I think all, mostly all religions consider that meat is a negative energy because you are killing some animal and then eating it so I think that makes really sense that if you don’t eat maybe something good will happen. – Danvir (on why many Hindus choose to not eat meat).
Indian food is probably as equally well-known in the United States for its mixture of spices and intense heat as it is for the general lack of beef and pork. During our research we found that many but not all of the informants follow dietary restrictions due to their religious and cultural beliefs.
Out of the 13 students we interviewed nearly one third stated that they were pure vegetarians, they refrain from eating any meat including chicken, fish and eggs. Each one stated that they did not eat meat because they came from the Brahmin caste in India. Brahmins, traditionally the category of people who served as teachers and priests, traditionally do not eat meat. Raghev stated that it can be difficult to be a vegetarian in the United States and when he goes out to eat he has to quiz the server on what is in certain dishes so he can avoid eating any form of meat. However, he pointed out that the dietary restrictions are not completely rigid. His parents’ generation avoided egg in all forms even in ice cream and cakes, though they permitted his generation more flexibility with food that contain eggs.
Most of our informants abstain from eating beef and pork both in India and here in the United States based on cultural traditions. Makhesh who identifies as a cultural Hindu as well as an atheist chooses to avoid eating red meat. He reasons it is because he grew up not eating it and after trying it once he found he did not care for the taste.
Four informants stated that they eat beef here in the United States. Some grew up eating beef in India however other students said that this was an adaptation they made upon moving to the United States. Aadhira explained that though he preferred not to eat beef but when he is in social situations with non-Indian friends he will eat hamburgers and other foods because he does not want to inconvenience the host. Sabrang stated he will eat beef when he eats outside of his home, typically ground beef cooked within a dish, however he would not never bring it into his home.
Krithik, a self-described religious Hindu who eats beef both in the United States and in India explained that eating meat is up to the individual. He said “[The] majority of Hindus started to, though they have a good faith in the god, a good faith in the religion, they don’t tend to follow most the rules that are in the Vedas like cows are considered sacred, they don’t kill cows for meat but over time things change, religion became a more of a personal choice than, what do you call that, rather than a philosophy that has rigid rules. It’s more personal so if you like beef, you can eat beef. Still in my family I have people who don’t eat beef and we respect that … it’s more of a personal choice”