I went to Indonesian Christmas party today, catching up with old friends, sharing stories, and at the centre of this gathering: sharing food!
The little problem that I faced was that I have recently decided to become vegan and gave up all animal products. There is no cencept of vegetarianism not to mention veganism in Indonesian - and most South East Asia - culture. When I lived in Indonesia, being vegetarian means not eating meat. I, like most Indonesians, never fussed about how the food was cooked. If there is a bit if meat in the stew, just took them out and eat the vegetables. Being fussy means troubling others and we Indonesian don't like to trouble others.
So today, seeing old friends and a table full of authentic Indonesian food (and after hours of writing essay I was hungry...!) I decided to forget veganism and be Indonesian. Gosh what a wonderful taste authentic Indonesian foods are! 👍😋 My best friend Heni made "soto mie", noodle soup with sliced springrolls, vegetable and all sorts of cow's inside.
As an Indonesian vegetarian, this is what I did: I 'donated' all the meat and parts of dead cow on my plate to whoever next to me. I never met the girl next to me, she is one of the new Indonesian student in Manchester. But it does not matter, she was very very happy and grateful for the extra meat...!
This reminds me of my mutual symbiotic relationship with a carnivore friend called Patrick. He hates vegetable and I don't eat meat. During our days of working on the streets of Jakarta, we always sat next to each other for lunch. Whether street vendor's "nasi bungkus" or posh meals during seminars in five star hotels, if the meal was prepacked, we just swap meat and vegetable. Win-win!
So even though I'm keeping my vegan lifestyle as consistent as possible, I am still in my heart, an authentic Indonesian. And the Indonesian way of being vegetarian is not to make a fuss and to make the person next to you happy 😃😜
Ps. This is Heni's daughter Chinta (Indonesian word for Love). I vote her chocolate-smeared face as the definition of happines.