my personal views – Parsis and veg are oximorons. Not to say I do not know of Parsis who r veg, I am a hard core Non-veg

    I wish you luck on your health spree… Tc

  • upendra

    Hello Rakshandeji
    sorry it is http://www.kesuda.com

  • Mehernaaz

    Rakshande,

    Being vegetarian is not very difficult. Of course you can be an occasional non-veggie and relish those pork chops.
    I for one love veg food. We’ve grown up with a vegetarian mother so Arzan and i have no real qualms of eating ghaspus. Though Arzan is more reluctant than i am. But i believe my mother faced a lot of flak in her earlier years for being a vegetarian.
    More strength to you i say!

    @ Shehzad, amdavad ma daru nai male? Ne non veg bhi? You and K being resourceful people can surely not have a complaint about the food, at least for home consumption. But i still feel bad for you. Bombay aav, we’ll go eat some juicy meat.

  • Mahernosh Ichhaporia

    Hi all, I am mahernosh, from surat. I have been vegetarian since last 21 years or so. I came to know from someone that even our paigambar saheb auso zarthost was vegetarian. Is this true. Pls any parsis who have knowledge on this. this is just for my knowledge purpose.my mail id is merrnosh@gmail.com, glad to hear on this mail