Eid is torturous if you are vegan. Let me rephrase that. Eid is torturous if you are born into a Muslim family, don’t practice Islam (or any other religion, for that matter), and are vegan. (And I haven’t even gotten to Bakrid.)
The 30 days of Ramzan before that are no less forgiving. My dad might be on fast throughout the day, but the absence of meat and dairy in the first part of the day is compensated with a deluge at the end. At this point, I make it a point to stay in my room and thus away from all the gory sights and smells.
But Eid day is the previous to the power of 30. There are more meat and dairy (how can Indians do without dessert?) dishes in the kitchen and hall (told you, it goes that far) than all the types of meat and milch animals. It’s perhaps His way of punishing me for having renounced the faith.
Add to that my male progenitor making some last tries to get me back to the fold. (We go to hell and back: “Non-Muslims go to hell.” ‘What about people who kill other beings?’ I think of retorting, but my policy is not to convert other people, be it to non-faith or non-cruelty.) By now, it’s 30 to the power of infinity.
So, I have evolved a simple strategy to avoid all of the above on Eid. I make sure I’m out most, or the most crucial parts, of the day. In the morning, I go for a longer bout of exercise than usual – it’s also a holiday, so the roads are less crowded. In the afternoon, I go for lunch and then a movie, play, or some such.
This time, I decided to go way out. To Italy. Actually, Little Italy.
Little Italy is 100% vegetarian. And a good part vegan. Though many of the staff themselves may not know this. When I went to do my recce a few days earlier – you need to; after all, you want to make sure your quarantine day goes well – the assistant manager (AM) confused it for baingan (brinjal/aubergine/eggplant). I described the concept to him properly – no dairy: no milk/cream/cheese/curd/yoghurt/ghee, and no honey. He got it, and made a more assured comeback with: “Just ask for a wheat-base pizza. And wait for 30 minutes.” I decided to take a magazine along.
Come the afternoon, my vegan protons and neutrons were firing with both excitement and enquiry – at the anachronism of… vegan pizza. How would it be? More importantly, what would it be?
I browsed the menu, targeted a few, and called him over. He shot down my options with a single, simple “Bland”. (Even more assured this time, I see.) And suggested I go for something that wasn’t on the menu. Ah, secret stash. Me likey. “Chef’s Special.” My turn to go: ‘Bland’. For the name, that is. But I was interested in the secrecy. Placed the order. Pulled out the magazine. Put it down. My vegan cells now wanted to leave my body and head to the kitchen.
Mercifully, the pizza took less than the stated half hour. Few patrons around. Ah, everyone “enjoying” biryani at their homes/friend’s homes.
What was it? Thin crust. 11 inch. Wheat-based; so, made of yeast, not milk. And a mini-veggie farm – Indian, exotic, and everything in between. Good ole tomato, onion, baby corn. Zucchini. Red and yellow capsicum. Mushroom. And many others my cells are still trying to recall. And the perfect hint of herbs. (That was the real secret stash.)
How was it? Take a bite… And my last non-vegan quark is converted. If one of the good by-product food behaviours of turning vegan weren’t that you should chew your food well, I would have Pacman-ed it. So, took my time with it. A good half hour. (Maybe that’s what he meant.) Pizza finally over, I licked my fingers and would have eaten them too, but stopped, thinking: That would be eating meat.
What next? Called him. Oohed, aahed, and stopped short of kissing him (would be coming here again, no?). And promptly did. The next day, with bro and family.
We did a repeat of the pizza. My bhabhi (brother’s wife) and nephew liked it too. She added, “It’s also healthy: the thin crust means it’s less gluten, and check out the number of veggies.”
We also asked for Matriciana, a red spaghetti pasta that looked very tomatoey, but didn’t gladly taste very tomatoey (thanks to the thoughtful addition of carrot), and powered with soy mince.
Viva Little Italia. Now, I don’t have to give up on pizza. And yes, on some pizzas, they do have baingan as a topping.
Check out the Little Italy site here: http://littleitaly.in/