A couple of years ago I posted a piece here about being a vegetarian and the assorted reactions I receive to this clearly rather outstanding confession (including the dearth of light bulb moments). With the topic due for an update, a great article by Maja Dezulovic has spurred me to move the topic to the top of my blog post plan.
Maja wrote very cogently for News 24 online about what it means to be a vegetarian. In the article she argues in much the same vein as I do, especially that we all deserve respect for our choices and we should not be made to feel inferior because of them.
It made me pause and wonder just how much has changed in my 20+ meat-free years.
I recall on a visit to France the incredulity of the chef in the hotel: ‘really, go on try my lamb, you’ll love it’. Err no, thanks. He went on tell me that if only I could stay a week instead of a weekend I could be ‘turned’ and happily eating meat again by the time I returned home.
Well this lady’s not for turning. References to the late Margaret Thatcher and Homeland aside, what is the idea that we vegetarians are suffering some kind of temporary aberration and that feeding us carrion will cure it?
At the same hotel was a young man of the much hated (by me) soap-box brand of vegetarianism. Proclaiming it to all within immediate earshot (and way beyond), he barked at the chef that ‘real vegetarians don’t eat fish’, later devouring a serving of fish soup (with seconds) and without as much as a splutter.
So, 20 years on have things changed all that much? I don’t really think so. While no-one in England has tried to ‘turn’ me, there still exists a certain sense of bafflement which doesn’t align with our greatly increased knowledge of related issues including planet sustainability, compassionate food farming and dietary health. Irritatingly, many, many food establishments still offer one token vegetarian dish on the menu.
Does the lack of light bulb moments lie in the fact that being vegetarian is a choice? Those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from food-related allergies have very little choice as they seek to avoid the offending foodstuffs which can produce such intolerable and sometimes life-threatening effects — and I sincerely hope that they are looked on rather more kindly.
So, with precious few light bulbs moments over the last 20+ years I’m left to wonder if it’s the concept of being ‘different’ that is so unsettling and difficult to understand?