I really like it when things line up naturally. 100 days ago, when I had my first day of living animal free and plant strong, I had no idea that I would be celebrating this base-10 benchmark on the first day of the Chinese New Year. Amazingly enough, the Year of the Rabbit has been retired and the Year of the Dragon is dominating the Chinese lunar calendar now.
I was born during the Year of the Rat. I know this because I spent most of the 90’s in various Chinese Buffets reading the paper place mats and doing my best to make them regret calling it All You Can Eat. In fact, it was during this time that a lot of restaurants changed the verbiage to All You Care to Eat. I always assumed it was in an effort to reduce the amount that I devoured but unfortunately for all of us it backfired horribly. As it turned out, the amount I was able to eat was even less than what I cared to eat. I would finish the fifth full plate knowing that I’d packed every square inch of available GI tract with General Tso’s Chicken and egg rolls. Sick as it was I wanted to eat one more plate despite my body’s warning that another bite might cause a partially digested Mt. Vesuvius style eruption.
Obviously, there are many factors that cause humans to do this to themselves. It would be easy to say it was the fault of meat, cheese, media, and the government. I know it is easy because I do blame them too, but never without framing it in the context of the real issue: me. It might take two to tango, and according to some reports, three people might be needed for changing light bulbs, but only one person is ultimately responsible for opening their mouth and putting food in it. If you are willing to accept that you are the reason there is a problem then you are able to make the shift in yourself that is needed to change.
Last night, as the Year of the Rabbit hopped into the record books, Shannon and I enjoyed a New Years Eve party with dancing dragons, fan dancing, acrobatics and the most amazing food I’ve had in a while. My favorite part of the the food was that it was a meal of things I would have never eaten before. Without joking, I can say that in years past I would have left the barrels of food behind this event and visited a buffet of some sort on the way home. The food being offered was everything I ever avoided on a standard American Chinese Buffet. It was green, not fried, not covered in a sweet sauce, and not named after a General.
However, 100 days of living a new life has caused a fundamental shift in my brain. There is no other way to put it. I have been won over to the Green Side. The way the Hot Pot Dinner worked was communal cooking/eating/sharing at its best. A cauldron filled with boiling water, along with cabage leaves, roots, and vegetables was in the middle of each table. It was up to the revelers to decide what fake meats and extra veggies to add to the boiling water. After five minutes of boiling and steaming, the lid was removed and the 6-8 people seated at the table reached in using chop sticks and ladles to retrieve their specific contribution to the mixture.
My favorite part of this community food trough is that whether you dumped tarot root, mushrooms, or fried gluten in the mix, when you retrieved your portion of the grub you were bound to have a sampling of bits from everyone’s additions. I tired everything available and was beyond amazed by the entire event. The food was divine, but the way that a quiet table full of awkward strangers transforms into a sharing and caring family with the mere addition of food amazes me.
100 days seemed like an eternity of herbivore eating when I started. It seems like only yesterday and also 100 years ago at the same time. I have a new life and I am a new man. This new way of living has become the life I look forward to leading and not one that I was forced into with fear and self-preservation as the driving force behind the change.
Happy New Year to you all, and may the Year of the Dragon bring peace, prosperity, and Hot Pot Dinners to you and your loved ones.