The Biggest Lie Ever Told About Vegetarians

Categories: Musings
vegetarians_sexy.jpg
Brett Jordan via Flickr Creative Commons
Some vegetarians love food so much, they roll around naked with it.
Vegetarians in all forms -- ovo-lacto, vegan, etc. -- are subject to an impressive array of misconceptions and lies about the meatless lifestyle.

Sometimes, the evidence of misunderstanding is overt, like the person we encounter at a cocktail party whose eyes bug when they spot a plate free of sliders and pork belly, the conversation turning from pleasant getting-to-know-you-banter to an exhausting interrogation about gastronomic habits punctuated by sympathetic question-statements like, "But what can you eat?" (Look, guys, sometimes we just want to see how many mini spanakopita we can shove into our mouths at once without getting distracted by a 15-minute discussion of what does or does not make it into our digestive tracts.)

Other lies about vegetarians: We just love the hell out of portobello burgers and can't eat enough of them in restaurants; the soggier the better. We're always silently judging every meat eater at the table. (That's only partially true, and also: Get over yourselves.)

The biggest lie of them all? Vegetarians don't like food.
 
Somewhere along the line, being vegetarian became synonymous with being a picky eater. As if putting together a complex, carefully curated meal of whole grains, legumes, fresh herbs, and home-grown veggies is somehow akin to the kid at the dinner table who turns her nose up at a plate of broccoli and refuses to eat anything but the boxed mac-n-cheese. Picky is the adult man who won't eat anything that's green or isn't a chicken nugget. Vegetarians as a collective are choosy about what they eat, yes, but picky? No.

The crux of the lie is the notion that vegetarians don't like food. "I could never go vegetarian because I like food too much," people say, as if to imply that meat-free food isn't worthy of love. Look at the work of Yotam Ottolenghi, a chef who, although not vegetarian, has achieved fame for his salacious vegetable dishes. His cookbook Plenty is stocked with images so titillating that the book ought to come wrapped in a brown paper bag. (I refuse to refer to his work, or anything, for that matter, as "food porn" but that's basically what it amounts to.) These are dishes that are made for people who don't just like food but adore it.

Maybe the lie persists because vegetarians are seen as somehow being immune from indulgent cravings and losing control in the face of food. Makes sense if you think vegetarians  eat only raw tofu and carrots. Who asks a cabdriver to hit the drive-through on the way home from the bar because they've got a drunkity-drunk craving for a bowl of raw kale?

The thing is, vegetarians also obsess over and submit to culinary urges that aren't good for them. Those cravings for tacos and margaritas that lead to skipping out of work early for Taco Tuesday? Happens to us too. The ill-advised fast-food obsession that turns into a pilgrimage? Check. The fried-food fix that leads to a small grease fire in the kitchen? You bet your ass. Never assume a vegetarian doesn't like food. After all, like most red-blooded Americans, there's a decent chance the vegetarian in question loves food -- perhaps even a little too much.

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8 comments
Amanda Lester Trevelino
Amanda Lester Trevelino

Wow, not sure if this makes me want to grab a thick chocolate bar or take a cold shower. Either way, love the veg vent. Great post!

Amanda Trevelino
Amanda Trevelino

Wow, not sure if this makes me want to grab a thick chocolate bar or take a cold shower. Either way, love the veg vent. Great post!

Iggy
Iggy

As frustratingly persistent as this viewpoint seems to be, it's an excellent opportunity to elaborate on precisely the points you mention here.  With the increasing ease of finding even the most esoteric ingredients in local markets, the amazing variety of recipes we have at our fingertips, and a planet worth of cuisines to explore, we are fortunate to be living in an era where being vegetarian is no longer synonymous with a lifetime of bland, unappetizing food.  I take a great deal of satisfaction in finding the right meals that can bring both omnivores and vegetarians to the same dinner table and leave them both clamoring for seconds.

We're a mostly vegetarian household by accident more than by design.  With more and more research linking the consumption of red meat to serious health issues (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03..., I find myself more and more inclined to follow Pollan's advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."  I don't make a point of being obnoxious about it, but I'm certainly glad to change people's minds - one delicious dinner at a time.

Shlebs
Shlebs

Nice job feeding the troll, guys.

clouds
clouds

I am a vegetarian and I actually care about my health. I enjoy the taste of meat, but on the other hand, I did not enjoy a six hour surgery (complete with four blood transfusions due to excessive blood loss) to remove a 16cm fibroid from my uterus, which probably grew to that size because of a diet high in meat and the hormones that animals are given so that they can be mass produced.  So, thank you for enlightening us with such an insightful comment, FSQ. 

Iggy
Iggy

As frustratingly persistent as this viewpoint seems to be, it's an excellent opportunity to elaborate on precisely the points you mention here.  With the increasing ease of finding even the most esoteric ingredients in local markets, the amazing variety of recipes we have at our fingertips, and a planet worth of cuisines to explore, we are fortunate to be living in an era where being vegetarian is no longer synonymous with a lifetime of bland, unappetizing food.  I take a great deal of satisfaction in finding the right meals that can bring both omnivores and vegetarians to the same dinner table and leave them both clamoring for seconds.

We're a mostly vegetarian household by accident more than by design.  With more and more research linking the consumption of red meat to serious health issues (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03..., I find myself more and more inclined to follow Pollan's advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."  I don't make a point of being obnoxious about it, but I'm certainly glad to change people's minds - one delicious dinner at a time.

Brianjbowe
Brianjbowe

Oh, look, we've been joined by a genius! I will say, our commenting friend may be on to something -- you have always been very au courant. And, of course, this vegetarianism thing is very fashionable these days. I mean, it's been a big thing for 2600 years give or take, it's bound to run out of steam any day, just like acid washed jeans or shoulder pads. And THEN who's going to have egg on her face? Or egg replacer?

FQS9000
FQS9000

The biggest lie about veggoids is that they care about anything but being trendy and hypocritical.

They don't and are utterly.

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