On Vegetarians

I wrote this a while ago, when Taylor Clark’s Slate Article first ran, but delayed putting it up because I had just done ranting on people who don’t like food. So I waited, but in light of Herbivoracious’ comments from the vegetarian standpoint, I decided I should put up my omnivorous ramblings.


I read this article about vegetarians. I mostly, from an omnivores point of view, agree with what he is saying. I think living in Seattle, I run into far less of the rampant demands upon vegetarians to convert than he describes. In fact, I think most of my vegetarian friends only hear from ME that they should convert. And I’m only kidding (really, guys, I swear).

I hold a beef (Ha!) with the article in two places. Ok, three, because I want to reserve my right to always give shit to my veggie loving friends. I personally love tofu, and shock of shocks, eat a decent amount of vegetarian food when at home alone. Which brings me to my two issues: the part about eating at someone else’s house for a barbacue and the part about eating out.

When I invite someone to my house for dinner, for grilling, for anything, I’m volunteering to be the hostess. I’m signing an imaginary contract saying I will provide them with food. Thus, if I knowingly invite a vegetarian to my house, I know full well I’m obligating myself to supplying a vegetarian option, which, in my book, should be at least as interesting and exciting as the omnivorous options. This means two things–1) if you are vegetarian you might miss out on my best dinner parties, because I simply don’t have interest in preparing an amazing pork belly stew with duck stock braised greens for someone who will not eat it and 2) Don’t tell me “you shouldn’t have” after I make you something amazing and vegetarian because the fact is that I should have. And beyond that I probably enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a vegetarian option and enjoyed preparing it. You are my friend, my job, as hostess is to feed you food which will please you. So please enjoy.

My other issue with the Slate article was with his complaint about restaurants. This is not a problem I see just with vegetarians, but with picky eaters everywhere. To them, I say, if you don’t like the food, then don’t eat out. Yes, I know it sucks to sit at home with your microwave instant brown rice (oops, threw up a bit in my mouth remembering both that this exists and that someone I know said she eats this), but why come out and torture a restaurant with your endless requests for sauce on the side and none of this, that and the other thing. What a restaurant serves is how the chef intended it to be. If there is nothing on the menu you like, eat elsewhere. If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat at a pizza restaurant and expect them to remove the cheese. If you are vegetarian, don’t eat at Momofuku and wonder why you can’t get a pork bun sans meat. This is, from working in the restaurant industry, my biggest pet peeve. Customers think they are always right, but you know what? They’re not. Chefs work day in and day out to make the best thing they can from a variety of perspectives: taste, flavor, price. That means you know why there are no tomatoes on your smoked salmon in May? Because the dish would go up in price. So when you request those, you give the chef this decision: cater to you and add it to your bill, thus recouping the money he would lose, or, because he wants to keep customers, cater to you and lose money on the dish, or thirdly, don’t cater to you at all, and risk your table leaving. Not a good choice. Why make other people’s lives difficult? We don’t walk into your office and try to switch up your filing system!

–End of previously written part

I got a little ranty at the end. Sorry. I really did like most of what he says in the article. I have no issue, fundamentally with vegetarians. Though I do wish people who eat fish or meat and still claim to be vegetarian would just admit “I don’t like meat” rather than pretend that it is in some way verboten. Oy, I can’t stop ranting! Ok, but my point was that Jonathan Kauffman has an article in today’s Seattle Weekly describing the various tofu factories in town. It was timely, as one is down the street from my house, and as I left it on Monday, I thought how sad it is that people think of tofu as a replacement food, for meat or for health value, instead of as its own wonderful food, irregardless of the way it is used. I think a lot of people say they dislike tofu because they are used to it as plain, cold in a tasteless wrap. That said, I think a lot of people who dislike meat would feel differently if they closed their eyes and were not told what a spoonful of raw chopped beef was–I’m fairly certain they would love it. People are strange about food, I guess is the moral of my story. I just hope that I can open eyes and encourage people to try new things that they otherwise thought they hated, be them animal, vegetable or soy bean cake.


3 Responses

  1. I commented over at Herbivoracious after reading the article, but I’ll respond here, too. I am one of those vegetarians who eats seafood and still calls myself a vegetarian and my reason is precisely what you said you wished people would give – I don’t like meat. I have attempted to re-introduce it because it appealed to me once or twice but each time I had it, I wasn’t impressed at all. Maybe someday my tastes will change, but for now, the taste and texture just don’t appeal. I’ve very happy with high quality seafood and high quality vegetarian food and try to make my meals as tasty as I can without the addition of meat.
    As for what you said about being a hostess and making something that works for vegetarians – I have about one friend who does this and the rest of them (family included) just tend to have a dish of spaghetti with marinara sauce or a salad that they expect me to be happy with. I’ve learned to deal with it, but those who do think hard about what they’re cooking to make sure I have something to eat I truly cherish. You are a good friend for both leaving vegetarians out of your meat-heavy meals (because you’re right on that note) and for challenging yourself when you do invite them.

  2. Naomi, I read your blog with enthusiam and respect. I have some beef myself with the whole don’t make changes on the menu. Many times I go out with a friend of mine who used to eat kosher. She stopped eating kosher when she realized that she was being judged as difficult. She asked for the ceasar salad without bacon bits and would get mean stares. Almost every food in restaurants has some kind of cheese on it. Every meat dish has some kind of parmesan in it. She would rather ask for the salad without bacon then have to change places to go out. Same with pregnant ladies who can’t eat certain cheeses or seafood, should they stay home eating pickles and peanut butter? And lactose intolerance, these people do not want to be a burden so they make do with what there is. Chefs should be open to this. Eating out is not a solitary thing, changes should be made to make the dinner accesible to all the people.

    That’s my take on it.

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