My father’s hometown is in Kuantan, Pahang which is located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
We would go there almost every year during Eid to visit relatives there.
Since I went vegan, I’d remember to pack some food that I could eat.
Naturally, my relatives asked questions the first time I did this.
I also gave them to try some tempeh rendang that mama cooked. While they said it tasted ok and typical of rendang, they generally commented on the difference of texture and preferred the chicken rendang.
Well, duh, tempeh and chicken are two different things.
I suppose they were just not used to the idea and felt compelled to dismiss it.
We Asians generally do not engage in deeper conversations so neither of them asked more.
So I suppose some of them went on to do their own reading and research, while others went back to ignorance.
3 YEARS LATER
My relatives are now unfazed by my vegan-ess but some would try to make jokes that are old, to be perfectly honest.
Most are still unsure of what I can or can’t eat so they would ask. But that’s as much as they would inquire on this topic.
Considering that I tend not to shove my vegan views on them during Eid since we only meet once a year (unless they ask), I’m actually quite pleased with their level of understanding.
HOW ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE?
My family and I went to a seafood restaurant for lunch one day.
They did have vegetarian options that could easily be modified to vegan.
Imagine a typical Chinese restaurant, which I find to be more accommodating to various dietary needs.
We ordered fried rice, broccoli, kailan and spinach.
As usual, I asked to not include eggs.
And, as usual, they asked if garlic and onions are okay.
This is a common sentiment among people at Chinese restaurants – when you say you’re pure vegetarian, they’d almost always assume that you can’t eat garlic and onions.
Vegetarianism is probably as old as when Buddhism came to this land.
But it is Jainism, I found, that also practices the non-consumption of garlic and onions.
Jains consider microorganisms as “living beings” so by not consuming vegetables grown underground, they won’t risk killing those microorganisms.
Moreover, onions and garlic are classified as “hot” foods which may aggravate the digestive system and cause one to feel aroused or angry. This is a huge no-no in their philosophy.
When we asked the server whether they know what vegan is, they said no.
So perhaps we may assume that generally, the people on the east coast do not know about veganism.