A month back I read a blog talking about bento lunches. After that I got a bento-healthy-lunch kick, and while I was searching for other sites talking about bento lunches and where they get their bento boxes, I stumbled upon a couple of vegan sites. I’d been wanting to add more vegetables to our diet, and the creative dishes I’ve seen on these sites are inspirational. And so, to my meat-and-potatoes hubby’s chagrin, I’ve been trying out the recipes since. Actually, I haven’t even followed the vegan recipes all the way – I use eggs and milk, and sometime I add a little meat just to convince my other half that I won’t be replacing his wool trousers with hemp any time soon.
In fact, I tried vegetarian during my preteen years. At that time, I didn’t want the grown-ups to know my intention, and pretended that I was just being a picky-eater (I figured being a picky-eater would cause less stress all around and less “correctional” measures from my parents.) It wasn’t because I didn’t like eating meat (my mother and my grandmothers are great cooks), but because of the religious books I read in my maternal grandfather’s study. You see, in Taiwan, people grow up with a lot of Taoism and Buddhism ideology infused into them. When asked about their religion, most people would say either Buddhism or Taoism, just because that’s what their parents would say, even if they’ve never touched any holy books of either religion or even know the difference between the two. But everyone can recite some of the Buddhist/Taoist ideas they’ve heard growing up. My maternal grandfather had a lot of religious books, some of them are periodicals, which I suspect were sent to him simply because he was a somewhat visible person in the city’s government. And I used to read whatever printed materials I could lay my hands on. So I read those. This is the type of content you would read in these reading materials: when people die, people will reincarnate to different places/levels, based on their merits and sins while they were alive. And so, if you are a very good person, you just might make it to heaven. If you’re not that good, but okay, you can reincarnate to be a human again. But if you’re a cheater, thief, loan shark, then you may reincarnate to be a pig, a dog, a cat, or a stink bug, etc. So, then the articles drill this idea into you: the pork chop you had last night could be from the pig who used to be your mother-in-law in the last life. In one of these periodicals, there was this special section, where you could have a “tour” of the underworld. The way it went was that the underworld gods had given a special permission for a medium in this temple (which produced the periodical) to tour the underworld in spirit with an underground “official”, and in each “Underworld Travel Note” session he would be describing the scenes he “saw” and transcribing the interviews with various departed souls while he was “there”. (Sounds like a 60 Minutes Barbara Walters exclusive interview, doesn’t it?) Imagine my fear of heaping any more transgressions on my already sinful soul by eating meat at that tender age… Although I never figured out why my maternal grandfather never had an issue with eating meat. My paternal grandfather, on the other hand, never failed to tell us that pigs were raised to be put on the dinner table.
Several of my relatives have embraced vegetarian diet in one form or another: not eating beef, vegetarian breakfast only, as well as a full-fledged ovolacto-vegetarian diet. It would pique their interest to hear about vegetarian/vegan practices in the west. Last summer when my sister visited Taiwan, my paternal grandmother told my sister this story: one afternoon she had a vision, in which her eldest daughter and husband had appeared to her (both of them had died for some time), one on each side. (My grandmother is over 90 years old. She probably dozed off.) She said to the vision of her husband, “I’m not going with you. I’m going with our daughter.” She explained to my sister, “Your aunt was a vegetarian. So she probably went to heaven. As for your grandfather, well, you can’t be so sure…” It’s an issue pertaining to eternal life for her.