Hakeem A. Jimo started VeggieVictory – Nigeria’s 1st Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurant in May last year. He adopted a vegetarian diet some 16 years ago and is now vegan.
Before I start with what I am going to write about in this space on Pulse.Ng, I would like to welcome you all and thank everybody that the Vegetarian & Vegan health topic got such a prominent space. I am looking forward to a dialogue with all readers, so please send me your feedback, suggestions, boos and wows.
I used to eat like everybody. So I thought. I proudly called myself an omnivore, boasting with being able to eat anything. My body and stomach would cope with all. Similar to the Chinese saying: We eat anything out of the sea except ships, anything from the sky except planes and anything with for legs except chairs and tables. I was a teenager then and proud that I can gobble down ten scoops of ice-cream and ask for a waffle after. A couple of years later, I traveled for the first time to America. Cheap food wise it was heaven. For the first time I was able to do justice to those ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ restaurants. I was still in my my early twenties. I felt like ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ is all you could wish for and it was annoying that I never saw this offer in Germany where I grew up or in Nigeria.
Growing up in Germany can be peculiar in many ways. One thing is definitely the food. You won’t believe how many ways there are to prepare potatoes. I ate enough irish potatoes for two lives always accompanied with some meat portion. Only Fridays was the traditional fish day. I grew up partly in the countryside in Northern Germany – on a farm to be precise. Once a year our household slaughtered an entire pig with the neighbor and the meat was shared. It filled up the entire huge freezer and took us months to even get half way down. It was then I started leaving out the meat. I felt it was simply too much. Trust the German cuisine: sausage on bread in the morning, smoked pork loin or cutlet with potatoes and few vegetables for lunch, sausage on bread in the evening. It happened more and more often that I settled simply for the vegetables, potatoes and sauce. Even though it was a deliberate decision, it was not yet based on a conviction or knowledge. Rather it was an intuitive or natural decision. The concept behind a meat free diet came then at the university in Hamburg, Germany. At the cafeteria I discovered a new food stand. They called it the ‘Alternative Dish’: it was vegetarian. I found myself often choosing this option.
Then I found my partner, an African-American and a vegetarian in the fourth generation due to her native American nation heritage. She explained to me they stopped eating meating when some of the Cherokee realized that the natural cycle and co-existence of humans, nature and animals was broken by the settlers from Europe. Through her I got my first real background of eating without using animals.
At the same time the food production in Europe changed for everyone to see. Growing up on a farmside it became evident that traditional farming was no longer economical for the small scale farmers. My stepfather is one of them. After generations of farming he will be the last one. The one who would have overtaken from him has another profession: wholesaler in a machine producing company. It was clear that only industrial farming and industrial animal husbandry was the future. The beginning of the end of hundreds of years old small farmers culture in Europe. They know what food looks like.
It would not take long before some new kind of reports made headlines in the 90s: foot-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease, poultry pest, photos of the misery life of battery hen sprayed with nicotine for disinfection were published. Just recently I heard a similar story in Nigeria. Poultry farmers have started using a hormonal drug that increases the frequency of hens to lay eggs. That itself is a sign of our food production taking similar steps away from nature. The way they found out is that a child ate an egg from the first badge after injecting hens with the hormones. That badge has to be thrown away but not here. Result was a life threatening allergy reaction of the child.
With the upcoming of the mad cow disease and also fish was contaminated with heavy-metal particles, I was bound to leave out the meat, poultry and fish for good. That was 16 years ago. I am now 42 years old. My journey from a meat diet to a meat free and plant based diet was welcomed by a felt increasing vitality and physical and mental fitness. Still not at the end on the road to the most healthiest diet, three years ago I realized that leaving out diary products was another important step. Today,
I am close to be a 100% vegan (no meat, no fish, no poultry, no eggs, no honey). Still, there is more. I am discovering in the last few months ways to significantly increase the quantity of raw food: uncooked vegetables and uncooked fruits. I guess the journey for the most natural and healthiest diet is the story of life itself.