So why are you vegetarian?

It always happens. The one that kills the conversation.

There you are chatting away happily about nothing in particular and it suddenly comes up.

Maybe you have refused the prawn vol-au-vent (yes I know I’m showing my age with that one), or the smoked salmon canapes, or the jamon serrano (it would have been parma ham back then), or even the potted meat sandwiches for goodness sake. It’s all the same.

‘Oh! Are you vegetarian?’ they ask. In that sort of nosy cum patronising cum what-a-strange-species-you-are sort of voice.

Whereupon, you say yes.

Naturally, they say they don’t eat much meat, although they do like fish. Because that’s ok. Fish aren’t as alive as animals are they?

Sort of wet and cold and inanimate. Of which more below. But they aren’t soft and fluffy like dear little lambs or piglets, or just insert appropriate cute animal of choice in here.

I could write the script for the conversation. So I might as well:

‘Oh we don’t eat a lot of meat. We’re almost vegetarian really. We like pasta. A little chicken occasionally, and lots of fish and seafood. Do you eat fish?’

Having just refused the prawn vol-au-vents and the smoked salmon canapรฉs, it’s rather unlikely isn’t it?

‘No, I don’t.’

‘Oh, you’re not vegan, are you?’ (Tones of shock horror, as fish-eating vegetarians are sort of understood, but people who don’t eat fish must be those vegan extremists).

‘No.’ (Although I wish I was).

‘So what made you become vegetarian?’ I just love the way people feel it is their right to ask nosy personal questions to complete strangers as though it is a chat about the weather.

‘Was it for health or ethical reasons?’ they continue.

Sigh. Might as well bore them to sleep seeing as they are so interested in my dietary habits.

‘It was initially for health reasons. We heard rather a lot on Radio 4 back in the lovely days of the 80s when we were 80s babes and dinkies, about how eating too much red meat wasn’t that good for your health.

‘At the time, we invariably ate at least three red meat meals a week. A rather nice rump steak weighing well over a pound between two of us, a joint of beef, a mince meal, not forgetting the lamb shoulder, the pork fillet, that’s before you even get into the softer options of chicken and fish…..

‘So we cut down. By which I mean we ate chicken and fish and everything else was vegetarian.’

(This is why I know where people are coming from).

‘I bought lots of books, which were mostly on the lines of lentils and brown sandals, but still, we survived.

‘Our exceptions were when we went home to my parents who would have equated being vegetarian (and later did) as a worse sin than coming out of the closet. And when we ate out, it seemed a waste of money to buy mediocre food that was vegetarian when you could have a decent dead meal. I mean, fish, flesh or fowl.

‘But we all have our lapses. One day I cooked soya beans and they were vile. The next day I went out and bought some stewing steak for a ‘decent’ casserole.

‘Still, we got back on The Road to Good Intentions. And over time, our rationale changed, and the health took a back seat to the appalling treatment and slaughter of animals just to put a ‘tasty’ dish on the table for us to eat.

‘Even the organic free range chicken was gently edged out of the diet. But we still ate fish, ‘cos after all, being vegetarian means, not eating meat right? And fish aren’t meat.

‘I had bought some rather nice plaice for tea. I had a day off work, so I was standing in Smiths reading the magazines for free for a pleasant few hours. One of those was a vegetarian magazine. It was discussing the eating of fish – because that is one of the borderline and somewhat confusing issues (for non-vegetarians/and new vegetarians alike). Plenty of people genuinely think they are vegetarian even though they eat fish.’

‘Have you ever seen a fish, with a hook in its mouth, struggling to live on the end of a line?’

The words in the article might as well have been written in 72pt Helvetica Bold Italic to me at the time. I conjured up the image of the fish. On the end of the line. Struggling for its life. Through no fault of its own.

‘I walked home, looked at the plaice and felt sick. I cooked it. I still felt sick. I’d said nothing to my partner but my revulsion must have come across in the cooking. He said: “I think we’ll stop eating fish.” So we did.

‘That was when – and why – I became a vegetarian.’

Interrogator is now looking for a means of escape but I am on a roll and have my own victim who was intrepid enough to start asking Nosy Personal Questions. Still, they are tough, and after suffering my revelation about becoming vegetarian, they have a quick attack back.

‘What about the poor screaming carrots when they are pulled out of the ground?’

Honestly, that one isn’t even worth an answer. I really can’t be bothered to say they aren’t exactly sentient beings.

‘Or how about your shoes, belts, handbags (which I avoid like the plague) – they must be leather?’ Interrogator smirks.

‘Synthetic.’ I could launch into a list of – at-the-time – mail order companies that I used that were ethical, vegan/vegetarian but something tells me I’m not going to get the companies a new customer. And fortunately the Interrogator isn’t cute enough to get into the rights and wrongs of artificially-produced synthetic clothing.

‘So what do you eat?’ is their last-resort question. ‘How do you get enough protein?’

That isn’t the issue sweetheart. I thought everyone knew that a western diet has far too much protein, and the key to good nutrition is to ensure a good balance of everything. That’s presumably why the five essential foods of my mother’s day – meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, has changed to the five fruit and veg portions a day that we are all exhorted to eat by those who sit in power and know better than us.

But I don’t answer. I am now as bored as they are. I can’t be bothered to talk about tofu, tempeh, seitan, or even quorn products, explain that I don’t live on a diet of cheese omelettes or I will fall over because I am underfed etc etc. I probably ate enough meat, fish, game, chicken etc in the first half of my life to sustain most of Africa.

Speaking of which, I could get into the environmental issues of a vegetarian diet.

Hey! Wait person! Where are you going? I thought you were interested in why I became vegetarian? And have been for more than 20 something years.

Note:

A vegetarian diet is one that excludes flesh, fish and fowl, ie meat, fish, chicken, depending on how you want to define these things. The first one is the usual one used by the UK veg soc. Depending on their choice, veggies may eat dairy products and eggs. Preferably free-range eggs and cheese made only with vegetarian rennet.

Vegans don’t eat any products that exploit animals. That’s easy isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚

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About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in animal rights, blogging, food, health, life, parents, vegetarian, vegetarianism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to So why are you vegetarian?

  1. Totty says:

    I love reading your pieces, K, they really get my omnivorous imagination working. I’m sitting here conjuring up the headlines; “Right-to-life in the chicken world – should the egg-eating public be given the real facts?” “I escaped the celibate life of the battery farm and found love on an allotment only to have my unborn children stolen by the egglu owner who saved me”.. ;))

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    • Oh I can beat all those easily ๐Ÿ˜€ Mainly on the lines of “I flew away from the sex-mad cockerel only to be faced with the slobbering jaws of the rescued street dog” etc…

      I love reading your comments too, J. I think we were both granted with more than our fair share of flippancy at our birthdates. I have to say, even when I am relatively serious about something, I can no longer write without tongue being firmly in cheek. Old age? Or pragmatism? Who wants to read serious crap?

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      • * Quick Disclaimer * Everything I wrote in the above post is totally true and accurate I think. And I really am vegetarian. That’s when I’m not vegan.

        *Takes off serious hat again*

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        • Totty says:

          I’m sure you realise that I am not knocking the vegetarians or the vegans; whatever floats your sauceboat is fine by me. I think being born into the era of ration books makes me happy to eat whatever comes my way. Collecting vegetable peelings from neighbours to boil up with the mash for an allotment pig is one of my earliest memories. The pigs eventually got their revenge as in 1956 my Step-father died of a coronary chasing an escaping sow up a steep field!

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          • Of course I don’t think you are knocking us v*gans, and I do appreciate your comments and your sense of humour.
            I may even steal your intellectual copyright – I so feel a post about anti-abortion fertilised egg-eaters coming on ๐Ÿ™‚

            Your veg peeling tale is v Monty Python. No way I can match that. We have eaten food from our Spanish neighbours thought that they gave us for the gallinas that never made it into the chicken shed ๐Ÿ˜€ Poor step-father ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Oh, so you didn’t eat the peelings then? ๐Ÿ˜€ Missed that the first time around.

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  2. Vicky says:

    Such an interesting read, and I so want someone to push me off this fence I’m sat on into the vegetarian field. I did many years ago, but landed in the muddy water of diet and what to eat etc. so climbed back onto the fence again. Perhaps having access to your lovely recipes will help me jump over the puddle. x

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    • Hey Vicky I kept it short ๐Ÿ˜€ but I should prob have credited you for the inspiration for the post. I could have sworn I wrote something similar earlier – but couldn’t find it so thought I might as well do a new post.

      The one thing I would say to anyone – is – do what I did. Just little by little. I wouldn’t recommend filling the store cupboard with lentils and stuff (unless you live in Spain in which case it is de rigeur), or switching to tofu, hunting down tempeh, and seitan, especially if your partner don’t have any interest. Change your diet slowly and gradually – if you want – and to suit you.

      But don’t go down the cheese omelette/pizza road either ๐Ÿ˜ฆ – there are far better meals out there.

      I always used to do a menus for the week when I was working in London so I didn’t have to think about what to cook when I came in. It worked really well. Maybe worth posting up somewhere what a sample menu for our week is. Oh, that was just evening meals. Suppose I should include lunch and brekkies too. More inspirations. Thanks Vics ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Pingback: Menus for the week, and, beurre au citron | roughseasinthemed

  4. Pingback: A Vegetarian’s Rant | Classic Confusion

  5. lowerarchy says:

    I identify with all of what you write here. My maternal grandfather was a butcher so becoming a vegetarian was akin to child molesting in my family. One Christmas my mum said to my wife and me – “Of course I haven’t invited for dinner you as you don’t eat meat…”
    People react exactly as you say when food choices come up. Some tell me I don’t know what I’m missing – which is stupid in the extreme as veggies tend to have thought a million times more about dietary habits than those who eat any rubbish. Or they sort of accuse me of being too extreme or (this is the best) of thinking too much about things ๐Ÿ™‚ as if thinking not enough was creditable.
    If I talk about the health benefits they pull faces as if I’m being indelicate, as if it’s my fault they can’t think and eat. If I talk about animal welfare they tell me this country has the best standards – not like some places. Somebody was going on about bestiality, so I said being killed and eaten was probably worse than being sexually assaulted. They never spoke to me again ๐Ÿ™‚
    Keep up the great work mate – the animals will thank us, and our bodies know the truth…

    Like

    • Oh I didn’t mention on this one that my parents sold bacon, ham, tongue, boiled ham, and cheese – probably not vegetarian either. It may be on another post but partly explains their entrenched rejection of our choice. My mother just stopped cooking for us. Simple. It is probably on the meals-in-law post whatever I called it (in the veg category).
      I think I’ve had most of those reactions too – and of course ‘But don’t you miss?….. (– insert invariably bacon or tasty steak)’
      I like the bestiality comment! although I doubt even I would have thought of that.
      Part of the problem is that non-vegetarians have very little knowledge or understanding of the factual aspects, the slaughter (and dairy abuse) industry, the health issues, the environmental issues, and just why people choose not to eat dead animals. So if a little of what I write sinks in, that suits me, even if it only means people learn how to cater better for vegetarians (which is also the subject of some other posts).
      As I said to vicky I’d love to be a missionary – but missionaries switch people off, so all I can do is a little gentle PR ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • lowerarchy says:

        Agree – missionaries often end up in the pot in cartoons as well ๐Ÿ™‚
        I’ve tried mentioning cannibalism in the hope of drawing parallels but not sure if it has any success.
        There’s a good short essay (only a couple of pages and not unreadable like much post-structuralist stuff) by the late Roland Barthes – French post-structuralist – about Steak and Chips, where he looks at the way meat and masculinity is linked. I’ll try and find and write about it.

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  6. lowerarchy says:

    Reblogged this on DOG Sharon and commented:
    This sort of sums up the way I feel as well

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  7. pinkagendist says:

    But how about fur coats? I mean, how could anyone possibly live without a fur coat? ๐Ÿ˜€

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    • Hardly an essential in Andalucรฎa, wouldn’t you agree? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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      • Totty says:

        Definitely a necessity in Valencia; even the EU has ruled on that as they have forced the UK to cough up a Winter Fuel Allowance for us after many years of avoidance. I am however more inclined to spend it on firewood than to wrap myself in mouldering pelts from the Rastro…

        Where do you stand on the use of wool? Vegans may eschew the use of animal by-products, but it is essential for the health of most breeds of sheep that they are
        sheared, and so to my mind the wearing of wool cannot be labelled ‘exploitation’. (I am conveniently ignoring the fact that the wool of modern meat breeds is not really suitable for clothing, but usually gets sold for insulation at a cost below that of its shearing)

        P.S. I’ve not been ignoring you, just been tied up with DH having a ‘baja’, but he’s on the up again now. Just as well, as I went A over T down the main street yesterday and have an ankle like a balloon, so I’m getting the chance to be a lady of leisure and surf t’internet today.

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        • Hello TT

          Wondered what had happened to you. Glad you are still with us and hope other half is ok. Ah, just read the last bit. In which case I had better extend my sympathies and hope you recover quickly.

          I don’t think I’ve bought new wool for a long time (I had plenty from Ye Olden Colde Days) – I can see four or five scattered items around the place that I haven’t put away since last winter. I was happy enough to get rid of my silk shirts (hung onto the odd scarf), but I haven’t got it in me to chuck away useful wool pullovers. I don’t know enough about the health of sheep and shearing (except to say it can often be brutal) but I am sure I could find something somewhere that says the opposite to it being essential for their health. I do like wool though but luckily I can get by with cotton for the most part here.

          I thought the fuel allowance came in a couple of years ago, or has the UK just not paid up. We haven’t lit a fire in years, but we do use an electric heater in Gib flat.

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          • Totty says:

            The fuel allowance came in quite a while ago for pensioners and disabled living in the UK, but anyone who was receiving it there and then moved over here was told it was not exportable. This was taken to the European courts about ten years later, and eventually they overturned the Ministry’s decision and it became exportable, but only if you were in receipt of it before your move to Spain. This year, somebody living in Switzerland who was not entitled to it because he was living outside the UK when he became a pensioner has again taken it to the European court and won the right to receive it. The Minister threw a wobbler of course, and threatened to introduce a Winter temperature ‘means test’, but as that would eliminate the people who had retired to Torquay, he has decided to allow us to apply while he tries to figure out a way to deny us!

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          • Damn! I snorted all over the keyboard at that last bit ๐Ÿ˜€

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      • pinkagendist says:

        How about a fur collar? My days in Andalucia are numbered (if the real estate crisis ever ends, that is)… Next stop: l’Auvergne ๐Ÿ˜€

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        • My mother had a ghastly tiny mink collar thing. Got thrown out. She had a beautiful coat with a blue fox collar. I ripped that off. The coat never looked the same though ๐Ÿ˜€ but even she realised she had gone fur enough. (groan)

          I did read about you moving to Francia somewhere. You may well be able to get the money you want/need in Sotogrande, I certainly won’t for some time from my finca. We have always considered France as a potential home, but it’s a bit far from Gib, and tbh, the older you get, the more of a drag it gets moving house. Fun when you are young like you and in the prime of life, but later, just another PITA to start different bureaucracy elsewhere.

          I am sure you would look great in a fleece jacket ๐Ÿ™‚

          Like

  8. The other day a girl said “you’re a vegetarian? Poor you!” . It annoyed me.
    But generally I try to be understanding because I remember when I wasn’t vegetarian I used to ask a lot of questions. I think most people are not bad intentioned, just curious, because most people have never really thought of it. Anyway, great post! I think every vegetarian and vegan can relate ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    • Thank you for your visit and comment. I agree, I think most of us remember when we weren’t veg/vegan. And, it’s why I occasionally write lists from time to time to explain what it is about because non veg*ns are confused. When people who eat fish and chicken say they are vegetarian on the grounds they don’t eat meat, it’s easy to see why people who aren’t get confused. I’m a strict vegetarian/would-be vegan so I do try and define the terms quite strictly eg around cheeses etc. and to make life easier for all of us, I like to post about what we CAN eat, not just what we don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

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