Why I Became a Vegetable Lover

About seven years ago, I got asthma whenever I had a cold. Job stress was the worst it¡¯s ever been in my life, and I drank more. So I started to gain weight. And I hated to eat out without knowing what I was eating. That¡¯s how I became interested in a vegetable diet.

People say vegetarianism is spreading, but vegetarians still account for only about 5 percent of the population. To be exact, a vegetable diet only allows very restrictive menus, and even requires a special way of living. Strictly speaking, vegetarians should not eat any animal meat including beef, pork and chicken, all the poultry, fish and shellfish.

Vegetarians are classified into three groups according to how much protein such as eggs and dairy products they eat. Lacto-ovo vegetarians don't eat meat, but they may eat eggs, milk and other dairy products including butter, cheese and cream. They get enough protein and calcium, and also eat as much cake and bread as they want. Books for vegetarians currently on the market usually target these lacto-ovo vegetarians.

More picky eaters are lacto vegetarians. Lacto vegetarians eat all of what lacto-ovo vegetarians eat except eggs. Accordingly, they can¡¯t eat cake, bread or mayonnaise which are made with eggs. The most fussy eaters are vegans. Vegans don't eat any animal products, not even honey made by bees.

After peeking around various vegetarian clubs online and offline and heading abroad to learn cooking, I realized that it is almost impossible for me to be a vegetarian. In the end, I decided to remain just a vegetable lover.

These days, among people who feel they¡¯re very ¡°Gangnam¡± (after the affluent part of Seoul south of the Han River), there are too many vegetarians. I¡¯ve never seen any of these so-called vegetarians scrupulously ask the chef about the menu and figure out what the dishes contain. And some of them even wear calfskin shoes and carry alligator handbags. They don't realize that their spaghetti with cream sauce has bacon in it and never check whether their Caesar Salad contains anchovies.

What¡¯s worse, some restaurants put absurd prices on what they call "eco-friendly" and "organic" food, with a calorie chart attached like a bonus. I wonder whether they want to propagate a vegetable diet and an eco-friendly lifestyle or they¡¯re just proposing a new aristocracy of expensive vegetable dishes.

There is no boundary to vegetable dishes. The chefs who focus on vegetables are expert at bringing out the original flavor of raw materials. They have tried to break new ground with plain vegetables and finally their efforts led to diversified vegetables meals. I want to eat tasty vegetables dishes at moderate prices but which are faithful to the basic principles.
The story was contributed by food columnist Cha Yoo-jean.

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