It’s Not Easy Being Veg

by spaghettipirate

Ask me what my favourite cuisine is and hands down authentic (stressing the word “authentic” here) Mexican by far and away. Still, it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy life for a an up-and-coming vegetarian like myself. I’m happy to note however, that I have made a pointed effort to eat cleaner and leaner. And until yesterday’s birthday fiesta, I had managed to do exactly that! Huzzah for vegetarian life-styles 🙂

Mexicans (Latinos generally?) love to eat meat. Pork, chicken, beef, rabbit, grasshoppers – it’s hard to go out to eat and find a dish that *doesn’t* have meat in it. This is why I have been in large part capitalizing on cooking at home, and learning some of the kitchen tricks that my aunt has up her sleeve. There’s plenty of vegetables and especially varieties of fruit that one cannot get in the US, such as mamey or guanabana. Learning to cook vegetarian is a real treat, as it requires an inspiration and creativity that simply throwing a steak on a grill never achieves.

Still, yesterday was a long-time neighbor and friend of my aunt’s birthday and they invited us and about 30 other people to eat, drink, and dance well into the evening. The cuisine was standard Mexican fare – of tostadas and quesadillas and beans and tequila. Everything came full of meat, and particularly tasty was the pork leg tostadas that held an excellent texture profile, even if a little muted under the cream. I wasn’t about to turn down a tostada, and ultimately I am glad I didn’t, although I think the line between affirmatively eating meat, and going out to buy meat can be a little tenuous at times.

Dessert and the cake were by and away meh, but that shouldn’t surprise you – Mexican food is excellent for a meal, but their takes on what dessert constitutes are sorely lacking, in my opinion. Also, artificial cherry is just about the worst flavor profile there is, so flan and cherry flavoured gelatin is not my idea of a good birthday cake. But hey, my aunt gladly had my portion, and it wasn’t my birthday, so what can I say?

But okay, have you ever had some of the ways that they can prepare a dinner plate? Tender, falling of the bone, salsas complex and the right kind of spicy, mmmm #worthit (Except perhaps the chicharron, but I feel that has more to do with my trauma surrounding a particular spring day in Japan more than anything.)

The music was a little country for my taste, but put enough tequila in 60+ year olds and they’ll dance to just about anything. As for me, I dance freely to just about anything with a beat. (With the exception of the glitchy techno-music sub genres of EDM). It’s quite an experience getting into a dance circle with these ladies, disco lights and all; watching about four generations of family come together to celebrate the life of another human being. Definitely got in the middle of the dance circle a few times to bust a few moves myself, to the bemusement of all. (Because yes, I am just *that* good)

My aunt really is an excellent human being, because at this party there was a wheel-chair bound woman sitting at our table. When it came to dance, my aunt was first up to grab the chair and take her out on  a spin on the dance floor. The smile on the woman’s face is not something that I think I will forget anytime soon. She, waving her hands in the air, and wriggling her knees, was dancing just as hard as the rest of us, and when her chair was parked, my aunt made sure that she could see the rest of the parties nonsense.

I think that too often we are quick to overlook, forget, erase our elderly. I think it disgraceful how too often they are pushed to the corners of society, for not wanting to deal with their being. My grandmother has very poor short-term memory, but I couldn’t care less for the five topics of conversation we have on the daily – I just hug her and tell her how much I love her.

And so when I saw my aunt being the first on the dance floor and being attentive to this lady, well my heart just filled with love for my aunt and an understanding that this is what is important in life and how to be a good human being. Watching the face of a woman get to participate in something she didn’t think she could – that is just a beautiful moment.

The neighbors up the street were also having a fiesta of their own, and around midnight my aunt had to call the cops to ask the neighbors to turn down the volume of their karaoke. I for my part, was soundly asleep and only heard of this news secondhand.

Today, it was another meal invitation at another neighbor’s house, with some of the same people from the night before. More meat in a green mole sauce, but I swear, the lady of the house makes the best frijoles anyone could ever ask for.

We talked politics, political culture, and swapped various family stories. Decidedly less music this time.

So, in sum, I’m doing better by my standards on eating meat, but I think that to really keep to my codes, it will require more cooking at home than not. Which suits me fine, because I can pick up various techniques, and hopefully translate them when I get back stateside.