Supper in Sapa

By Sharon Martinez
In August 21, 2013
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IMG_2093Today, I had a nice discussion with a patient, Martin, about whether eating meat is healthy. Martin’s brother is a butcher in Mexico. In the butcher’s small town, an animal is slaughtered and processed by hand before being sold directly to villagers. Martin told me how the meat is much paler than what we see in the supermarkets here. Does that mean it’s not as fresh? No, it’s likely fresher. Here, the meat is gassed with carbon monoxide and turns a bloody red as hemoglobin in the muscle tissue binds with the gas.

Martin asked me if I had eaten any meat while I was on vacation in Vietnam last fall. He knows that I advocate a plant-based diet that is mostly free of animal products. I answered that, as a matter of fact, I had eaten meat in Vietnam. Here is my story of what eating meat was like in a small village outside of Sapa, in the northern mountains of Vietnam.

Our guide, a young woman from the Red Zhao tribe named Pet, led us to her village on foot. (The “trek” took half a day, though she told me she could do it alone in 2 1/2 hours. Suffice it to say the Mountain People are very fit.) Once there, we stayed in the home of a young couple for the night and were served a home-cooked meal. I thought it would be rude to refuse my hostess’ cooking, so I ate some of everything. The food, pictured above, served eight for dinner, with leftovers eaten as breakfast in the morning.

Following Pet, our guide, along the trail to her village outside Sapa.

(Following Pet, our guide, along the trail to her village outside Sapa.)

The following day, I remarked to Pet that I normally ate a vegan diet. Her answer shouldn’t have surprised me. She said that the tour company we used gave her money to buy meat for that night’s meal, but otherwise, people mostly only ate meat at weddings and funerals. Pet’s older sister was busy trying to save for a pig for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. We bought some of her hand embroidered fabric pieces to help out. Later, visiting Pet’s parents’ home, I saw that most of the small house was occupied with stacked bags of rice, which the family had recently harvested.

The cook's husband enjoying a smoke after dinner.

(The cook’s husband, smoking a water pipe after dinner, looks much younger than his stated age of 28.)

There is a reason cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis are known as “diseases of affluence,” afflicting people in the U.S. and other affluent countries. It’s our food, and our disconnection from it. Yes, meat is eaten in Vietnam, but only on occasion. The staple food is rice. The meat in my meal came from chickens and pigs raised in the village. It really didn’t bother me to eat that meat. Just don’t ask me to try a 5 Guys burger here in Rancho Cucamonga anytime soon.

All the best, Dr. Sharon Martinez
Chiropractic Advantage

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