Veggie questions you're too afraid to ask, answered
Ever wondered what goes on inside a vegetarian's mind?
It’s National Vegetarian Week! How are you celebrating? Are you rustling up a nut roast, trying some tofu or sampling seitan? I sure do hope so. Since FoodTribe is frequented by many a carnivore, I thought there might be some unanswered questions regarding vegetarianism. Often, these are questions you wish you could ask the vegetarian in your life, but they seem overly affronting, personal or argumentative.
I’ve reached out to other users and received a number of really interesting ones, and I’ve tried my level best to answer them honestly and without sounding too… preachy. If there’s anything you think is missing, please ask me in the comments.
And so, without further ado:
Why are you vegetarian? Religion or choice?
I started eating veggie after learning about how bad meat production was for the environment.
Don't plants have feelings?
I’m no biologist so I can’t claim complete accuracy here, but my understanding is that they don’t. Even if they react to their environment and to damage with certain reflexes, that’s not the same as a cognition process – I strongly doubt an apple tree cries out in agony when you pick one of the fruit. In fact, the ease with which they give up their fruit suggests that they want the fruit to be eaten. That's how the seeds are spread, right? Either way, I didn’t go veggie to prevent suffering. As mentioned, it was for the planet, man.
Does a veggie diet affect your bowels?
Digesting vegetables and carbs is a lot easier than digesting meat, and there’s benefits to this. You feel less lethargic after eating a big meal and lighter generally. But when you first stop with the meat, there’s a period of, adjustment. It’s not too extreme, but there’s certainly no need to take a book into the toilet with you.
Do you think you're above others?
No, I just live and let live. In fact, I live with a meat eater and he’s a very close friend, and so of course I don’t look down on him. However, just like with anything where your opinion differs from others, there are times when I find myself feeling a little frustrated. Usually it’s when I read something about global warming or see a big haul of fish being brought into port, stuff like that. That’s when I think, ‘get your heads out of the sand – this is wrong.’
What's it like being judged for asking for the veggie menu?
If I am ever judged for asking for the veggie menu then I haven’t noticed. Besides, most of the restaurants I choose to frequent have menus that are full of veggie options so it’s rarely a case of asking for a special menu. I’ve had a couple of funny comments from elderly family members in the past – I think they think it’s some kind of compromise on my masculinity. I’ve no problem admitting that I’d rather animals didn’t die for my food, and if that makes me a snowflake then so be it. I’m sure if people had to actually kill the animals themselves, they might agree it’s a touch barbaric.
Why do vegans name their foods meats? What are your thoughts on this?
It’s nice to have familiar foods, but without the meat in them. If you’ve got a really good veggie sausage, then sausage mash and beans still looks, smells and tastes like sausage mash and beans. Seems more complicated to change it than to keep it the same to me. They still call cars powered by electricity cars, don’t they? The components don’t define the name; the experience of using / eating it do.
Also, it’s nice having the same food as always. Just because I’ve decided not to eat dead animals doesn’t mean I suddenly dislike the taste of cooked meat. Vegetarianism has broadened my diet, but I still love teatime classics like shepherd’s pie and spag bol. Some familiarity is welcome, and the use of meat names helps that. It also makes it easier when shopping or ordering. If the bag on the shelves say ‘soya granules’, you might wonder what to do with it, and the same is true if a restaurant serves ‘formed disc of mushroom protein in bread’. If it’s ‘veggie mince’ and ‘veggie burger’ everyone’s understood.
What age did you become veggie?
18, so three years ago.
Has it ever been a problem?
My parents found it pretty irritating when I went home in between terms at university. There was a period when they’d pretend to have forgotten and cook meat for me – one time, Mum made pasta bake and diced the ham so small it was almost invisible, maybe in the hope that I’d just give up on picking it out and eat it. But I picked out every piece. They soon stopped trying to persuade me.
Tofu. Not appetising in raw form.
Worst thing about being veggie?
Trying to eat out in Europe, especially Spain. I’ve spent many an evening traipsing from restaurant to restaurant in foreign cities, stomach rumbling, and irritated by the lack of veggie food. I often find myself eating margherita pizzas.
Best thing about being veggie?
Eating out is cheaper. The veggie things are almost always the cheapest, so you end up being a bit more economical without even trying. In fact, a veggie diet is generally cheaper. Meat is usually the most expensive ingredient in any meal, and so you can cut costs by cutting it out.
Do you ever crave meat or cheat?
When I walk past a kebab shop, I love the smell, and on a summer evening when everyone’s barbecuing, it smells bloody incredible. Like I said, making an environmental decision doesn’t change your taste buds. But it does change the way you see food. Meat just isn’t appealing anymore. After a while you just don’t see it as food. I used to cheat somewhat by occasionally eating Haribo and using Worcestershire sauce when cooking, but now I don’t.
Having said that, I gave in a couple of years ago and had sushi while in Spain. I’d spent hours searching for a meal that wasn’t margherita pizza and was drawn in by the neon lights and nifty electric buzzer system. It was pretty average sushi, sadly.
Do you have more dairy to compensate?
No, I have oat milk with my cereal and coffee and generally try to reduce dairy intake. Having said that, I eat a lot of eggs and love to smother Italian food in veggie parmesan.
Do you get a hard time from vegans?
No, all my vegan friends take a view that I’m reducing, so that’s better than nothing. Also, almost every vegan was veggie for a period, and a high percentage of the vegans I know eat dairy or eggs every once in a while, so they understand the mindset. I sometimes beat myself up about it though. I’ll go vegan for a couple of weeks before giving in to cheese once again.
Favourite comfort food?
This is a tricky one, but I’ll go with lasagne. I usually make this using Quorn mince, which is surprisingly good. When it’s made with plenty of herbs and cheese, and cooked until golden, there’s few things that can top it.