I’ve been vegetarian for a long time. Not because it’s ‘hip’ or trendy. I was born and raised one, I didn’t eat meat until I succumbed at Maccas while wagging school: that chicken burger was SO good.
When I moved out of home at 18, I started to incorporate more meat into my diet, but not red meat. It grossed me out, unless it was a cheeseburger (which I figured probably wasn’t really a whole lot of genuine meat) or mince in a bolognaise sauce. I never ate steak. Due to religious constraints, (I am Seventh-Day Adventist) I still haven’t eaten pork, prawns, oysters, etc., and don’t feel I’m missing out. But chicken, turkey and fish were part of my diet.
After eating meat from 18-26, I decided to come back to the vegetarian fold. I figured people’s perceptions of vegetarians had probably evolved since I was a kid, where meat eaters constantly quizzed me over my ‘weird’ diet. To me, it was normal, and all I knew.
I’m a 4th generation vegetarian. My great grandparents started, followed by grandparents, my mother, then me.
My mum is an extraordinary cook. She has proved time and time again that eating ‘meat free’ does not have to be boring, bland or lackluster.
And in this day and age where people are off being ‘raw vegans’ or just ‘eating clean’, I’m still met with the same amount of suspicion, derision and ignorance.
I was recently at a wedding, and had ticked ‘vegetarian’ on the RSVP card. When the waitress placed some sort of roast lamb in front of me, I politely explained I was a vegetarian and had requested that option. She sighed, grabbed the plate and stormed off. She then returned with a dish that appeared to be prawns wrapped in prosciutto. Again I told her that I was unable to eat this- she replied, “pull the prosciutto off and eat the prawns.” I explained that as a vegetarian, I didn’t eat prawns. “Why not? It’s not like they lived?”
I wasn’t even going to try and explain that, in fact, prawns had at one stage been a living, thriving creature. I wanted to point at their black eyeballs and ask her what she thought they were for: but instead I nodded politely and my friend ate both my entrees. I ate his bread roll.
I will never be one of those vegetarians that pushes my views on others. If you like your meat, then good for you! I hope you enjoy it! Just as much as I hope you can respect the fact that I’ve chosen not to eat meat, and would rather not endure the Spanish Inquisition on the topic.
The biggest myths I want to quash are the following:
Not ALL vegetarians like tofu. In fact, some of us hate it. We don’t live on lentils and mung beans, and aren’t a band of hippies.
We don’t eat white meat. We don’t eat seafood. Vegetarians who choose to allow fish/seafood in their diet actually have their own name: they are Pescetarians.
I am an ovo/lacto vegetarian, meaning I will eat animal products- dairy. I don’t eat lots of dairy though, purely as it doesn’t agree with me. But I love cheese, yoghurt, ice cream; I love eggs, and enjoy honey on toast.
Then there are vegans who treat honey like it’s bee’s blood. My sibling is a vegan. Genuine vegans also tend to avoid buying leather furniture, shoes etc.
In this day and age where Gluten Free options are available at most restaurants and people are more understanding of food allergies, I still find myself answering the typical questions or statements, such as “you know why your health sucks? You don’t eat meat.” Or “I bet you don’t get enough protein. How can you?”
I’m nearly 33. That means I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 25 years. Give me some credit- I get all the nutrients I need. I eat a balanced diet. I feel better physically when I’m not eating meat, as it takes so long to digest.
I’m also strongly against animal cruelty and am constantly disturbed by the barbaric methods used to raise, medicate and then kill the animals that end up in the supermarket or butcher. There was a scandal last year about a Sydney abattoir that got caught via CCTV footage of workers torturing animals before killing them, like it was a sport. I couldn’t watch the footage in its entirety, it was too distressing. And for those who might be thinking, “that sounds baseless” the abattoir ended up being one that is around a kilometer from my house. As they were under investigation, tape and signs went up. It was off limits. And the two workers identified in the video were suspended.
If I go to my local takeaway and order hot chips, I don’t freak out and demand they cook them in separate oil to where they deep-fry their fish. Whatever. I’m not EATING the fish, so it doesn’t worry me, but there are plenty of vegetarians who will make a fuss over something like that. I’ve been known to pull the salami off a pizza and eat the cheesy leftovers.
My point is this: as a vegetarian, I eat very well. I have a huge amount of variety in my diet and I get enough protein and calcium. If it was at one stage a living creature (prawn, chicken) then no, I’m not going to eat it. And tofu? It will never be a substitute for the real thing. But there are heaps of meat alternatives on the market now, for which I am so grateful. Because tofu is gross.
Are you ever questioned over your food choices? Did you think vegetarians eat seafood?