Eating has become quite complicated. It used to be you could go to any restaurant and the menu was pretty straight forward; an assortment of meals comprised of a meat protein, starch, and a veggie. (i.e. hamburger, fries and a pickle) Now, however, menus are flagged with stars, asterisks and warnings, all catering to a variety of food preferences and allergies, and I challenge those who claim to have the food ‘allergies’. Some are legitimate, I’m sure, but how could there suddenly be a huge population of people who suffer from celiac disease? My entire generation grew up eating everything and rarely did anyone react to gluten (which is in pretty much everything we eat) Recent statistics show that 6 to 8% of children under the age of three have food allergies and 4% of adults have food intolerances. That sounds about right, but it’s not high, not high enough to justify the numbers today claiming to be ‘allergic’. So what’s going on? Are people just looking for attention, or is it ‘trendy’ to have special dietary restrictions.

When I was growing up the choices were simple. You ate what was offered or went hungry. There was no ‘option’ of avoiding animal products, nor were you accommodated for personal preference. I hated liver but my mother made it once a week because it was believed to be nutritious, so she made me sit at that kitchen table until it was gone, and sometimes it took me hours to get it down.  (from the day I married and moved out on my own liver has NEVER entered my home) I was not allergic to it (I wish!) I just thought it tasted disgusting, still do, but it never occurred to me to claim an allergic reaction. (my mother wouldn’t have bought it anyway…allergies weren’t allowed in my house) My point is, I was exposed to everything and as a result I believe I have a tolerance for everything.

Vegetarians are not new and their numbers are growing rapidly. (heaven knows why, it’s so boring) I have a number of friends and family who’ve chosen the vegetarian lifestyle but I laughingly note their occasional lapses. I have one friend who is a staunch vegetarian…except for bacon, she eats that. Another friend has to have gravy on her French Fries, beef gravy, that’s ok. And far too many ‘vegetarians’ spend time searching for meat flavoured substitutes. (If you’re looking to replicate the flavor of meat….maybe you’re not a true vegetarian at heart)  Personally I love veggies and eat them every day. I just accompany them with a pork chop, or chicken thigh because I don’t feel veggies alone are flavourful enough, and food is very important to me, so I feel for those who’ve cut them out of their diet because I believe they’re missing out, and if you have to ‘cheat’, you’re not a true vegetarian.

The biggest challenge in my mind is the vegan diet. It is soooo restrictive and drastically limits the options you have. (I would recommend just giving up food altogether. It’s easier)  Chegan, short for “cheating vegan” references someone who eats vegan nearly all the time, but deliberately slips up—usually in the presence of pizza or ice cream, although they’re numbers are few. (Apparently true vegans don’t cheat with food; for them it is almost a religion. They even avoid circuses and zoos, as well as wool, leather, cashmere, silk, or any cosmetics or cleaning products that had been tested on animals. A vegan painter will even avoid using traditional paintbrushes….just think how many would-be artists have had to switch their career path because they couldn’t use a paint brush?)

I know of a young girl, a devout vegan, who truly walks the walk. She refused the gift of a leather purse from her mother in law, who brought it back for her from Europe, because ‘she couldn’t wear the skin of an animal’. (No problem, I took it cause it matched my leather boots) She seeks out ‘organic’ nail polish because it wasn’t tested on animals (I’ve never seen an animal with nail polish?) She makes her own gluten free bread, candles, and soap, and while I have to respect her commitment to an ‘animal product free’ lifestyle, I can’t help but wonder why she would want to make so much work for herself. (what is this, “Little House on the Prairie”?) And don’t even get me started on the food. Vegans live on beans, tofu (which tastes like Styrofoam), leaves, and mushrooms. There’s only so many ways to cook a mushroom before you run out of ideas (it’s a fungus you know) Thank heaven the vegan diet allows, dark chocolate, Smarties, Oreos, and Jujubes, otherwise why live?

I suppose we all have our personal convictions and we do have to acknowledge the health benefits of the vegan/vegetarian diet. They do tend to live longer (but if you can’t enjoy a decent steak, why would you?) They are less likely to suffer from heart disease or stroke, and they spare the lives of 30 animals per year. (I’m sure every time a vegetarian cracks open a bag of lima beans, somewhere a herd of cows is breathing a sigh of relief)

I appreciate their quest to live in harmony with our animal friends and I respect their choice to enjoy a plant based diet. I too support cows, and pigs, and chickens (…I just prefer them with roasted potatoes and a side salad)

A wise woman I know once said if it you can harvest it from the ground, pick it off a tree, or shoot it while it’s running, it’s yours for the taking. To each his own. Bon appetit!

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One thought on “Vegans and Veggies and Meat, Oh my!

  1. Hi there Emily: thanks for your, as always, spirited +engaging article this week. As a ‘reluctant’ vegetarian [35 years]+ an aspiring vegan [ i love cheese so much!!], you nailed the difficulties inherent in consistently adhering to these practices. As in any discipline one has to keep reminding oneself, when one falters, flails, and fails just why, exactly, one bothers. I call it ” re-invigorating my resolve”. A very dear but now ‘late’ friend of mine helped me when she said…” just do your best to reduce the suffering in this world.” and try not to suffer too much in the process !! I guess it comes down to how each of us decides to try and do that. Keep on keeping on. Best…Joan L.

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