I woke up one morning and decided to become a vegetarian for 1 month. To be completely truthful, I did read about being a vegetarian and my attempt to become one was not fueled by a desire to do right by the animals. It was not for spiritual reasons and I was not trying to save the environment. It was not even for health reasons.
My decision to not eat meat or fish for 1 month was not reasonable to anyone I told. I planned to eat eggs occasionally and take out beef, chicken, fish and any other form of animal flesh. Honestly, I felt it would be easy. I felt this way because, as a Nigerian, the meat or fish is not the meal. It is just the part we eat last in a meal (or first for some people).
However, I learnt some valuable lessons during my 1 month stint as a vegetarian:
A meal plan is essential
The easiest way to keep the temptation of consuming meat or fish at bay is to have a meal plan. This way, the desire to eat out is reduced and the temptation or ordering a dish with meat or fish is brought to a stop.
Furthermore, by having a meal plan, you become more aware of the ingredients you need to prepare your meals. It was during this process I discovered I would have to eliminate crayfish and periwinkles from soups.
Eating out is tricky for a vegetarian
If indeed you decide to eat out, I have come to realize that vegetarian restaurants are not popular in most Nigerian states. I doubt there is one in Delta or Edo state (I could be wrong). For this reason, if you are a new/temporary vegetarian, I recommend purchasing a simple meal that does not have pieces of minced meat, ham, seafood etc. Fried rice is the usual culprit, but I once purchased some coleslaw and saw little pieces of ham in it.
On the brighter side, you can still buy sweet pastries; they may include eggs and milk, but not meat or fish.
The awkwardness of leaving meat or fish on your plate when visiting or eating out
When eating out or being hosted by a friend, leaving perfectly good meat on your plate is usually accompanied by an odd feeling. It helps to have someone who does not mind helping you consume the meaty parts of your uneaten meal.
It is usually better that you inform your host of your dietary choices before they serve your food.
Willpower is Key
As with every major life change we make, eating a vegetarian diet requires willpower. After the first week, I began craving meat. I could eat egg, but it was not the same, OBVIOUSLY!
By the second week, that small part of eating a Nigerian meal became a huge part. I initially felt meat was just the item that accompanied the food but by the second week, my views changed. Peppersoup and yam without meat or fresh fish was just plain wrong. Egusi soup minus meat did not feel right.
That said, I did not feel bad, nothing was wrong with my health. I just had a craving. It did not help that I lived in a hostel or that my best friend had a great love for fried turkey laps. By the fourth week, the craving had reduced, though.
Not everyone will understand
The final lesson I learnt is that no matter what your reason is for becoming a vegetarian, some people will not understand. My friend’s roommate thought I decided to become vegetarian because I was broke. She did not voice her opinion out loud until we went to an eatery to get some food.
I requested for my food without meat and she chose that time to shout out her thoughts by asking very publicly ‘Are you broke?’ Even after explaining the benefits of vegetarianism, there was no convincing her.
Did I experience a life change while eating a vegetarian diet? No, I did not. Did I lose weight? No, I find this to be a common misconception. Will I be going on a vegetarian diet again? No.
Are you a Nigerian vegetarian or vegan? I would like to know. If you aren’t, would you be willing to give up eating meat or fish?
Leave your opinions below as I am quite curious to know if we a have a large vegetarian or even vegan population in Nigeria.
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