For years, I have wondered about what we eat and found that it varies from family to family and individual to individual. Based on such variations, the world population may be divided into two major categories – vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Vegetarians are those who eat only foods from plant origin whereas non-vegetarians eat foods of animal origin. Plant foods are generally cereals (rice, wheat, sorghum, millets etc.), pulses (beans, peas, chickpea, pigeon pea, lentil etc.), and fruits and vegetables. They do consume milk and milk products which come from animals like cows, buffalos, goats and camels. Still there are variations among vegetarians. In general, vegetarians from West Bengal consider fish and egg as vegetarian foods. Thus vegetarian foods vary depending on the people who consume them.
Non-vegetarians eat purely food from animal source such as mutton, chicken, beef, pork, etc. They also consume eggs and fishes. Along with all these dishes non-vegetarians eat cereals, pulses, dairy products and fruits too. So non-vegetarians are vegetarians too. Thus it is difficult to distinguish the two categories. There are full time non-vegetarians as we find in Western countries, whereas in India only a small proportion of people belong to this category. Majority of non-vegetarians are only partials. They do eat vegetarian foods too, but the reverse is not practiced. Most of the vegetarians are strict and do not eat non-vegetarian foods. They do not enter a non-vegetarian restaurant even though it serves vegetarian food also. However, some of the vegetarians taste the non-vegetarian foods also nowadays. Thus differences in food habit are prevailing all over the world!
‘Eating non-vegetarian food is injurious to health’ – a concept propagated by some medical doctors has led some non-vegetarians (mostly elders) to leave non-vegetarian foods and go for strict vegetarian foods. Fish protein is easily digestible as compared to plant and animal proteins. So fish eating has attracted the attention of many men and women everywhere and thus the cost of fish is skyrocketing!
Whether we eat vegetarian or non-vegetarian food, what we need is nutritious food. The science of human nutrition well advanced in medical field. Foods have been chemically analysed and the nutrient contents are tabulated. People can decide which food they need to improve their health. Notorious food is important for everyone – children, adults and elders. Therefore it would be better to choose and consume either vegetarian or non-vegetarian food.
People who go to temple to pray Gods do not eat non-vegetarian food on the particular day. In general, no non-vegetarian food is served in Hindu temples. In Hindu marriages, only vegetarian food is served on the day of marriage. But in Christian and Muslim marriages non-vegetarian food such as biriyani is served immediately after marriage. People have different believes and habits. The Lakshman reka (line) between the two categories is slowly becoming thinner and thinner to disappear over time. I expect that soon we will not pay much attention to these two categories because most of our children who are the future citizens eat both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods except a small traditional minority.