Veg Spoons: Celebrating vegetarianism

Sydney-based interest group Veg Spoons marked its first World Vegetarian Day on 1 Oct this year

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36-degree heat and gusty winds did not deter the spirits of a small community called Veg Spoons, dedicated to vegetarianism. It was World Vegetarian Day, which is celebrated on 1 October, and they were marking the occasion with, what else, some amazing vegetarian food, Indian of course.

Founded by 37-year-old software engineer Rohit Gupta, this group is exclusively for vegetarians – marking their love for plant-based food as well as facilitating the finding of appropriate food outlets.

If you’re a newly arrived Indian migrant or TR, and vegetarian by background, you’ll understand the need for such a platform.

Following the guidelines set by the World Vegetarian Day organisers (established as ‘an annual celebration to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism’), members were urged to bring potluck meals to share.

Some 170 people attended the event at Parramatta Park. Most of them vegetarian by birth, they shard lived experience of how they manage authentic vegetarian food here in Australia.

People gather around food prepared by members of the community (Source: Supplied)

Young mum of two Bhagyashree became a vegetarian by choice as an adolescent. “My husband is a meat-eater, and out of respect for my food choices, he chooses not to eat meat at home.” It’s common to see such adjustment to lifestyle choices in Indian families.

Swathi and Sejal are careful while considering medications too. “Even if the doctor suggests a medication for a vitamin deficiency which is likely to be found in abundance in animal-based food items like fish e.g. omega-3, I would still prefer a medication that contains vegetarian substitutes,” Swathi said.

Sejal chimed in, “Luckily, such substitutes are available with leading chemists now.”

Sheeni and Yash were an interesting couple to catch up with. Sheeni, being a restaurateur in India, prefers not to go to a restaurant which serves meat. “I’m aware of how food can be mixed unknowingly in the kitchen,” she related.

For Yash, this is not a matter of concern. “Sheeni is a ‘supreme vegetarian’ as I call her,” he laughed. “I myself don’t mind eating out a restaurant that serves all kinds of food.”

Dinesh perhaps falls in a similar ‘supreme vegetarian’ category.

Ladies at the potluck event (Source: Supplied)

“At the pizza shop I ask for my pizza to be cut with a knife not used for cutting meat-based pizzas, or at least a fresh clean knife,” he revealed.

We’re sure his gentle and friendly request is always agreed to, given the pleasant manner with which he served his delicious idli-chutney offering with his wife Bharti.

Nikita recalled how times have changed, with increasing food options now for vegetarians like her. “The beautiful part is that others around me understand my food choices and respect them. My coworkers always keep my vegetarianism in mind when we go out and order in.” Veg Spoons

She added, “One lesson I learnt early though, was that egg in veg fried rice is considered vegetarian food!”

Veg Spoons
Prep for fresh sandwiches (Source: Supplied)

Egg is a no-no for many Indian vegetarians, with some not even eating it in baked foods. The call out in community social media platforms for “eggless cakes” is a case in point.

Many attendees admitted however that they do not restrict their children’s food choices outside of the home but are happy to note the love for home-cooked vegetarian meals. As parents, they are happy to let the kids dictate their food habits.

One thought that resonated all throughout was the members had deep admiration for their family values and traditions of food and would stay strong to their roots no matter where their wings take them – even if it’s in a country like Australia where meat, poultry, fish is in abundance.

There was a time when being a vegetarian was tough here in Australia, with limited food choices while dining out. The only option was to carry own food. Ritika remembered her first school camp in 1990 – she stared down at the meal of chicken, potato mash and boiled carrots and dredged up the courage to ask for a vegetarian meal. A pair of tongs appeared and simply lifted the chicken off the plate!

Delicious home-cooked meals were a part of the potluck (Source: Supplied)

For home-cooked food as well, ingredients were low in variety. The Mosman-based Aruna has been travelling for years to faraway Cabramatta to find variety outside of the supermarket staples of capsicum, cabbage, mushroom and eggplant. Veg Spoons

Thankfully times have changed now, and with growing awareness about vegetarianism and veganism, plant-based foods are making their way to the supermarket shelves and the restaurant menus like never before.

The group Veg Spoons has been promoting vegetarianism and vegetarian businesses since its inception in April 2022. Membership has grown to a whopping 8500. Their website provides a guide to vegetarian food outlets across Sydney – whether restaurant, bakery, catering, food truck, or sweets shop. Businesses listed are located across the country – whether  Blacktown NSW, Mt Gravatt QLD, or Pooraka SA, and growing in number.

Rock up to one of their regular meet-ups if interested or host your own potluck event as Vegetarian Awareness Month continues.

Read More: Tempting tempeh: easy vegetarian (and protein-rich) recipes

Lily Gabriel
Lily Gabriel
A Product Manager by profession in FinTech in Sydney, Lily is also a Radio Jockey hosting the Saturday morning show on Indian Link Radio. A total Mumbaikar at heart who loves her Mumbai slang, she also enjoys unleashing her creative side with painting, writing and dancing.

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