Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is the vegetarian option "just safer"?

Happy Earth Day!
(I love the Earth and I do what I can, but this is hilarious.)

Yesterday I was asked (for the third time this month) whether I was a vegetarian. Why? It seems that if you always seem to order a (or sometimes just the) vegetarian option, people make an assumption that you are not liking the bacon.

And I say: No, I'm a fake vegetarian.

Ok, probably not the best thing to say. I usually follow-up with some info to explain my selections though right now I'm thinking, why do I have to explain anything?

I usually follow up with:
"Well, I eat chicken, turkey and seafood sometimes, but not really."

I like to give the not-so holier-than-thou line that hopefully makes a stand:
"Oh, no, I order this because it tastes awesome."

Then I've said something awkward like:
"It's just safer."

You know, there are great dishes at restaurants (and made in homes) that are meatless or vegan.

I always choose the veggie option for work lunches or other catered events if possible and you know what? Especially at nice plated dinners, these veggie options are amazing in and of themselves and in comparison to the--what do they call it?--rubber chicken dinners. So much flavor that is often complex with...omg...vegetables and grains and nutrients and all that other cardboard-y stuff, right?

It doesn't always have to just be the vegetarian or vegan (if you're lucky) option. And often enough, that "option" doesn't have much thought put into it by the restaurant. Sad face.

I know allergies are a serious issue, but sometimes I get frustrated when I am embarrassed to ask about ingredients or feel awkward about removing feta cheese from my sandwich or making a meal out of sides because I don't want the restaurant staff to go out of their way to appease my preferences. Anyways, I assume that not meeting my preferences aren't that much of a liability to them.

Aside from sickness just because I don't usually eat meat and dairy (does dairy include eggs?), I won't get as ill as a person with allergies if I eat something that I say I "shouldn't" eat. Hopefully...

I guess I feel like it's a hassle for the restaurant because it's not just that I don't want to eat a certain food sometimes, it's a certain ingredient that I don't want. At fancier restaurants, I feel like I don't want to offend whoever created the complex dishes.

Sometimes I feel like the dishes (wraps, for example) are already mixed or prepared and so the staff will just pull out the bacon and so there would still be meat grease in there! Gross. Something like that.

A psychological allergy? Is that what I have? That doesn't count...


  1. I'm big into being super nice and not making any apologies. When ordering, I make clear that I don't eat any meat, dairy products, or eggs. If anyone presses me, I keep myself from being the focus of attention and instead turn the attention back to the industry. I'll say that the treatment of cows, pigs, and chickens on factory farms is brutal and not something I choose to support.

    It's not about me, it's about an industry that abuses every animal they come into contact with.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Erik!

    Thank you for advocating for animals and sharing the news you do. That's an interesting view to me because it's one that I rarely bring up. I notice from the posts that there is a focus on the meat industry and the omnipresence of animal cruelty in that industry (aside from the general fact that they are killing animals!). That is usually not my argument--if I were to argue. While I tend to be an advocate for a vegetarian/vegan diet (and what may be called a "lifestyle") I don't go deeper into talking about animal cruelty. I do not support animal cruelty but I have known that my main reasons for following a vegetarian diet and striving for a vegan one are a basic disgust/aversion to animal products and how they're processed, health, and an interest in how creatively people can and do prepare practical and gourmet vegetarian/vegan dishes.

    From the paragraph above what stands out to me is that (1) I keep using "vegetarian/vegan" (though they are not exactly the same) and (2) it does seem kind of selfish to basically say, "I'm not that interested in the animals." I feel bad sometimes when I think that, oh, my individual diet choice is this and, hey, it's pretty cool that I am not consuming/supporting animal cruelty with that diet choice. It seems a bit backwards. I feel like I don't not eat meat because I was disgusted by animal cruelty but rather that I was disgusted by meat products and then realized that, oh, the whole industry is messed up!

    Sometimes it seems straight-forward: be vegan, don't consume animal products! But it is more complex than that. (I try to use "complex" instead of "complicated" these days...) In my daily life, I try to make my individual choices, share them with people and get them interested. If they are negatively critical or judgmental, I usually act like my choice is just the most normal thing in the world. I guess in restaurants I feel different because though I am buying the food that I am choosing to order, it is up to someone else to make choices about my food in the end. When my food preferences are not addressed and met, I am offended and disapointed in the restaurant. Of course there are ways to dispute and I could just not go to the restaurant anymore. Usually for me it's a matter of asking for no cheese or no bacon or sausage or if there is dairy in the mashed potatoes. I wonder if food service staff are often briefed on customers' allergy concerns as well as other dietary concerns. People make a lot of comments about my vegan Kashi frozen meals I bring to work but they seem to like the vegan cupcakes I make, which they don't know are vegan until after they've eaten them! Not trying to be sneaky or even passive, just trying to introduce real and tasty options to the mainstream American diet that isn't relegated to "health nuts at the local co-op."

    But, I love that co-op. =)

    Ok, I'm rambling now. Hope some of that made sense either way!