My diet took a drastic turn, when at age 8 my siblings and I all got whooping cough. My siblings recovered quickly, but I languished for some reason. My mom was very pregnant with my baby brother, and couldn't tackle my illness. We did not go to doctors, were not immunized, and used herbs and diet to combat illnesses. Because of the severity of my illness, (the whites of my eyes were red from broken blood vessels) I was sent to stay with a Japanese healer. Her home, which was as quiet as the sunset and just as simple and beautiful, was a hard adjustment for me. There was almost no noise in her house and no animals, compared to the complete absence of quiet in my house and two animals to every human. There was no television, radios had to be kept very low, and people spoke in what seemed to me as whispers. Reiko also ate meat and fish and believed that eating animal protein was essential to strengthen my immune system so I could fight off the coughing disease.
Meat was absolutely forbidden in my house. My parents followed an Indian guru (spiritual teacher) and we refrained from eating meat as a way to allow clear communication with our consciousness. I was taught that eating meat was cruel and unhealthy. The only time I had eaten meat was when my oldest sister and I were watching the cats for my uncle up the road and they had canned tuna fish in their house. She wanted to try it, so she opened a can of it. The smell was enough to make me gag. She didn't like the taste, but we both knew that wasting food was also forbidden and she made me help her eat it. I took one small bite and that was it. Why we didn't just feed it to the cats, I'll never know, but I was only six or seven at the time. I was thoroughly traumatized from the event and was completely convinced that the vegetarian diet was the choice for me. If meat was in something I was eating on accident, I could immediately detect that unique chewy texture, and I would spit it out.
The Healer did not have an easy time of getting me to eat meat. I refused fish, because of the tuna incident, and pork, that affronted my vegetarian and pseudo-Jewish self, beef was out of the question, which just left chicken and turkey. I did alright with broth, but I could not bear to chew muscle. I ate small amounts of meat in addition to a lot of miso soup and seaweed and after two weeks I was on the road to recovery. The healer instructed my mother to keep giving me meat, but since it wasn't allowed to be cooked in our house, my mom would buy me chicken nuggets from McDonald's. I didn't mind the taste and the texture wasn't so meat like. It's hilarious when I look back on it now. There was nothing nutritious in chicken nuggets, yet that was my mom's solution to providing me with some animal protein. After I recovered from the illness, I went back to my strict vegetarian diet.