I was at a dinner party on the weekend where I was presented with a set menu of meat, meat with a side of meat. Hoping to go unnoticed with my fellow guests, I whispered my ever recycled line to the waiter “Sorry to be a pain, but I’m vegetarian…”
Unfortunately, I didn’t get away with it and had to endure the usual barrage of questions. Because, you know, it’s totally not rude or annoying to ask strangers about their personal eating habits…
I’m sure that every vegetarian out there can relate – the five questions and comments we are sick and tired of being interrogated with at every social event.
I’ve included my responses, however please note that vegetarians choose to abstain from meat consumption for a variety of reasons, these are simply my personal beliefs.
#1 “Why are you vegetarian?”
Well, when I was about four years old and figured out that meat equals dead animals, I decided that it was pretty f@$%ed up and wanted no part of it. To me, I’ve always thought it completely unnatural and unnecessary to eat an animal when you could simply eat something else that didn’t have to die for your meal.
Eating meat goes against every fibre of my being, with my involuntary attitude perfectly summarised by my partner once when yet another person suggested that I “just try eating a little piece of chicken”. My partner said “to Alex, eating meat is like eating a piece of poo. You wouldn’t just eat a little piece of poo.” Vegetarians are on the receiving end of this kind of pressure a lot, so please, don’t force your beliefs on us.
And in case you were wondering, yes, I have tried eating meat, every kind of meat just to be sure. Alas, no matter how flavoursome the bacon or how tender the beef, to put a piece of dead animal in my mouth feels just plain wrong. But trust me, I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’m in the minority with this one!
#2 “You should just try not to think about what it is and just eat it.”
Trust me, I’ve tried. There’s nothing like biting into a piece of flesh to shake you out of using a Jedi mind trick to disassociate your mind from the reality of eating a carcass. Anyway, if your morals are pulling you in another direction, why force yourself to make it OK by turning a blind eye?
I’ve always thought that people who continue to consume meat while find animal slaughter wrong or gross are incredibly simple minded and odd. It’s twisted to selectively shut down your brain when faced with an ethical dilemma just because it’s the easier option. How can you be expected to grow as a human being if you don’t question things and develop an opinion for yourself?
If you were shopping and noticed a lost child, would you “just try not to think about it?” If you witnessed an assault, would you “just try not to think about it?” If your spouse was cheating on you, would you “just try not to think about it?” If you saw an animal in immediate danger, would you “just try not to think about it?”
Hell-to-the-no! Selective ignorance isn’t good for the mind or for the soul.
#3 “Don’t you miss meat? I know I would!”
Admittedly, meat does smell awesome. But that’s where it ends. The fleshy texture freaks me out to the extent that I can’t even handle anything resembling the texture of meat. Much to my (and many a dinner host’s) dismay, this means that things like mushrooms, eggplant and silken tofu gross me out because they’re too meaty.
Yep, these very things are supposed to form the staples of a vegetarian’s diet. Yep, this sucks. Big time.
To try and combat this, every time I’m presented with one of my nemeses, I’ll force myself to consume a portion in the hopes of acquiring a taste for it. Unfortunately, over twenty years of this tactic hasn’t matured my palate a bit.
I don’t miss it because meat is disgusting (to me). I’m resolute that we’re simply not supposed to put that in our mouths – and especially not supposed to kill animals for food when we have such choice and variety in the first world. It all seems a bit silly.
#4 “Can you eat seafood?” “Or cheese?” What about eggs?”
Just because sea creatures don’t have legs doesn’t mean they’re not alive, you still have to kill them to eat them. It’s scientifically proven that they do feel pain and stress. I used to force myself to eat seafood, but now I no longer allow myself to struggle with that internal battle. Plus, have you ever seen an octopus?! Eww city.
And cheese? Last time I checked, cheese isn’t a dead animal. Vegetarians don’t eat dead animals, vegans don’t eat animal derived products (including dairy). And Eggs? Well they’re technically chicken periods, so weren’t destined for life anyways. That said, eggs do give me the heebie-jeebies if they’re not disguised within the delicious and mysterious depths of a cheesecake or a stir-fry.
#5 “What can you eat? You must struggle with protein and iron deficiencies.”
It’s really not hard finding meat substitutes – I’ve been deficiency free and supplement free since forever. However, it does suck when eating out and usually only having one choice on the menu. Thank god for pizza because I can always give pizza a makeover if I’m completely restricted for choice!
Nuts and seeds are essential, so I use ABC spread (Almond, Brazil, Cashew) and Tahini spread (sesame seed) daily. Then there are oats with milk, whole wheat bread or flat bread, beans and chickpeas, tofu and cheese. Discovering haloumi has been a god send and perfect solution to those awkward “I don’t eat meat” BBQ situations.
Just because I have chosen not to eat meat doesn’t mean that I intend on bashing vegetarianism down anyone’s throats. Good on you carnivores for having what’s regarded as ‘normal’ dietary habits in this day in age. I’m envious of your freedom – it must be great having all that choice and not having to worry if you’ll be able to eat anything wherever you go. It also must be great being perceived as ‘normal’ and not feeling like a nuisance at meals when dining with others. Because for me, I don’t feel that vegetarianism is a choice. It’s who I am.