The Meat-eater’s Guide To Vegetarians
|September 10, 2010||Posted by Lauren under Nutrition|
Did you know? This week was Vegetarian Awareness Week! To be honest, I don’t really know what that means (was I supposed to give my non-vegetarian friends a speech about how great giving up meat can be?? Plaster signs on my cube? Or wear my No Meat Athlete shirt to work?), but I figure it’s as good a time as any to address all you meat-eaters out there. Because if it hasn’t happened already, there may come a time when you have to dine with/cook for/talk to your first vegetarian. And I know how overwhelming that can be. So to ease your fears and discomfort, here’s some basic words of wisdom to survive that first encounter*.
But first things first – we’ve gotta talk terminology. Most people who say they’re a vegetarian are what we call a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. These are people who don’t eat meat, but will eat eggs and dairy. Similarly, you may run across a lacto-vegetarian (someone who doesn’t eat meat or eggs but eats dairy) or an ovo-vegetarian (no meat or dairy, but does eat eggs).
Confused yet? Believe me, so are we! We don’t really like being put into all these boxes either. But we’re all human. And humans like to wrap things up into neat little boxes with a pretty little bow on top as a way to make sense of the world. So boxes is what we get.
Anyway, here are a few more terms for you:
- A Vegan does not eat any animal products – no meat, no cheese, dairy, or eggs. Vegans also avoid foods that have been made with animal-derived products (like the gelatin in jello and marshmallows), or foods that are made with any sort of animal product, even though they may not actually contain animal products in the end (some wines, beers, sugar, etc).
- A Pescatarian does not eat any type of meat except for fish.
- A Flexitarian doesn’t eat meat most of the time. This is also called semi-vegetarian, and basically means that the person considers himself mostly vegetarian, but still wants to be able to enjoy that delicious piece of chicken/Thanksgiving turkey/steak once in awhile.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the answers to all your most burning questions – before you even ask them!
1.) No, vegetarians do not eat chicken. I don’t care how white or supposedly healthy it is, meat is meat is meat. Same goes for fish. If confused, please refer to definitions above.
2.) Making a dish that contains meat and then picking all the meat out before you serve it does not make it vegetarian. Just because I can’t see the meat, doesn’t mean it’s no longer there. This is also true for soups. Making a vegetable soup with chicken or beef stock means that the soup isn’t vegetarian, even if it doesn’t actually have chunks of meat in it.
3.) Vegetarians don’t get all picky about Numbers 1 and 2 above just to make your life more difficult. Honest. Besides the fact that we just don’t want to eat meat (for whatever reason) is the fact that eating it can actually make us sick. After awhile, your body stops being able to digest meat – and so when a vegetarian unknowingly eats some, it’s not such a pretty picture.
4.) Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice, not a religion. I follow the Gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of vegetables, thank you very much. I promise that we don’t all want to preach to you, judge you, or convert you to our abstaining ways. Believe it or not, my friends and boyfriend are still happily eating meat – and I’m fine with that. As a matter of fact, we co-exist quite peacefully. Now, if at some point during our relationship you approach me and tell me that you’re thinking of eating less meat, I’m not going to lie — I’ll be thrilled. In fact, at that point I’ll be so excited that I may or may not start talking really fast about all the benefits of going meat-free and all the fun, delicious things you can make. But you’ll have to forgive me for that.
5.) Because of #4, you don’t have to feel guilty when you eat meat in front of us. Go ahead, eat your steak. I promise I’m not shooting silent daggers at you as you chew. Most of us are just so happy we’ve found a delicious vegetarian option on the menu that we can’t stop thinking about it long enough to even focus on what you’re eating over there.
6.) You also don’t have to apologize for eating meat in front of us, or hide it from us because you think the very sight of it will make us sick. While I don’t particularly enjoy the look/smell of raw meat, I’m going to be honest with you – that bacon you’re eating actually smells pretty darn delicious. In fact, I may just lean over and breathe it in a few times if you don’t mind. But no, I don’t want to try it! I just want to experience the smell. Just like I inhale really deeply when I pass by a BBQ. Or if you found a really pretty flower or a delicious smelling candle. It’s not like meat becomes this repulsive thing the instant you decide to give it up. It’s just that after awhile, it stops being classified in your mind as something edible. Think of it as like a candle. You don’t want to eat it, you just want to appreciate it for its smell.
7.) Believe it or not, vegetarians tend to have pretty hearty appetites. We didn’t decide to give up eating good food, just meat. So that plate with lettuce and carrots that you’re calling a salad isn’t going to fill us up. Sorry, but we need substance in our meals too. Similarly, just because a dish is made from a bunch of vegetables that have been stewed together, it doesn’t mean we have to like it. Do you like every single dish that’s put in front of you just because it contains meat?
8.) Vegetarianism does not equal activism. Although some vegetarians (and vegans) use their food choices as a platform for activism, not all of us do. Giving up meat and being political don’t necessarily go hand in hand. So just like we’re not going to preach to you, we’re also not going to start picketing on your front lawn equipped with “Save the cows!” signs.
9.) I know you’re trying to make us a meal we can enjoy, but sometimes we actually feel more guilty if you go out of your way. I realize it can be overwhelming to cook vegetarian dinners. I get nervous when non-vegetarians are coming over and I need to make something everyone can enjoy. And I really do appreciate the effort. But if you’re coordinating a huge meal and I’m the only vegetarian guest, please do not make me a special dish, or fret that I don’t have anything to eat. To be honest, we’re sort of used to being flexible in these situations. And I know I said above that a bed of lettuce doesn’t make a meal, but if I have to make it work, I will. Just make sure you serve some bread and dessert with dinner and I’ll be a happy camper.
10.) All that being said, we sometimes may seem like walking contradictions. Food choices don’t always make sense. We may say we eat dairy, but then tell you we don’t drink milk. Or be totally okay with picking around meat in a dish. And you better believe that if there’s a campfire and you’re making s’mores, I’m going to want in, gelatin and all.
But aren’t we all walking contradictions in some way? I mean, we’re only human after all. And we’re doing the best we can.
*The fine print: I probably shouldn’t have to say this, but I will…just in case. This post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not to offend any of you carnivores out there. Obviously I know meat eater does not equal idiot. But I also didn’t just make these things up. Just sayin…