Ox Tongue with Salt and Mustard
Back home, it’s difficult enough to explain why I’m a vegetarian. Even though in Vancouver it sometimes seems more socially acceptable to have a food restraint than to be an old-fashioned omnivore! Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, raw… vegetarianism is actually low on the list of limitations.
I’ve met a few other vegetarians and vegans in South Africa, but many people I’ve met don’t even understand the concept. They think I must be allergic to meat – why would I choose not to eat it?
South African’s love their braais, which Afrikaans for “BBQ. Meat, meat, and more meat.
One coworker was trying to convince me that I must try some braaivleis (“grilled meat”) before I leave:
“There’s nothing like a good braai. Sheep is the best! It’s so tender. Or ox tongue. Yes, ox tongue with a little bit of salt and mustard. Once you try that, you’ll be back on meat.”
He was so engrossed in his descriptions he didn’t notice I’d gone a slight shade of green.
Today a different coworker saw me eating my salad lunch. He said, “So you’re 100% vegetarian? No meat?”
“That’s right,” I said.
“For how long?”
“Seven years. Since I was a teenager.”
That’s a good question. The truth is that I went to bed one night and decided, “I’m going to be more careful about what I put in my body. No more crap. In fact, I think I’ll be a vegetarian!”
My parents were great about it. Without any prior warning, I announced, “From now on, I’m a vegetarian.”
Short pause. Then my mum said, “I think I’ll become a vegetarian too.”
I guess the idea had been in my head for a while. Once I started cooking a lot and handled raw meat, it made me realize that I was eating an animal. I knew I could never kill a cow and cut it up (unless there were no other food options available) and it bothered me to pay someone else to do it.
I didn’t tell my coworker all this. He wanted a short answer and the language difference made me simplify my response. I said, “Once I started cooking and saw raw meat, it… it made me a lot closer to the animal.”
What a terrible response. He burst out laughing. I laughed too. “Closer to the animal” – could I have sounded any more like a flaky hippy?
Don’t worry fellow vegetarians! Even though everyone in the office thinks I’m weird for my food choices, it’s easy enough being a vegetarian here. Many of the cheap restaurants don’t have vegetarian options except ice burg lettuce salads or French fries, but all the mid-range+ restaurants have the usual variety.
Eating ox tongue is not necessary for survival.