Why I’m Vegetarian (and I don’t need meat)

Lobster- the only animal 'alive' when you kill it.

Lobster- the only animal ‘alive’ when you kill it.

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.

I'd reconsider my dislike of tofu for this guy!

I’d reconsider my dislike of tofu for this guy!

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? 

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  • http://explore.johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    I would describe myself as a meat eater – there’s nothing I like more to eat than a great steak, or baked lamb roast, or a BBQ chicken, or a Christmas turkey…but when I actually look at my daily diet, most days I would have to describe myself as a vegetarian…I actually don’t eat that much meat…

    For me, a great big meaty meal is something for special occasions, not something I eat as part of my regular diet…I never planned it that way…it’s just worked out that way…

    However, now I’ve written this comment, I have a craving for a good steak – I think I might go for a pub lunch with the boys from work sometime this week! :)

    • http://explore.johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

      I couldn’t wait…just went out and bought some roast lamb from the chicken shop…definitely not vegetarian today… 😉

  • http://kikiandtea.com Tamsin Howse

    I’m not vegetarian and, realistically, I never have been. I always ate meat in fast food. But I’ve always eaten primarily vegetarian food, so some of those things you cleared up drive me mental too.

    If you eat anything that was an animal, be it chicken, seafood, beef, whatever. If you EVER eat ANYTHING that was an animal you are not vegetarian.

    Why is this so complicated?

  • Leah

    Ohhh Maree thank you thank you thank you!! I have been a vegetarian for almost 20 years and have met much the same ignorance and idiocy as you.

    At 7 years old I decided to become a vegetarian because not only did I dislike the taste of most meats but I also loved animals. My parents obliged and mum spent the next 17 years cooking healthy vegetarian meals for me!! But throughout my life I am CONSTANTLY questioned, sometimes to the point of feeling harrassed. I get called a ‘hipster’, stupid, weird, a rabbit and many other things. People who barely know me feel the need to ask me 20 questions. People cry “WHAT DO YOU EAT?” like there is no food other than meat on this earth. People tell me to bring my own food to dinner parties because they don’t know what to cook for me. Or they make a chicken salad and tell me to pull the chicken off. People need to get over it! Let everyone eat what they want to without getting involved!!

    On a side note, I do love tofu – it’s all about the flavours you cook it with! Tempeh is delicious too!

    • Mandi Aylmore

      If only we had something like a worldwide web of information that we could keep a whole stack of recipes on!

      Seriously, I don’t get the fuss with people cooking vegetarian food. And I’m a meatasaurus rex! It’s really not that difficult. And having people tell you to bring your own food to a party is just rude.

      Sorry to all the vegos who have to deal with ding dongs.

  • Jessica Chapman

    I grew up vegetarian, my Dad was a strict vegetarian and my Mum will eat meat (only ‘clean’ meat though) but won’t cook it. I used to eat ‘fast food’ meat up until I was about 13 then I decided that it was probably better for me not to eat it at all. I don’t doubt that to a lot of people meat tastes really good but it grosses me out unless it has been processed to the point of not looking like meat. To me raw meat smells like pet food.

    I don’t really care if other people eat meat, even in front of me but I am of the opinion that most vegetarian cooking is actually tastier than traditional meat dishes because it isn’t relying on the protein to carry the flavour. Also my family are big fruit/vege eaters, a lot of people who come to our house are a bit gobsmacked by the fruit bowls covering a third of our kitchen bench and that’s not including the fruit that needs to be kept in the fridge.

    • http://kikiandtea.com Tamsin Howse

      I love coming to your house and stealing fruit

  • Jess88

    I have a friend who calls herself a vegetarian when she does eat seafood (fish, prawns, oysters, bugs – the whole shebang) although her reason for not eating meat is, and I quote, “meat has too many carbs, and I enjoy staying slim” so I dont find it surprising that she eats seafood without any concern to the fact that the seafood on her plate is as much as a sentient being as a cow or pig is, as the welfare of the animals is not the reason she chooses not to eat meat.
    I dont eat lamb, pork or any of their variations simply because I dont enjoy the taste, its too strong for me. I’m stunned by some of the comments here of vego’s dealing with peoples rude comments, I’ve never once called anyone out on their diet (even my friend above) your choices are your own and you shouldnt have to justify your eating habits to anyone.

  • Jess Profiterole

    I’m a lacto-ovo as well! Yay us. I looooove vego food, and can’t even imagine wanting to eat meat again. I like tofu, haven’t quite mastered how to cook it though. :-/
    I get the same scrutiny, and it’s annoying because I’m one of the healthiest and fittest people I know. But some people act as if I must be practically disabled by the fact I don’t eat meat. My mum especially, I’ll go home and she’ll grill me about whether I take vitamins because I ‘don’t get enough’ (it’s my body, I think I know best), and once even said that she hopes I don’t ‘make my children be vegetarian’. I don’t even have children! I think a lot of people don’t know much at all about a diet without meat, and aren’t aware that a lacto-ovo veg diet does supply everything you need, even for a child.
    I never put my beliefs onto anybody, and will only give my reasons if asked. To me, animals are friends, not food. I get it about prawns – I stumbled upon a yabby once on a bushwalk and the way it raised its tiny claws at me was so frikken cute, I wanted to take it home.

  • Bradley

    These days we tend to eat more white meat than red meat. We even enjoy the odd completely vegetarian meal as we like to try different recipes because we are foodie-curious.

    We are neither strictly carnivorous or strictly vegetatian. But if you are, then that is your business. I appreciate the fact that you have given your reasons for enjoying a vegetarian regime without sounding preachy.

    Would be grateful if you could provide a few veggo recipes from your Mum’s kitchen.

  • Heather M Moseley-Falk

    Well done, Maree! <3 I grew up vegetarian just like you, and I used to LOVE seafood! I've missed it since I found out I was allergic, but I still eat just about anything else. :) But even still, most of the time, I eat meatless meals and snacks. I can't eat it regularly either… it'll get to my gut! And there are SO many vegetarian options now!!! When I was little, growing up in the states, everyone always wanted to serve my Mama, sister and I salads, steamed veggies and mac 'n' cheese all the time. They could never wrap there heads around the fact that there are plenty of thing you can eat that aren't meat. I mean, most meat eaters don't eat a strictly meat diet… so why would I vegetarian survive on bunny food?!? I <3 you!

  • Maree Talidu

    I just had an amazing pumpkin and spinach ravioli with feta. It was delicious and balanced and wonderful and no animals were harmed in the process! Again: I have NO problem with meat eaters, not at all. I just have a problem with anyone who judges people on stuff like their dietary choices.

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