8pm Dec 31 2016 – 3am Jan 1 2017
Sometime in the last quarter day of last year, soaked in auditory, cannabinoid and ethanolic impulses, the stark character of my promised transition to greener pastures was revealed to me via two plates of momo.
At various junctures across a grey London day, without seeking to make too much of it, I’d been reflecting on what it meant that I was yet again considering vegetarianism as I helped myself to a few last scraps of meat. The salmon on my plate was tinged with a pale regret; the robust jamon seethed with indignation; was it conceivable that I was leaving behind a world of cold cuts, fiery chwoela, crunchy sekuwa, tangy drumsticks, juicy steaks and unbeatable dalbhatmasu?
Yet bolstered by the resolve of a new year, a burgeoning omnivory, and the rationalization that this would be an experiment less to achieve some measure of eco-puritanism than to record in writing the difficulties of being green, I felt I was readier to take the plunge than I had ever been.
Fittingly, then, the transition began in the early evening with the momo, as interpreted by my sister Rajani, who’s been in the business of vegetable eating for the two decades that I have been unable to commit to it. She claimed she had the measure of this garden variety of dumpling, deservedly maligned in Kathmandu for the flaccid, bland contrast it provides against the juicy, spicy containment of authentic buff momo. Here, the requisite crunchiness and taste lay in radish slivers, mushroom and ginger with soy, and Rajani was not shy in admitting that a little light frying was preferable to steaming. They were the best vegetarian momo I had ever had.
Uptown, in a bar alive to the stylings of a reggae jazz band, I was offered another plate of momo. I accepted out of a sense of duty, in the knowledge that this would be the last meat I would eat for at least a little while. It was a curiously underwhelming experience – the chicken dumplings were mired in a swamp of pungent tomato sauce and overpowered in every sense, the result an amped-up consistency of heat and meat – but it confirmed to me the sense of what I was attempting.
Back home by 3am, I skirted the ham and salmon, brushed my teeth clean, and slept with a clear conscience. Day 1 of the Veggie Raj had begun.