Why Are You a Vegetarian?

From time to time, I have spirited conversations with foodies about eating animals. Some are vegetarians. They eat nothing with a “soul” (although if a carrot doesn’t have a soul, why do they refer to them as a baby? Yuck. IJS.).

So they go one step further — they don’t eat anything with eyes. (Don’t potatoes have eyes? I can’t remember.) Then there is the clan of the royal “I only eat seafood.” No Bambi or Thumper for them, no, sirree. (Although one might argue that if you are referring to soul (sole?), there is a rock fish, a fish roll up, and a blue(s) fish. But I’m stretching my point.)

My favorite snooty (misinformed?) eater is the “I don’t eat red meat” variety of diner. What. Ever. Have you ever been to a commercial chicken farm? If you had, you wouldn’t eat anything for a week. What are your reasons for not eating red meat? Cruelty? Fat content? Self-flagellation? I can pop all of those arguments in a jiffy. Just put down that bowl of Jell-O, get off your leather couch, slip on your leather shoes, and get back to me.

There is also a subclass of finicky eaters who ask waiters about the living conditions of the pork, cow, or wayward salmon they are about to order. Free-range? Ritz-Carlton-raised? Was the hill-hopping bunny reared by both (heterosexual) parents? It happens.

Last October, I was (snob alert) dining in Italy, and a handsome waiter placed a plate of rabbit terrine with a thinly sliced Granny Smith (Ruling: are relatives considered pets or fruits?) apple between me and a dear friend of mine. When she found out the beautiful dish was rabbit, she scrunched up her face and pushed it away. “I don’t eat anything I would keep as a pet,” she said. Hmm, I admit I was caught a little flatfooted. Now we were talking about what constitutes a suitable pet. I would love to have a goat (she wouldn’t). I also wouldn’t mind milking a few cows with funky names like Moo and How Now every morning before I drive in for an edit meeting. Hell, I spend a zillion dollars a month on bird seed, and most of the wild birds in my backyard have names: Sid & Nancy, George & Martha — you get my drift.

Pigeon? Yum. (I miss Mr. Chow.)

So, let’s discuss. It’s a new year. Perhaps we are entering a new age, and perhaps vegetables will have to at least be classified as a teenager before they are steamed.

Comments

  • Puddin’Tane

    Word: Donner Party.

    If push comes to shove, nothin’ like some human thigh on the barbie.

    I’m not giving up meat. Nope. Not gonna do it.

  • Meat Eater

    Zac only eats things that he can smoke.

  • TradeLaird

    Or it could be Dahmer Party.

  • Glenn Campbell

    Human thigh? According to Celeste human thirdleg sashimi is considered a delicacy where he is from.

  • Carnivores dude

    Paraphrasing Homer Simpson, ” If God didn’t want us to eat animals, how come he made them taste like meat!”

  • Margaret

    I don’t get it either! Once I got such attitude from some hippie gal at a breakfast place when I asked about the type of bacon it was… “I don’t eat bacon, I am a vegetarian!”

    To which I replied, “Nice leather belt and shoes you have on!”… (I admit, I had a little buzz.) That nipped that attitude right in the bud.

    Have your beliefs and views but don’t force them on me.

    I don’t eat dairy, but that is because I feel better when I do not. And you can only imagine the looks I get when I order a big ole steak but opt for no cheese or sour cream on my baked potato because I do not do dairy. No, I am not vegan, I eat meat, just no dairy. 🙂

    And I would rather have red meat anyday that chicken or ground up turkey!! Or sometimes even fish! Catfish?? Give me a big ole STEAK!

    Go Meat!

  • Don’t even get me started. My husband is a vegan. (for those of you who aren’t sure what a vegan is: NO animal products. No eggs, no milk, no cheese, no butter, no honey…) I can only dream that one day he will be just a vegetarian! Did I mention that my family’s business is cattle??

  • Julie Blacklidge

    OK, Nancy, I don’t know if this will help, but here goes. I was a vegetarian for 10 years before I moved to Texas from California. I didn’t become a vegetarian for health reasons. I made the choice when I was 19 after reading a pamphlet I picked up in Venice Beach about slaughter houses and how they slaughtered sweet, little lambs. By the time the roller-skating, guitar-strumming guy with his turban passed by me again, I was a full-fledged vegetarian.

    I used to say I didn’t eat anything with eyes. Then people would say, “Then why not eat clams and oysters?” Argh. I didn’t have an answer. It just felt wrong to me. I could not believe the hostility that was aroused in many people who found out I didn’t eat meat.

    It stems from a sense of supposed superiority. Non-veggies feel that veggies are asserting some sort moral high road. Maybe some of them are, but I think most were like I was. It just didn’t feel right to me. The consistency of meat, the flavor, the IDEA of it totally grossed me out.

    Of couse, 10 years of dedication all went to hell after two years in Texas. My trainer convinced me that cheese pizza, grilled cheese sammies, and McDonald’s cheeseburgers sans the meat patty stuffed with french fries was not a healthy lifestyle choice. I wasn’t a responsible vegetarian. I was a cheesatraian. He convinced me to try a protein-rich diet to help me lose weight. And I did. For a short time. Until I tasted a McDonald’s cheeseburger with the meat. Those are really good.

    Now I’m working to create healthy meals with a balance of meat and veggies. It’s a work in progress. But for your friend that didn’t eat the bunny… don’t be too hard on him/her. They’re not judging the rest of the group for eating it, they just can’t imagine it in their mouth. (I know I’m leaving this way open for jokes… keep it clean people.)

  • Dallasite

    I want a steak for breakfast… a steak with a cheeseburger on top, and a side of steak, yeah, that’s it. I want a steak with cheeseburger and steak for breakfast.

    Oh, and lunch is coming soon.

  • Wall Street Journal had this article http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123120503718255953.html in yesterdays paper about the inventor of Tofurky.

    Has anyone tried it?

  • Brenk

    If God had not intended us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat.

  • Julie Blacklidge

    One last point: people who call themselves vegetarians but still eat fish and chicken should be fined every time they say they’re vegetarian. It’s an unearned title. Thankfully the word pescatarian has emerged to give those posers a correct moniker.

  • STAY AWAY from the tofurky – It was horrible! If you are going to be a vegetarian I don’t see why you have to make up things that are supposed to look and taste like meat….seems a little odd to me.

  • Puddin’Tane

    No honey? Wha?

  • CBS

    who cares? Eat meat, don’t eat meat, how does it impact me (which is what this is all about right)? Don’t push your non-meat (or meat) eating habits on me and we are fine. I have met, dated, married enough ladies that had obscure eating habits that nothing phases me. I mean, I get ordering the side salad as your meal, but does it really matter if you eat a loaf of bread and a dessert the size of Texas? Vegetarians are the same. All have different reasons for their respective eating habits. I agree with very few, but I do enjoy discussing them over a Twisted Root buffalo burger.

  • I became a vegetarian, because, twenty years ago I was on a date with a HOT actress. As we sat down she said” you don’t eat meat do you?.. Years earlier on the ranch I was ushered into manhood with a Texas Bar-Mitzvah (fresh mountain oysters cooked on the branding iron). My answer was of course “Of course I don’t eat meat”(did I mention she was Hot?). We dated for two years so I never ate meat during that time. I never went back because of the very noticeable health benefits and I just do not like the taste or smell anymore. It is also beneficial to my my Artists income as it is cheaper to buy, store and prepare. I have no social or ethical problems with others eating meat. The wife and kids are veggies too except for the kids occasional Happy Meals. Nancy, if you ever need a Veggie critic, I would be happy to oblige.
    BTW Tofurkey is good, but like allot of prepared meals, too salty.
    Gotta go, its lunch time, Leftover homemade Thai and Blueberry smoothie.

  • Don in Austin

    I have the teeth and digestive system of an omnivore thats the continuing evolution-in-progress that’s resulted from a few thousand generations of humans. Fire and cooking? Great development. Refrigeration? Eat now, eat more later without the bacteria…excellent! Revert to gathering only? Not happening. If God or my evolutionary precursors had intended me to be a vegetarian, I’d have a mouthful of molars and a chambered stomach populated with microbes to digest grass. If a vegan chooses that, then its their choice certainly, but leave me out of it.

    The soy-chorizo is tolerable with eggs, btw.

  • …I’m now off to have Tesar whip me up some sweetbreads and foie gras.

  • mrs hall

    What if everyone just eats what they want and everyone minds their own business? I was a vegetarian for many years and I didn’t feel the need to explain to anyone why. I did notice that vegetarianism is something that meat-eaters are obsessed with? What??!! Where do you eat??!!! Don’t you miss it!!?? How do you get protein??!!! Blah, blah, blah. I don’t care what you eat, just do me the same favor.

  • Brad

    Ok, so I think my comment on the post about the turkey burger might have added fuel to this becoming a post, I am a frequent Disher, and my wife is none other than the Blue Mutt above (who owns a part of an operating cattle ranch – her family business). Here goes my reasoning:

    99% of the meat, dairy, and egg products consumed in this nation come from animals I believe live and die in cruel environments – packed on top of one another, pumped full of chemicals to make them grow faster and not die from the horrible conditions, and force fed for our enjoyment. The fact is that eating grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, etc. is better not only for my health, but for mankind in general (there would be less starvation & pollution, for example).

    That being said, I still cook meat for my friends when they come over. I love cooking, but if I made everyone eat the way I do before they made that decision for themselves, I’d only alienate them. If I want any of my friends to listen to my reasons, it makes sense to me to let them live their own lives and have a conversation, not to cram it down their throats.

    I hate the vegetarian/vegan label. I have a leather belt. It’s effing 11 years old. Should I have thrown away my clothes the day I decided to eat a vegan diet? I simply decided not to buy any new animal products once I saw how the animals that those products came from were treated. Everyone is only too quick to dismiss a core belief based on the fact that someone has a leather belt or shoes – it seems petty. That’s the same as dismissing someone as a “real” Republican simply because tehy’re pro-choice – that’s the way I see those cast off comments when it comes to “debunking” someone based on a label.

    Or yesterday’s “Hitler was a Vegetarian” comment on one of these posts – that’s ridiculous. Does shunning meat make me anti-Semitic?

    Also, fellow vegans/vegetarians, the 20 questions bit with the waiter only further alienates others. “Can you make sure my veggie burger and fries are cooked in an isolated area away from the rest of the food?” No, they can’t. You’d be better off just trying to get as close as possible to no animal products and still having an intelligent conversation with those around you (they look at you like a Bible beater in a religious conversation when you start asking about milk products being processed in the same plant as whatever you ordered…).

    Also, our “canine” teeth and well manicured claws couldn’t rip in to the flesh of another animal and consume it on the spot. They are, however, perfect for ripping the flesh of a pear and then grinding that food as your jaws move side to side in your mouth (carnivore’s jaws can’t do that, btw).

    I have a trophy in my bookcase at home for Grand Prize at a chili cook off 6 years ago. It’s the only thing I miss, but I bet my vegan chili is better than any amateurs attempt at the real deal. Do I love the taste of meat – you bet. I just decided one day that I didn’t like where it all came from (if you’re wondering about the milk, milk supports veal).

    So in summation: I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight and I eat a fairly nutritious diet with zero (or as close as I can get without going into the back of the restaurant myself) animal products. I don’t care that my wife eats cheeseburgers, but I’m glad that I cook vegan at home and she’s reduced her animal consumption significantly. I have leather shoes, belts, and seats, but don’t plan on adding to that list or buying any more of them. I don’t look down my nose at other people who eat meat and I don’t make snide comments (I get the majority directed at me) about anyone else’s diet. If I’m at a wedding, I do the right thing and have a piece of cake (eggs and all), I just load up on veggies for the buffet part. I don’t put people out that have invited me to their house or to a specific restaurant; I just figure out on my own what I’ll eat. I don’t pretend to think that 98% of the population isn’t perfectly content with eating meat (I also know that a considerable percentage of the population is obese and disease ridden because of it). I love my meat eating friends, but I hope that one day, whether for the ever popular environmental reasons, for health reasons, or for moral convictions, that our animal consumption wanes. I think our planet may eventually depend on it.

    My suggestions if you’re interested in reading about the benefits:
    http://www.amazon.com/Food-Revolution-Your-Diet-World/dp/1573247022/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b
    http://www.amazon.com/Diet-New-America-John-Robbins/dp/0915811812

    or, for the Dallas girl:
    http://www.amazon.com/Skinny-Bitch-Kim-Barnouin/dp/0762424931/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231354263&sr=1-1

    Oh, did I mention that chips, salsa, and guacamole are vegan…..

  • Right on Brad, BTW Tried to enter a chile contest but was discouraged by the organizers because it was not officially chile unless it had meat. One of Dallas’s finest chefs asked for the recipe, said it was awesome. Im told that its the gringos that added meat to the ancient meal. Its called Chile not meatee:)

  • Nancy Nichols

    @ Brad Good lord, you need a job. BTW, better make sure the chips aren’t fried in lard. And I know avocados have personalities.

  • the cynic

    I ate anything and everything for 40 years. Then I had colon surgery (I’ll spare you the details). I found out the hard way that red meat is not as easy to digest as chicken, fish, turkey, veggies, etc. So for the past 8 years, I had to explain myself to countless people re: why i don’t eat red meat. (My father-in-law was also in the cattle business.) I have never been “holier than thou” about it because quite honestly I would love a bloody, red steak fresh off the grill or a juicy hamburger with a hot pink center. But it is not worth the pain and agony it causes my digestive system. So I settle for TGIF’s grilled turkey burger (the best I’ve found, but I am certainly open to try others if you have suggestions.) Why should anyone care what I do or don;t eat or drink? Personally, I don’t care if you eat road kill stew…I’ve eaten far worse off street vendors all over the globe.

  • Dallasite

    I really don’t give a damn how they kill the animals, as long as they keep killing them in such wonderfully tasty ways. If shoving bamboo shoots under cow’s hooves made them juicier, I’d be all for it.

    Mmmmmmmm, tortured steak…

  • Brad

    @Nancy
    I have a great job that affords me 20 minutes to rant and rave about my favorite (and least favorite) topic. I was surprise once I made the switch how many local places don’t even use lard in their beans, let alone chips…

    @Dallasite
    I sat next to you at Marley and Me. I know those tears were real…

  • Nancy Nichols

    SO Dallasite–would you eat Marley?

  • @ Don in Austin – thank you. you made me imagine a cow with canines like this.

  • El Rey

    Oh, I’d eat Marley, with some barbecue sauce, dog meat tastes just fine. I’m also pretty sure I ate a Mister Ed while I was in the service.

    Canines and incisors were designed/evolved to eat meat, not chew cud.

  • I don’t believe in limiting myself. I’ll eat anything until I find out that I don’t like it. Making rules that inhibit enjoyment just isn’t my thing.

  • Dallasite

    @Brad,

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did cry during Old Yeller… of course, I was only eight at the time.

    @Nancy,

    Man eats best friend?

  • Nancy Nichols

    @Dallasite,
    Isn’t that what happily married couples do?

  • eyewire

    It’s so interesting to me that meat-eaters have such a big problem with non-meat eaters. Most of your comments are so close-minded- are you really even interested in hearing why people don’t eat meat? Or would you rather just make jokes about people and ideas that are different from yours? Does it make you feel better to mock people for their choices? Would you make fun of a Jewish woman for not eating kosher? Would taunt a Muslim man for nixing the bacon on his sandwich? Or would you roll your eyes at a parent who won’t let their kids eat fish suspected of mercury poisoning? What is it about vegetarians making a dietary, moral, environmental or just plain personal choice about their diet that riles so many? Thank you, Brad, for the thoughtful and informed defense of vegetarian and veganism– vegs are often (as in this post and subsequent replies) viewed as dogmatic extremists and that, like most stereotypes, is the margins rather than the norm. (Even the British government has come out and said a vegetarian diet is better for the planet and giving up meat lifestyle is better for the environment than giving up your car.) So why are vegs still so vilified and mocked? Those that only eschew red meat or chicken are seen as “snooty” or “misinformed” by not eliminating all animals, and those that try to limit all animal products are “finicky”… there’s no way to win. Vegs’ are pushed into corners where they constantly have to explain either how extreme they are or aren’t to make other people feel more comfortable or to not be seen as “difficult.” It’s a set-up. A way to not really talk about the issues behind veg choices (the environment, animal cruelty, health) and instead focus on the “craziness” of the veg diet.
    Here’s an idea: how about instead of mocking people for their choices (really? potatoes have eyes? you are infuriating) and laughing at things that are truly important to over 7 million Americans, you engage in adult discourse with vegetarians and vegans? Again, Brad, thanks for attempting to elevate this discussion– it’s my hope that one day instead of vegs’ having to defend their eating habits, meat eaters will have to go on the defensive. (but perhaps that’s what these “jokes” about the donner party are…) Or at least, for the love of god, stop trying to make me feel bad about doing something that i think is better for my body, my planet and for the millions of animals abused every day.
    Oh, and for another resource on why people choose vegetarianism, check out http://www.vegsource.com/how_to_win.htm

  • luniz

    if you really wanted to support an end to ill treatment of animals, you *would* throw out your leather and go buy something not made out of animals, and likewise imo you should support those purveyors of meat/eggs that do raise/slaughter their animals humanely, even if you do greatly reduce consumption of animal flesh.

  • Nancy Nichols

    Here is where I buy my shoes. Seriously.

  • NC

    I am zac’s wife. I don’t like the vegetarian thing. I love seafood. Cheeseburgers with bacon and greasy, salty fries are my favorite meal. I could live on bloody steak, especially when the blood runs into the frites. YUM! I use his vegetarianism as an excuse to continue eating cow, fish, buffalo, lobster, and any other thing with a soul or eyes or both. Him not eating meat keeps our combined carbon footprint low. I have more will power than him about not overeating. Plus, not eating meat keeps him slim.

    So there. Now, the smoking thing…

  • Nikki

    I went Vegan 4 days ago.. yes four days and counting. I will stay Vegan for 8 weeks and then switch to vegetarian. Why? This Christmas I’m siting with my family and looking at each of them. On my fathers side, all his brothers are diabetic – one has had a triple by-pass surgery, one has unexplainable seizures, and my dad nearly lost his foot 2 years ago due to his diabetes. I listen to them for an entire day talk about their ailments and woes. My grandparents on his side of the family both died due to heart disease. On my mom’s side it’s not quite as bad but they all have high-blood pressure and high cholesterol. No one is terribly overweight, but no one is terribly slim either. Even though I work out 5 days a week my body is just not what it was ten years ago, I feel like a ticking-time bomb.

    Someone mentioned to me a few weeks before the holidays that he had gone vegetarian because he read Joel Fuhrman’s books on diet, nutrition, and reversing disease. So I bought it and am adapting to a new lifestyle! So it’s purely health. I love a juicy steak as much as the next person and my leather shoe collection ROCKS!

    http://www.drfuhrman.com/

  • Dallasite

    @eyewire

    We are making fun of you, not preaching. You are preaching.

    Preaching sucks.

    You want to live on beans, veggies, and a protein deficiency? Great, I really don’t care.

    My steak, cheeseburger, and steak breakfast is starting to wear off. I think I want to eat more cow now.

  • @ eyewire

    Ignorance is in abundance. Svaha.

  • cat

    ok im thinking about beining a vegiterin