A Vegetarian’s Rant

So, I’m a vegetarian. A pescetarian, really, but since all I get is confused looks when I say that, I’m a “vegetarian who eats fish.” I didn’t for a while, but a few trips to PEI (hellllllo fresh seafood!) and living a stone’s throw away the best fish and chips place on the east side turned me over to the dark side. Whoops.

I’ve been this way for, what, 6 years now? It’s just something that I’ve been doing for so long, it doesn’t seem “different” or “special.” I rarely talk about it, people usually only find out about my eating habits when we go out somewhere and I wind up asking for a caesar salad with no bacon. The proceeding conversation is a little predictable, so I’ll offer some advice for those of you who have never met one of us.

Top ten worst things people say when I reveal my eating habits:

1. “Oh, that’s cool. Would you mind if I order a steak? That wouldn’t bother you, right?” The person who’s asking isn’t really at fault, who’s at fault is either whatever crazy judgemental vegetarian they have come across in the past, or the stereotypes they’ve seen. I hate using the goddamn word “vegetarian” because it conjures up images of some crazy, unshaven, ratty-haired hippy who talks about rainbows and throws red paint on people. Thanks, Hollywood. General rule: Don’t judge my food choices, and I won’t judge yours. Unless you’re eating babies, then, well, I’ll say something.

2. “Why did you become a vegetarian?” I usually just brush this off, sorry. I was 14 when I made the decision, I can’t even remember. Fluffy cute animals are too cute to eat? Probably. Let’s not get into an ethics conversation that inevitably catches the attention of some meat-head at the next table who decides to tell me how delicious his steak is. Charming.

I imagine this is how it went.

3. “Do you eat eggs?” DID I SAY VEGAN?

4. “I’ll make you some tofu when you come over.” Yes, because that is the only non-meat product in existence. Thanks. I’m perfectly fine with some salad and potatoes for dinner, and hey, guess what, they’re vegetarian!

5. “I could never be a vegetarian! I love meat too much!” Is this supposed to compliment my self-control, or what? It’s really not all that hard, trust me.

None of you mean any harm, I realize. There are definitely worse things you could say! I’m quite the quiet vegetarian. I bring my own veggie burgers to barbecues, I don’t request any special meals to be made for me, and I don’t care what you eat in front of me. I even find Epic Meal Time hilarious, despite that they cover everything in mounds of bacon.

I would like to include a public service announcement: Thinking of cutting meat out of your diet? Great! Shut up about it! There is a time and a place for talking about your dietary choices, and spitting at uncle Joe for eating turkey on Thanksgiving is not one of them. You’re just making life harder for the non-confrontational vegetarians that have to battle your stereotypes daily. Thank you.

16 responses to “A Vegetarian’s Rant

  1. Cool post =)

  2. As I am a chef I have to say I feel for you. But you have to admit, there are those vegetarians, usually vegan, who wear it like some sort of badge of honour. When they announce their status it is with a slight touch of condescension as thought the rest of us are more to be pitied than anything else. I object to those people most heartily but I would never ever mind designing a meal around you, any old time. What a person chooses to eat or not eat is as much their own personal business as their religion. I won’t tell you who to worship and you better not make the mistake of telling me who I should worship.
    Years ago when I owned a catering company, my favourite thing was the pompous vegetarian who would announce, at the table, I’m a vegetarian. As if it were a challenge. Please me if you can. My answer, “Please yourself”. I don’t care what anyone chooses to eat or not eat and I would never question those choices. Rather I respect that choice. I like your attitude. I’ll serve you lobster any time at all!

    • I used to find a lot of the people in high school who were very condescending about their food choices were the ones who wouldn’t stick with it. They would go all-out for 3 weeks about how bad eating meat was, shaming everyone else, and then you’d see them at the mall scarfing down some KFC.

      “What a person chooses to eat or not eat is as much their own personal business as their religion. ” I love this, perfect way to say it.

      And thank you, I’m sure you make wonderful seafood! 🙂

  3. But where do you get your protein??

    That’s my favorite question (I don’t eat seafood either, so I hear this probably more often). It’s amazing what nonsensical conversations one can have, no?

    You are very right, being vegetarian is a choice that should not have to be explained or militantly defended or demeaned (the demeaning goes for both sides).

    • Oh, the old protein question, which spirals into “it’s not healthy to not eat meat! There have been studies! We’re supposed to eat meat!” etc etc. Horrid conversation, isn’t it?

  4. Thank you for the pingback. Although I have to say, you are adding confusion to the mixture by saying you are a vegetarian who eats fish. It is difficult enough to get people to understand what a vegetarian is anyway, without people adding in the seafood mix.

    We met a couple of pescatarians 20 years ago. We understood it then. No reason why people shouldn’t understand it now. Rather than catering to the general lack of understanding, what is wrong with saying ‘I eat fish, and a vegetable/dairy/egg-based diet. I don’t eat meat or poultry. I am a pescatarian.’

    Truth is, you aren’t vegetarian if you eat fish. You know that, and so does every other pescatarian. It would be great if you could explain what a pescatarian was, rather than confusing the whole vegetarian thing. Thanks.

    • I didn’t mean to add confusion. I suppose I could have called the whole thing “A Pescetarian’s Rant” but then that would set out confusion from the beginning. I was a strict vegetarian for years, so that label’s stuck with me. I don’t take the labels too seriously, though, and I tried to clarify at the beginning.

      • I think anyone who became a vegetarian at 14 deserves a round of applause. There is no way I would have even been allowed to do that.

        TBH I do think a pescatarian’s rant would have been a great title. Rather than confusing the issue, I think by doing that you would have clarified it.

        We’ve been vegetarian for 20+ years, but we did it bit by bit and, we ate fish while calling ourselves vegetarian in the early years – because we didn’t eat meat, so therefore we had to be vegetarian yes? No. I guess that’s why I like to see it accurately described these days. I got it wrong many years ago.

  5. I have worked with and lived with several vegetarians over the years and the most interesting thing is that they all were very open about discussing the whats, whens, and whys of their eating habits. Every one of them had a different reason for being vegetarian (one of them was raised that way… never had a bite of meat in her life), so I think that’s probably why many people ask the “why did you become a vegetarian” question. It’s like asking someone why they chose their profession or favorite hobby or what kind of car they drive. We’re all interested in the life choices other people make in order to make better choices ourselves (or to feel better about the choices we have made). And I actually know one of those “you better not eat a hamburger or wear your leather jacket around me” kinds of vegetarians, so I find it better to ask if they mind what I order rather than have someone scowl at me over lunch!

  6. Great post. I feel exactly the same way when people ask why I’m a vegetarian.

  7. Haha, this is amazing. And I agree with what some other people have said, it’s really none of their business what anyone else eats or doesn’t eat. I know there are people who don’t eat certain foods or are vegetarian because of religion and then it becomes a whole different animal, and can be shaky ground to tread depending on the person–but honestly still, who cares? Just because someone else is eating a steak doesn’t mean they’re making you eat it, obviously, don’t know why they’d get uncomfortable about it. 😛 And I’ve totally heard of pescetarian, but probably because I’ve spent a lot of time around vegetarians/vegans.

  8. I’m not vegetarian but mostly of the people that I’ve met here in Tokyo are.
    and they keep telling me how hard is this country for vegetarians… I wonder if is it hard for you sometimes or maybe awkward in any of the situations below… however before I saw the picture of Lisa, I had in my mind that specific picture. i love the simpsons