The Salmon Experiments

How do they DO this?

How do they DO this?

Among marine life, salmon probably lead the most interesting lives. Born in freshwater rivers, they migrate to the ocean where they live most of their adult lives and, when it’s time to spawn, they start the reverse migration process swimming upstream all the way to their natal river, often to the exact riverbed area where they were born. They use chemical cues and magnetoreception to pull off this incredible feat.

The tragedy is that the reverse migration takes so much out of them that they die soon after spawning.

Or maybe it’s a tragedy to us human folk who look at their life cycle and say “Oh! What a crying shame!”

They could be fulfilling their life’s purpose exactly per plan: the salmon run and the spawning ritual capping a life well lived.

But why couldn’t the salmon live an easier life? Why does every salmon, when confronted with the R Frost choice, choose the direction less traveled?

Something to do with free will I bet.. what that they don’t possess but we humans do.

For strange and largely inexplicable reasons, I’ve been making salmon like decisions in the past decade. Rather deliberately of course.

I’m calling these decisions as my own personal salmon experiments. Some have lasted a few years, others have become pseudo-permanent, and still others are a bit like a sustained quit smoking campaign.

Here’s the list so far:

  • Why take a hot bath when one can take a cold water bath?
  • Why take an Ibuprofen when you can just wing it and ride the pain waves?
  • Why eat more when you can eat less?
  • Why remain vegetarian when you can be vegan?
  • Why eat cooked food when one can eat raw? (Treading this path gingerly as marital and progeny threats are being brandished)
  • Why drink coffee?
  • Why take the elevator when one can take the stairs? (I’m blessed to have a son who shows the way whenever I weaken)

The good biwi has come up with the expression ‘joyless life’ to describe my gastronomic idiosyncrasies.

In my defense, I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Really.

Every experiment is a new challenge that brings with it the satisfaction of continuous summiting. Who said there’s only one type of mountain?


Understanding meat eaters through the lapsed vegetarian lens


[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on vegetarians, omnivores, food habits, diets adopted by successful athletes (bias towards runners of course), perhaps eventually leading to a psychohistory of food. Several years of Facebook sharing has taught me that *any* article on these topics (lengthy, nuanced or researchy) invariably lead to defensive or offended responses from my social graph. This series is an attempt to keep readers on *one* hair ‘splittable’ topic.]

“Our special today is duck smothered in oyster sauce.”
“Oh! Please don’t tell me how you killed it!”

While this might be evocative of your modern day Newyorker cartoon, this cartoon appeared in a Reader’s Digest issue around 35 years ago.

Barring 3-4 episodes of collegial rebellion, I’ve been a vegetarian all my life and a chegan for the past year.

In a global population of 7 billion, vegetarians are a minority. One might even call them a fringe group of sorts (aka a cult). I understand vegetarians well. It’s the other group I want to understand better.

An omnivore friend with an intense carnivorous proclivity said something very similar to the above cartoon.
“Most non-vegetarians are lapsed vegetarians.”

This assessment goes a long way towards understanding the majority group.

Who the heck is a lapsed vegetarian?
Any homo sapien carnivore that is not a hunter, not a butcher, not a meat industry worker is a lapsed vegetarian.

If you’ve not seen the goings-on at a chicken/goat farm, you are a lapsed vegetarian.

If you haven’t done a tour of a state-of-the-art industrialized beef farm in US (on the lines descibed by Michael Pollan in Power Steer), you are a lapsed vegetarian.

If you haven’t gone fishing in the past 10 years and caught a tuna or two, you are a lapsed vegetarian.

To the true blue chest thumping carnivore bristling with indignation at this name calling, here are a few litmus tests to prove that you DON’T belong to this yucky group of ‘lapsed vegetarians’.
Go to your local butcher shop and wield that machette and *take a life*. Or two.
Didn’t get your adrenaline rushing yet? Well, go on a licensed hunting expedition and shoot some wild fame.

To the rest of you non-indignant meat eaters, that chieftain from the movie Madagascar says it best:
“You are pansies!”

Like that woman in the restaurant, you don’t WANT to know how the dish on your plate was killed. You’ve been doing it for so long that you don’t even THINK of your dish as ‘ex-living-animal’.

The good news is that smart inter-disciplinarian scientists are creating meat in-the-lab which will taste and feel no different from traditional meat. So whatever subliminal conflicts you might have in your mind might just be resolved in your lifetime.

Next episode candidates in this series…

  • Blame the butcher!
  • Hey vegetarian, you are just a lapsed vegan!
  • Killing for meat or clothes: does animal size matter?
  • Killing for meat or clothes: does the method matter?
  • Eating pork chops while petting your golden retriever
  • Vegetarians and the “anticipated reproach” theory


But these animals were also created for us to consume in moderation


And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good. Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? – Robert Pirsig

Pic courtesy

Pic courtesy

I’ve been on this Indian Vegans Facebook group for sometime now. A fairly high traffic group so I pop in every now and then. Two days ago, somebody posted the following question:

A very nice sincere muslim friend has the argument: “But these animals were also created for us to consume in moderation. And they have to be killed following halal rules”. Can someone help me counter that argument in a nice way? Point to some webpages, etc?

A flurry of responses followed. This morning, the original poster shared the following response – I’ve emphasized the parts that particularly resonated with me.

Thanks everyone for your helpful responses. FYI, this is what I replied to my friend. Hopefully this will also help you while having conversations with others.

“But these animals were also created for us to consume in moderation.”
This means we should torture and kill in moderation – it doesn’t make sense to me. Does it to you?

If animals were given limbs, nose eyes, ears, genitalia that means they were meant to live. They feel emotions, pain, love. They wouldn’t have these sensibilities if they were meant to be “consumed”.

No business can be profitable (it is proven) if they ensure that animals do not suffer throughout their lifecycle. So halal way or not, all animals are suffering terribly in meat/dairy/fur/leather/etc industry.
It is not just about the pain during the killing, it is also about the enormous suffering every single minute of their life, from birth till death. Please educate yourself – there are lot of pictures, literature and videos available on the internet that show how animals are abused from birth to maximize profit for the business owners, big or small.

Btw, all plant based foods are halal.

Mankind has evolved to a point where we have lots of non-cruel options available for food and clothing year round. Why do we have to still resort to the ancient lifestyle?

The ancient lifestyle where they had limited options has been confused with the word of God in all religions. In fact, if one believes in God, he/she should chose kindness over cruelty. Wouldn’t every God like that – what do you think? We can still follow our own religions and choose a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Though plant based diet has enormous health, environmental and social benefits, it is mainly about co-existing peacefully with all the creations of God. It is about peace and harmony, which is the essence of any religion.

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans, just like black people were not made for whites, and women not for men. – Alice Walker

Please if possible, listen to “The best speech ever”:

Or read the transcript here:

One highly recommended book is:…



Fridge Logic for Runners

Pic: courtesy Men's Running (May 2012)

Pic: courtesy Men’s Running (May 2012)

Over the weekend we stumbled upon “Magazines” in Koramangala. A charming store that stocks only magazines (mostly old ones) and comics. While this store had only opened a few months ago, the Church Street location has been open for over 40 years so clearly they are filling a need. The old me would have walked out with a stack of magazines but I’ve not been buying much lately. The May 2012 issue of Men’s Running (for the UK audience) made the cut.

The second most interesting article in the issue is titled Fridge Logic. The tag line is “Put the beer outside and the pizzas in the freezer, this is what the contents of a runner’s fridge should look like.”

The picture on the left is from the physical magazine (my Samsung Galaxy SII does a decent job with pictures but I’m too lazy to bother with the orientation). Anyway, here’s the list of 14 food items edited by Martin Macdonald.

  1. Whole Milk
    • Whole milk is an excellent basis for a recovery drink as it acts as both a rehydration fluid and also stimulates protein synthesis more than lower fat versions, meaning it’s best for recovery.
  2. Total Greek Yoghurt
    • The live bacteria cultures used to make Greek yoghurt have been studied in both digestive health and immunity with good results. It’s also a good source of protein and calcium.
  3. Eggs
    • Eggs are one of the most complete foods you can eat. They contain both essential fatty acids and amino acids along with a myriad of essential vitamins and minerals.
  4. Honey
    • Honey is a good source of high glycemic index carbohydrates for filling up glycogen stores post-run. Add some to a recovery shake for both taste and carbohydrate.
  5. Salmon
    • This could be any oily fish really, as long as it contains the high levels of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that your body needs.
  6. Porridge Oats
    • Porridge oats are an excellent and versatile source of relatively slow digesting carbohydrate. They also contain soluble and insoluble fibre for gut health.
  7. Peppers
    • A red pepper has more Vitamin C than an orange. Having peppers with spinach can increase the absorption of iron dramatically.
  8. Spinach
    • Just ask Popeye, spinach is particularly high in iron and also contains other micronutrients, particularly micro minerals that are needed for many processes in the body.
  9. Bananas
    • Bananas are particularly high in carbohydrate for a fruit, but at the same time contain other beneficial compounds. Add these to your smoothie for extra energy.
  10. Tomatoes
    • Tomatoes are well-known for their high content of lycopene. Lycopene has been indicated in reduced the incidents of many cancers including prostate cancer.
  11. Butter
    • Butter is one of the best fats for cooking with due to its stability at high temperature. It’s a good source of a range of fatty acids as well as vitamins A, D, E and K.
  12. Strawberries
    • Strawberries not only taste good but are also high in antioxidants. Used in a post-training smoothie they will almost certainly aid in reducing your muscle soreness.
  13. Steak
    • Steak is the ultimate meat for a runner. If you could only have one type of meat, it should be steak. Steak provides plenty of protein, but also a load of easily absorbable iron.
  14. Sweet Potato
    • One of the best sources of starchy carbohydrate for general health. Not only that but its dark color indicates its phytonutrient content.

Vegan super athletes Scott Jurek and Rich Roll probably wouldn’t sign off on #3, #5 and #13. I found #10 (Tomatoes) to be a strange addition (especially for the touted reasons) but the remaining ten seem right on the money.

What do you (fellow marathoners) think?


I will if you want me to.


Pic: courtesy

Most people in the world, when asked if they’d like another serving of food, would answer either “Yes” or “No”.

Some people would defer the decision until such a point where they are sure. Let’s chalk their answer to “Maybe”.

The past few months our younger son has been throwing a googly at us with this reply: I will (eat more) if you want me to.

Depending on the parents’ mood, the exasperated (or amused) response would be “Well, do you WANT more or NOT?”

This is the part where it gets interesting. Sometimes the answer would be “Yes”, other times it would be “No”.

In his own personal version of “Maybe”, this seems to be his clever way of ingratiating himself with the parents. Heads or tails I win. At least that’s what I think. But what do I know? He’s the twenty-first century model, not me.