So many people are going vegetarian for health, religious, or other reasons. Ju.D Lao stopped eating meat after she joined Tzu Chi Foundation, an international humanitarian organization. Members of the group do not eat meat because doing so involves killing animals.
I first saw Ju.D Lao’s vegetarian dishes on Instagram, on a mutual friend’s account. What really piqued my interest was the grilled unagi that they had one time for lunch. I normally hate eating unagi because of the bones so the vegetarian version seemed quite interesting.
I learned from my friend that Lao is a sort of food godmother who loves cooking healthy dishes for family and friends and most of these dishes don’t have meat.
To those who don’t know Ju.D Lao, she is the “fruitcake queen.” Her fruitcakes are legendary, so to speak. To receive one as a gift is a blessing because Lao only makes about 1,000 every Christmas season.
What I didn’t know is that Lao has been a vegetarian for 18 years since she joined the Tzu Chi Foundation. She has penned two vegetarian cookbooks for the foundation and teaches people how to cook meat-less dishes. During my interview at her home, Lao served kaldereta and a faux beef tapa. They didn’t taste like beef but they were quite flavorful and satisfying.
“I don’t eat anything that breathes and has a face,” said Lao.
Vegetarians like Lao do not eat meat, poultry or seafood. She is not, however, vegan so she still eats dairy products. What she uses is a protein-rich soybean derivative.
According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
Studies have shown that people who don’t eat meat are less likely to develop cancer, heart disease or Type-2 diabetes.
There are different types of vegetarians:
Vegans (total vegetarians) don’t eat meat, poultry, fish, or any products derived from animals, including eggs, dairy products and gelatin.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, or fish. Their diets include eggs and dairy products.
Lacto vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry fish or eggs. Dairy products are allowed.
Ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, fish or dairy products. They eat eggs.
Partial vegetarians avoid meat but eat fish (pesco-vegetarian, pescatarian) or poultry (pollo-vegetarian).
“I only cook vegetarian dishes now. I find joy in cooking for my family and friends. Luckily, we are a big family so I have a lot of guinea pigs for my experiments, as I like to call them,” said Lao.
She learned to bake European-style fruitcakes after she tried one in Switzerland. Before that, she only had the American-style ones, which are full of nuts and glazed fruits but literally have no cake. Lao first successful fruitcake was baked in 1975. She started giving them out to family and friends. The word soon spread and that is the story of Ju.D Lao’s fruitcakes (call 633-1188 or 633-0260).
“There were no cookbooks and there was no Google at that time,” she recalled. “So it took me six months to perfect the recipe. It was hardest for the JuD Blue, which is coffee-flavored fruitcake. We had to source the Blue Mountain coffee flavor and had to have the right liquor to age the fruitcake. For that, we spent about eight months.”
Lao isn’t selling her vegetarian dishes but her cookbooks (available at Tzu Chi Foundation headquarters at 76 Agno Street corner Cordillera Street QC) have easy to follow instructions and locally sourced ingredients.
“Maybe in the future we might sell the dishes to encourage more people to change to vegetarian to lessen the killing of innocent animals. We want to tell them that you can enjoy your food even without meat,” she said.