- 1. People ask you whether you eat fish. My reply is usually a tongue in cheek “if it’s got a face I don’t eat it” but I will let the vegetarian society give you a more definitive response.
“Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”
*Shellfish are typically ‘a sea animal covered with a shell’. They take shellfish to mean;
Crustaceans (hard external shell) large – e.g. lobsters, crayfish, crabs, small – e.g. prawns, shrimps. Molluscs (most are protected by a shell) e.g. mussels, oysters, winkles, limpets, clams, etc. Also includes cephalopods such as cuttlefish, squid, and octopus.”
The Vegetarian Society also describes the different types of vegetarian:
“Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
Lacto-vegetarians: eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
Vegans: do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
Eggs: Many lacto-ovo vegetarians will only eat free-range eggs. This is because of welfare objections to the intensive farming of hens. Through its Vegetarian Society Approved trade mark, the Vegetarian Society only endorses products containing free-range eggs.
Religious Reasons: Some people may be vegetarian for religious reasons. Jains, for example, are either lacto-vegetarian or vegan, while some Hindus and Buddhists may choose to practice a vegetarian diet.”
- 2. The vegetarian society call them the by-products of slaughter, I call it “crap” you have to look out for when doing your shopping. “Crap” can include gelatin (see below picture if you ever wanted to know why you should avoid eating this stuff) which can be found in yoghurt’s, sweets and even some flavours of Dorito. Also if you buy cheese you have to make sure it has a V for vegetarian on the packaging otherwise it will contain rennet, which is described by the vegetarian society below the photograph.
“In cheese making, for milk to separate into curds and whey (curdling), the process requires the addition of rennet. Rennet contains the enzyme chymosin. Rennet can be sourced from the abomasum (fourth stomach) of newly born calves where the chymosin aids digestion and absorption of milk. Adult cows do not have this enzyme. Chymosin is extracted from slaughtered calves by washing and drying the stomach lining, which is cut into small pieces and macerated in a solution of boric acid/brine for 4-5 days. Three of the major sources of protease for coagulating milk are from animal sources, veal calves, adult cows and pigs, the other three are from fungi.”
That’s right folks rennet is the stomach lining of cows and pigs, yummy.
The other thing to look out for at the super market is wine, because wine often contains animal based ‘fining agents’ and for a better explanation of what these are this time I have asked Peta.
“The majority of people are unaware that wine, although made from grapes, may have been made using animal-derived products. During the winemaking process, the liquid is filtered through substances called “fining agents.” This process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavors and colorings, and other organic particles. Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes). Thankfully, there are several common fining agents that are animal-friendly and used to make vegan wine. Carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel, and vegetable plaques are all suitable alternatives. Now, the trick is finding out where you can buy these wines. You can check your local organic or health food stores, local organic wine makers, and co-op’s, and most regular wine/liquor stores will order vegan wines upon request.”
The stand out line for me is “blood and bone marrow” I am not sure that passes the taste test for me.
- 3. People try so hard to “get” your vegetarianism it ends up making you feel like an alien from another planet. People can try so hard to accommodate you that it makes you feel like you have inconvenienced them, so at a party or a function where you say you are a veggie the first question is that familiar old friend to the vegetarian “But you do eat fish?” (see point 1) You politely advise that no as a vegetarian you do not eat fish. They look crestfallen but then brighten up, “so do you eat cheese or milk”, here you have two options, 1) launch into the full vegetarian society endorsed explanation about Lacto-Vegetarians and Vegans or 2) in my case just say yes I do eat cheese (for the record I am a Lacto-ovo-Vegetarian who only eats free range eggs and is trying to cut down on cheese and milk and add a little soya milk into his life)
- 4. You can still encounter outright prejudice. Take my recent trip to the supermarket as an example.
Me: Can you show me where the vegetarian frozen meals are please?
Shop worker: I’m sorry we don’t have any, we only sell normal food here.
Me: I see, because the last thing you would want in this store is a bunch of abnormal vegetarians running around.
Shop worker: After a slight pause. Exactly, sir.
Or there was the time when we asked my daughter’s school whether the Jelly (or Jell-O for my American friends) was vegetarian because it did not indicate it on the school menu. After a lengthy email exchange the school to provide it but not without first taking my daughter out of her lessons and marching her to the kitchen so the chef could take a photo of her to put up on the kitchen wall for “identification purposes”. And when my daughter entered the kitchen she was greeted with “Here’s the vegetarian”
- 5. You always need to have your wits about you. You can never assume that a proffered dish is vegetarian, unless you have prepared it yourself. So being a vegetarian is tiring, very worthwhile from an animal welfare and a health point of view, but tiring because you are always on guard never sure when someone will try to stealth feed you an animal based product (see Totalitarian Meals) or like the time when my Mum served me “vegetarian chicken kievs” which turned out to be turkey kievs, full of meaty meaty turkey. This incident ended up with my Mum and I wrestling for the packaging to prove the true ingredients. (Full story to follow in a future instalment of Welcome to Tofutopia)
For more information about Vegetarian and Vegan foods and other interesting facts about animal welfare and organic living these are some good sites I have found. (I do not necessarily endorse all the views contained within these sites but I have found them a good resource for facts, figures and recipes)
The pictures in this blog post were are all produced by me with the exception of the gelatin photo, which came via the Raw for Beauty website.