The food of love
My grandmother used to eat her salad with fingers. And while all the others tried to make me eat it with a fork, the two of us would smack our lips with delight, happily sharing our mutual disobedience that drove the rest of the family insane.
Food has always been in the centre od our family life. Getting around the table wasn't just about having lunch or dinner, it was about taking part in a feast enriched with conversations and laughter. That's why I always looked on food as something that said more about the history and character of an individual rather than about his or her biological needs.
The smell of sataraš (a light stew made of paprika and tomatoes) always brings me back to my grandma's terrace on a summer day where she used to prepare it with love, singing, in order to please her spoiled granddaughter. In winter she would make thick meatless bean stew, so uniquely delicious that once I almost ended up in hospital after a third empty plate!
Food often reminds me of childhood and it brings back happy memories. Although my family was always closer to omnivorous nutrition, noone has ever pressured me into eating meat. Ever since I was a child I have been claiming I am a vegetarian, but I would soon end my vegetarianism on behalf of the easter ham, and some still rub my nose in it.
Being raised on the streets of the capital city, of course I knew nothing about meat industry nor did I see what happened to animals, but had I known the truth behind breaded chicken wings sooner, I firmly believe I would have never put them in my mouth.
When I became a vegetarian when I was about 18 years old, my family readily embraced mastering the art of vegetarian cooking. Even my grandfather prepared mushroom stuffed cabbage leaves and pumpkin sauce with special delight, only to prevent me from being hungry, since hunger is the biggest enemy of my family we fight more than successfully.
Still, veganism was welcomed with slight disapproval, and the main argument against it was: „What on earth are we going to cook for you now?“. But my mother and my aunts soon buried the argument under the vegan mađarica (traditional layer cake), different sauces and other gourmet masterpieces after I explained my reasons for this cruelty-free diet. They are very simple – each living being fells both sorrow and happiness, we are all made equal and we should peacefully try to achieve fullness in our lives, at the same time taking care of the others and of our planet.
After several conversations with my mother about animal suffering and ecology, she started consuming less meat, almost no meat at all. She still refuses to watch the documentaries I recomended because she fears she'll end up being a vegan too . I am grateful I am surrounded by people who understand and love me enough they want to understand the food I want to eat, and often they give up on cruel meals and enjoy food that isn't animal-based. I even think they enjoy vegan food even more because they know that no living being had to suffer.
I still eat my salat with fingers as I did when I was a child and I remember my grandmother and her tenderness with every bite I take. And it is because of all beautiful souls that surround me that I choose veganism because it is in itself a gift of love, the same love I've been surrounded with my whole life.