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December 04, 2008

Comments

what precisely is so horrifyingly weenie-fied about steamed milk and espresso?

You need steamed milk....in your coffee? WTF? Are you three years old?

What is wrong with drinking, you know, coffee? Just coffee. Just make the coffee, don't put any non-coffee substances in it, and drink it. No milk, no baby formula, no sugar, just coffee. Why do people have to make every thing so god damn difficult? You're worse than my cat.

You go into a coffee joint and order "coffee" and they look at you like you're from outer space. Like how dare you.

Does merely proclaiming you eat no (or little) meat make others feel defensive

If I go to a vegetarian's house for dinner, I'll eat what they serve. No problem with that. I like food. I don't expect them to change their ways just to suit me. Give me some food and I'll eat it. How hard is that?

If a vegetarian comes to my house, they're either going to eat bacon-wrapped steak or they can graze on the grass in front of the apartment building. They don't like that, but that isn't my problem, it's theirs.

I'm not defensive, quite the opposite, I'm at the top of the food chain.

Meat (particularly big chunks of high-quality meat) has been associated with high status for at least 3000 years. Probably, actually, since settled agriculture begins. Why? Because it's more expensive to produce than vegetables (or more complicated to acquire, if it's game) and thus proves that you're 'rich'.

The classic Western food of the rich has always been big roasts. It's what you sacrifice to the gods in ancient Israel or Greece. It's what you eat as a medieval noble and as an eighteenth century British yeoman (the roast beef of old England).

In contrast, peasants traditionally eat vegetables most of the time and meat as a treat. When Henri IV of France in C16 wanted to express how much he cared for his peasants he said he wanted them all to have a chicken in the pot each Sunday. And when poorer people did eat meat it was mostly worn-out old animals, not prime stuff, judging by archaeological studies of animal bones. Eating only or mainly vegetables has been a sign of lower status since at least the Biblical book of Daniel (chapter 1).

It is very difficult to change these deeply-held ideas of what makes a 'good diet' in a social sense, as the similar example of eating to excess shows. It is still a status symbol in some circles to have meals with more food than you could comfortably eat, dating from a time when this proved you weren't really poor. Such an idea persists even when obesity is a greater problem than hunger.

There is a complicated history of the meaning of food and simply dismissing it as irrational may be accurate, but doesn't get you any further.

I've been a vegetarian all my life. (maybe 100 meals with any dead creature out of 48,000 or so). My parents and grandparents are mostly vegetarian too. The two grandfathers averaged 85 at death and the grandmothers averaged 96 at death.

I don't really know why it is considered odd. I live in California where it is probably more common than in the midwest and east. Maybe it is because of the larger asian population here. I'm mostly german ancestry and culture.

I spent some time in Nebraska and Iowa a few years ago and people acted like I was an alien. They treat vegetables more like garnishes than actual food you can live on.

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I am a vegetarian, but a non-evangelical one, and I'm from Kansas so I experience this "you're a (insert synonym for crazy hippie here) vegetarian?" all the time. I think it's really just a cultural thing, and I take it back to, I guess, the 60s and 70s, when vegetarianism and veganism -- which are confused more often than you'd think -- were tied to the hippie lifestyle directly (Gypsy Boots on Steve Allen, for instance, or even fey Hutch getting ribbed by macho Starsky for liking alfalfa sprouts). So I think vegetarianism got tied to activism in that way, and through groups like PETA, etc., and so it became a knee-jerk reaction for many in the red-meat producing states to assume that anyone who didn't eat meat was actually someone who opposed their very way of life.

I think chosen vegetarianism is partly a class thing: in a country where meat of sorts is available as a cheap food, vegetarian options may not only be more expensive, but more complex to make. In a country where meat is an expensive treat that you have to be above-average wealthy to eat it every day, declaring you don't eat meat at all by choice is also a class statement.

The "vegetarian option" on a menu frequently doubles as the "health option" or the "diet option". (Not just in the US. In France, it is nearly always possible to ask for an omelette to replace the main course in the meal because an omelette is regarded in French meal planning as the invalid's alternative to real food, ie meat.)

National cuisines which have vegetarian dishes as part of the regular eating of the country (Italian; Bangladeshi) do not have this association, as far as I can tell.

For some people, the presence of a vegetarian enjoying a felafel wrap while everyone else is tucking into burgers, is regarded as a personal affront/annoyance. Not many, but I've been lectured by more meat-eaters over the years about how they eat meat and aren't about to stop now, or "how do I know vegetables don't feel pain"?

//Eating only or mainly vegetables has been a sign of lower status since at least the Biblical book of Daniel (chapter 1).//

Also associated with better health in the same book.

//For some people, the presence of a vegetarian enjoying a felafel wrap while everyone else is tucking into burgers, is regarded as a personal affront/annoyance. Not many, but I've been lectured by more meat-eaters over the years about how they eat meat and aren't about to stop now, or "how do I know vegetables don't feel pain"? //

Exactly. I get this too. Why should they care what I eat? I don't care what they eat.

Travel tip: Singapore is wonderful for vegetarians. Three indigenous vege cuisines: Indian (north an south), buddhist chinese, and vegetarian muslim.

I believe that life begins at germination.

Why should they care what I eat? I don't care what they eat.

Way to miss the point. We don't care what you eat. When you provide the food, we will eat it, even if it is vegetarian. When we provide the food, it will contain meat, and you can eat it or go forage elsewhere. No whining.

The coffee comments above reminded me of a comic strip where Frank and Ernest were viewing the menu at a coffee shop. One said to the other, "Once I got so confused by having so many choices that I ordered an Al Pacino."

Eating only or mainly vegetables has been a sign of lower status since at least the Biblical book of Daniel (chapter 1).

Preference for meat over other foods is all over the Old Testament. Try Genesis 4, where Cain's hatred of Abel was a result of God preferring Abel's meat to Cain's vegetables. The thing that's noteworthy about Daniel 1 is that it shows vegetarianism as a healthy alternative to eating meat.

As a vegetarian man, I see the PR issue with meat as less of a tree-hugging-hippie vs. mainstreamer issue, and more of a hawk vs. dove issue. The time I see this most clearly is when people make playful comments about my diet; it always comes down to masculinity. Meat is macho, and tofu just isn't. I mean, it's called tofu, for crying out loud. Doesn't hit you in the gut like "beef."

I think that, for a lot of men, this will be the battle that is hardest to win. Macho men do not willingly sacrifice their masculinity, and it's hard to imagine meat ever losing its tough-guy image.

It's very unwise to target meat as such, because there is nothing wrong with meat production and consumption as such, as there are ways to produce and consume meat that are environmentally sound.

The problem is the mass production and consumption of meat, but this problem is certainly not unique to meat:

The terrible environmental effects of overfishing are known to everyone who wants to know. The same goes for the mass production of grain in monocultures. Similarly concentrated dairy farming comes with a whole bunch of harmful side effects. And the mass cultivation of soy is problematic as well, especially if it results in the decimation of the rain forest like it has in Brazil.

So there is really no easy answer to all of this, instead we have to reassess our whole system of mass food production. Eating less and better meat should be part of this process, but that alone will not save us and punishing those who produce and consume meat in environmentally sound ways is counterproductive.

What is it with Now_what's whining about vegetarians? Recently get turned down by one?

I hope I never get invited to now_what's for dinner. Not because I'm a vegetarian (I'm not) but because I suspect it would be very boring.

A blog discussion on the merits or lack thereof of veg(etari)anism and noone mentioned Hitler yet? Would be about the first I see without someone trying to prove the evil of plant predators by referring to him.
Oh digestive final product, now I have put it on the table ;-)
Personally I am addicted* to meat (no surprise given the variety of sausage types available over here). I respect people that do not eat meat but they have to be careful to get the balance right (especially those that will not eat/drink any animal product).
Btw, is honey considered "kosher" for vegs or is it too a forbidden animal product?

*I don't think that is an exaggeration. Trying to live on cheese** (on bread) for a few weeks was worse enough, the mere idea of plant-only is a nightmare to me.
**replacing sausage totally. I have nothing against cheese in moderate amounts

I'd be wary about getting associated with vegetarians, although I'm concerned about food production impact and try to eat vegetarian dinners several times per week. See, I have rarely met someone who was just a vegetarian. They are typically vegetarian and adventists, vegetarian and Hare Krishna, vegetarian and followers of Rudolf Steiner, etc. The two vegetarian restaurants here, for instance, one is adventist, the other is Hare Krishna. Not only do they have quirky beliefs, they have quirky beliefs about food unrelated to vegetarianism - the recipe leaflet I bought at the adventist one informs me that vinegar is poison, Hare Krishna also have vegetarian ingredients they avoid, and Rudolf Steiner asserted that potatoes make you stupid.

Not to mention the new Supreme Master of the Universe (google suprememastertv if you haven't heard of her). Her ads look like a cross between deranged mail-order dietary supplements and parody of vegetarians (little clip-art pigs proclaiming "Don't eat us! We love you!").

I may want to go vegetarian diet-wise (actually I will always keep eating sustainably caught fish, as I believe the impact from that would be lower than growing the equivalent amount of protein from soy), but I don't want to be associated with vegetarianism...

Btw, is honey considered "kosher" for vegs or is it too a forbidden animal product?

Hardcore vegans won't eat honey. They say because it involves exploiting bees.

I've tried explaining to them that bee farmers do not stand over the bees with little tiny whips forcing them to labour in the flower fields, but they look at me funny. Personally I think it's the bee spit that puts them off.

now_what sounds like a perfect host. Courteous and obliging to a fault.

If I go to a Jewish person's house for dinner, I'll eat what they serve. No problem with that. I like food. I don't expect them to change their ways just to suit me. Give me some food and I'll eat it. How hard is that?

If a Jewish person comes to my house, they're either going to eat bacon-wrapped steak or they can graze on the grass in front of the apartment building. They don't like that, but that isn't my problem, it's theirs.

"When you provide the food, we will eat it, even if it is vegetarian. When we provide the food, it will contain meat, and you can eat it or go forage elsewhere."

You seem not to grasp the concept of being a good host, or even a decent human being. Hell, I'm as rabid a meat-eater as anyone, but I wouldn't dream of serving food that my guest wouldn't eat. Would you serve Pad Thai to someone with a nut allergy?

When we provide the food, it will contain meat, and you can eat it or go forage elsewhere. No whining.

A poor host and an unimaginative cook is no way to live.

My grandfather was the meat buyer for a small chain of markets in NYC when I was growing up so he made sure our freezer was well stocked with meat. (Aw mom...not rib steaks again...) But we also are blessed with the Eastern European Jewish genetic tendency toward atherosclerosis so I eat much less red meat than I did when I was a kid.

We have very good friends who are vegetarian and share certain holiday meals with them every year. If we eat at their home, the meal is 100% veggie. If they eat here, there may be meat in the meal but there are also totally vegetarian dishes for them. I don't view it as an imposition; we enjoy their company and want them to be as comfortable in our home as we are in theirs.

Not to mention the new Supreme Master of the Universe (google suprememastertv if you haven't heard of her). Her ads look like a cross between deranged mail-order dietary supplements and parody of vegetarians (little clip-art pigs proclaiming "Don't eat us! We love you!").

"Deranged" hardly does it justice. That is nasty.

I've got no problem with vegetarians, at least the ones who know enough about nutrition to avoid getting ill down the road. I've even been known to complain to my wife that she doesn't serve enough veggies. But there's some ill feeling between us omnivores and vegetarians due to the latter's tendency to assert moral equivalence between an intelligent species at the top of the food chain, and really stupid critters well down it. Which is somewhat insulting.

Sorry, as you said Ginger.

When meat becomes a statement that panders to our sense of self, status, perceived normality, or habit - it drains it of it's inherent pleasure. I've seen too much badly cooked meat by people who supposedly love it. If we ate less meat, ate better, cooked it more imaginatively, took an interest in who raised it, and mastered it (deboning a chicken, cooking the cheap cuts, using offal) we'd be a lot better for it.

I'm still working to find vegetarian food that I actively like. A friend has done some neat stuff with Tofu that I need to get the recipe for. Cause heck if I can find 4 vegetarian meals that I truly enjoy and look forward to cooking and make two a week, that's nearly 30% drop in my consumption of meat for very little pain.


But culturally? We've hit the high points, meat has been a sign of status, and hell it tastes good. From what I recall of my food chemistry classes, sugar, salt, fat all taste good because the body requires them to function and they are a pain in the ass to obtain in the wild. Now we've got convenient supplies.

As far as feeding friends, I have friends with celiac's, I've got friends allergic to cilantro, mushroom and milk products. I don't cook for any vegans (and not sure what I'd come up with them) but I do my best as a good host, if warned ahead of time, to provide tasty food for my guests.

And frankly, when I go to a vegetarian's house for dinner, I don't WANT them to cook me a steak - give me something they KNOW how to cook and cook well.

in addition to all the above, because it's the non-default choice, and is relatively difficult to do in the US, vegetarianism comes across as somewhat ascetic. and that makes it easy to see vegetarians as people who have decided that you are wrong; and that they are going to be right, no matter how difficult or onerous it is. it's easy to take that personally. and it's pretty easy to find people (young people, usually) who are more than happy to tell you how eating meat is gross and immoral and wrong and bad for the world and bad for you and... etc. etc. which makes them self-righteous jerks. and those are the people who give vegetarianism a bad name.

cleek: which makes them self-righteous jerks. and those are the people who give vegetarianism a bad name.

Hm. You know, of all the people in this thread coming across as self-righteous jerks over what they eat or don't eat, I'd say now_what takes the prize... yet for some reason, it's always presumed to be vegetarians who are guilty of that, even though we have to put up with self-righteous jerks like now_what.

I've been a vegetarian for more than 30 years, and I'm not nutty in other respects (honest!). I never, ever, whine, or question other people about what they are eating.

I live in California, where you'd think vegetarianism would be more accepted- but I soak up hostility similar to what now what expresses on a regular basis.

If someone invites me over to dinner I am happpy to eat only bread and salad- but I have many times been invited to dinner by people who, knowing that I'm a vegetarian, put chicken in the salad, bacon in the veggies, leaving literally not one dish on the table without meat- and then pressure me to eat, saying "just this once won't kill you".

Business meals are a killer. Yesterday I had a business lunch with a colleague from another office of my employer- and when I asked the waitress to omit the chicken from my salad, he spent the entire lunch lecturing me about how being a vegetarian is absurd. Next week I'll be on travel with several colleagues, and we'll be sharing a rental car- and they've already informed me that dinner (every night!) will be in a steak house that has no veggie entrees.

And the weird thing is, they admitted that if I were an Orthodox Jew and ate only kosher meat, they would make an effort to accomodate me.

I absolutely do not get why this has to be such a problem.

I think the idea of eating meat as manly is going to be a particularly difficult one to counter, because two different sterotypes feed into it. One is the image of man as hunter versus women as gatherer: men eat things they've killed themselves. (That stereotype is peculiarly resistant both to the fact that most of us buy our meat rather than killing it and that in societies which really depend on hunting, you don't actually eat meat that often, because it's hard to catch).

The other problem is that the more you show that eating meat is a bad thing, in terms of health, the more that feeds into a certain kind of macho posing that sees trying to avoid risks as unmanly. Real men don't worry about their arteries hardening, because they'll die fighting sharks or driving fast cars first.

Maybe what we need is the return of the image of the early Christian male ascetic, who is so tough that he chooses to live on a handful of dried peas and water and fight the hunger, even though he could have better food if he wanted it.

There's a long history of vegetarianism and its cultural implications. High caste Hindus and southern indians are (supposed) to be vegetarians for a variety of reasons including ethnotheories of the body and the nature of foods which can be considered "heating" or "cooling" to the passions and the blood. The historically "martial" castes and the muslim converts after Mughal rule eat meat because it is associated with killing, warfare, physical strength and the angry passions.

In the western tradition vegetarianism goes way back but is associated with lent, fasting, poverty, and sacrifice--always the opposite of the martial virtues.

Meat consumption is also associated with wealth since meat was formerly quite expensive. As the prices of things have flipped over time so that vegetables (truffles? arugula) become associated with wealth and fish stops being a poor man's food culture warriors can play on the tropes in a number of registers--not only is taking our red meat stealing our manhood but it is also an elitist attack on our working class! See how that works?

I highly recommend the book "My Year Of Meat" for a very funny, sad, painful, fictionalized account of a woman trying to shoot a series of pro-beef commercials in America to push beef consumption in Japan.

aimai

This isn't so much about vegetarianism per se, but about the whole "healthy alternative" food thing. I think that something that that rubs a lot of people the wrong way when it comes to alternative diets is that there's often a pretty rancid classism bound up with it. Which is why those who are continually panicked about the "obesity epidemic" eventually wind up remarking that the poor need to start eating better food. Sometimes the mask really slips and you see them hand-wringing about how Latinos/as and black people don't hate their bodies enough.

And then there's things like Michael Pollan calling for America's very own Year Zero.

It's the same sort of obnoxiousness of people who say, "We fat Americans need to lay off of our empty, consumerist ways. No, my entire study full of Mac products doesn't count as consumerist because... Uh... It's Mac products, so I'm an artist, not a consumer."

it's always presumed to be vegetarians who are guilty of that

many are.

and many aren't, certainly. i have quite a few friends who don't eat meat for various reasons who aren't proselytizers or scolds about it.

My family, who never miss an opportunity to gently poke at my (non-proselytizing) vegeterianism, are notorious steak burners. If you must eat meat, at least make it taste good.
And if it helps skew the data a bit for our demo, I'm a mechanic who can bench-press nearly twice my weight.

This column has got me wondering if, perhaps paradoxically, deer hunting for meat is green. If cows contribute to global warming, so, too, must deer, and deer populations are up, at least in the eastern U.S. So its seems that deer hunting reduces carbon in two ways--one by eliminating a carbon producer, and two when the deer meat is eaten instead of beef.

Crazy, I know, but I thought I'd put it out there.

You know, of all the people in this thread coming across as self-righteous jerks over what they eat or don't eat, I'd say now_what takes the prize... yet for some reason, it's always presumed to be vegetarians who are guilty of that, even though we have to put up with self-righteous jerks like now_what.

You're a precious little one, aren't you?

I'm not self-righteous about what I eat, I eat what I want to eat. That happens to include plenty of mammals and if you don't like it, I don't care. Publius was wondering why vegetarians get stereotyped as such wusses, and the responses in this thread should help enlighten him.

If I am being hosted by a vegetarian and they serve me a vegetarian meal everyone including me is fine with that, if I host a vegetarian and serve them a bacon-wrapped steak, I'm a self-righteous jerk, boring, a poor host, an unimaginative cook, etc.

If we eat at their home, the meal is 100% veggie. If they eat here, there may be meat in the meal but there are also totally vegetarian dishes for them

When you're at the vegetarians' house you play by their rules. When the vegetarians are at your house, you play by their rules.

To do otherwise would make you a boring, unimaginative self-righteous jerk, and a poor host as well.

I wonder why there is this stereotype of vegetarians as complete weenies. It's a mystery!

This stuff just drives me bonkers.

That's because you're a dirty hippy, publius.

I'm perfectly ok with vegetarians, as long as they're perfectly ok with me. I look at it kind of like this: for years, my sister would lecture me on the dangers of eating cheap (i.e. supermarket) food, because of the chemicals and additives, etc, and that I really ought to be drinking barley green and oh by the way this fiber drink is absolutely critical for healthy bowels. If you've seen The Road To Wellville, you might have the sense of things.

It's not that she's necessarily wrong, mind you, just that I don't like people telling me what I should and should not be doing; I consider that highly rude. Sometimes vegetarians are like that with me, and so I tend to be less respectful of their food choices if that sort of thing persists.

But vegetarians are tastier than other humans.

Meat production involves violence.
American culture worships violence.
That's not the whole story, but it's a big part of it.

the responses in this thread should help enlighten him

I wouldn't take that as a valid generalization about vegetarians; Jesurgislac is like that about practically everything.

Still, she has a point. When you have guests over, you serve them food that they'll eat, or you don't invite them. If you know one of your guests is allergic to rosemary, for instance, you don't put rosemary in all the food. It's not a demand, it's courtesy. And...you don't have to be courteous, but you might find yourself unbefriended by people who don't dig the discourtesy.

Oh, another example: my wife's uncle is diabetic. When he's here, we serve tea with sugar-free sweeteners, and my wife makes him sugar-free desserts. Why? Because she loves him, and wouldn't dream of setting food in front of him that she knew he wouldn't eat.

American culture worships violence

Absolutely: I like steak because of the violence. That's it! And while I'm cooking it, I'm smacking my kids around, because sauce for the goose!

Sometimes I even drag my kids out of bed in the middle of the night and spank them, just because it makes the popcorn taste better.

Confuses the hell out of the little brats, but it's a price my taste buds are willing to pay.

Food - yum - I love thinking about it and talking about it. And eating it.

For a long time I didn't eat any meat, but now I eat free range poultry occasionally. Much more rarely, I'll have a bite or two of some other meat from a source that purports to have raised the meat humanely. (I admit to some guilt eating mammals from any source, especially pork). My biggest beef with meat, in addition to the environmental issues involved in raising it, is that animals aren't respected in the process of turning them into food.

Although I don't deny the "food chain", I am appalled at the suffering that is taken for granted in raising farm animals. By treating meat consumption as an extraordinary event, and trying to take care where I got it, I try to assuage my conscience a bit - at least I'm thinking about the animal involved.

I find that there's a certain stigma attached to worrying about animal rights, even in a very basic way. People seem to be more understanding of a purist vegetarian than someone who is merely concerned about the care and treatment of farm animals. It's certainly easier to avoid meat altogether than working through the ethical considerations involved in eating it. I was heartened by the passage of Proposition 2 in California, where I don't live, to see that other people are supporting taking steps to diminish animal cruelty.

I was a vegetarian for about five years (although always making an exception on an opportunistic basis for shrimp). I began eating meat again on the advice of a Chinese health practicioner.

Not enough yang, sez he. Eat meat.

I'm with novakant. There are sustainable kinds of meat, and sustainable ways to raise it.

As an aside, I believe the point in Daniel 1 was that the vegetarian diet Daniel insisted on was LESS healthy than the one including the king's meat. That was the point -- it was through the miraculous intervention of God (so the story has it) that Daniel thrived on his vegetarian fare.

Thanks -

If I am being hosted by a vegetarian and they serve me a vegetarian meal everyone including me is fine with that, if I host a vegetarian and serve them a bacon-wrapped steak, I'm a self-righteous jerk, boring, a poor host, an unimaginative cook, etc.

Perhaps because meat is not an essential part of a meal, so that by eating a vegetarian meal at a friend's house, you are not deprived of anything, but by insisting on serving a meal your hypothetical vegetarian friend will not eat, you are demanding that they abandon their ethics/beliefs/[insert reason for vegetarianism] to do something that is not necessary.

If someone invites me over to dinner I am happpy to eat only bread and salad- but I have many times been invited to dinner by people who, knowing that I'm a vegetarian, put chicken in the salad...

I once saw an article concerning life in the Canadian Forces in my local newspaper describe "pasta with chicken and pesto" as the "vegetarian option." I've never wanted to find out if that's really "vegetarian" for members of the Canadian army, or if it was just terrible editing.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat very little meat (certainly less than once a week - but I just can't make myself give up sushi). Although I agree that class and status and the belief that not eating meat is associated with other unusual/worrisome beliefs are important parts of why vegetarianism is sometimes looked down on, I think plain old habit is also part of it. I grew up eating meat very rarely, but my partner's family, or my dad's family for that matter, seem to have a tough time wrapping their heads around what I eat instead. (When I was a kid, I spent 6 weeks with my grandparents, and my grandmother kept offering me plates of cheese - several times a day - because she was convinced I couldn't possibly be getting enough protein.)

Hartmut, if you attempted to replace meat/sausage with *only* cheese, you were DEFINITELY not getting the balance right.

I've been a nearly life-long vegetarian (parents decided to adopt the diet when I was about 4) and one thing I notice is most people who try to "covert" later in life have a very simplistic idea of what a vegetarian diet is. It is not "meat-eating without the meat" unless you want to feel like hell.

Becuause vegetarianism is generally a conscious choice, and is difficult, there is reasonably a perception that you need a good reason to do it. The problem is that most of the reasons (other than religion) to become vegetarian have a serious potential to seem aribitrary and inconsistent, if not hypocritical.

For instance, if it's for health reasons, then "just this once" shouldn't really matter, should it? The comment that "there's nothing I can eat here" doesn't really fly, because you can eat those bacon bits on the salad. Really, you can. It's not like it would violate your religious principles, which are different than your dietary preference.

If the reason is primarily, "don't hurt the animals," then you should in theory be able to eat meat that is humanely raised and slaughtered, right? And if that's your moral stand, have you also applied it to wearing leather? How about your shoes and belts? Handbag? Wallet? Why should one be different than the other. [Note: I understand there are often good answers to these questions; I am trying to show how these reasons for vegetarianism have the potential to seem hypocritical]

If the reason is environmental, why choose this difficult thing, given the negligible impact your personal choice is likely to have, and still do things like drive a car?

As for hosting or being hosted at another's house: It's polite to make an effort to eat what is presented. I have choked down frozen fishsticks when offered by my grandfather, and though even the memory makes me want to vomit, but I was being polite. A good host will ask about your preferences and make an effort to accomodate them, but you should still be polite even if your host has not been accomodating. The solution is to not to complain -- just don't go to dinner at that person's house again.

The best answer I have heard for much of this is, "I've been doing it for so long now that my system can't really handle meat."

American culture worships violence

Right. That’s why we had a total freak-out over Palin giving an interview with turkeys being slaughtered (not even slaughtered as that part was off camera) in the background. The outrage! It was pretty hilarious, all the outrage and pontification a couple of days before the same folks had their Thanksgiving dinner.

To most Americans, meat is something that comes shrink wrapped sitting on Styrofoam. The vast majority have never killed and prepared an animal for consumption. Most have never even seen it done as a “farm” is someplace you take the kids for a hay ride and to pick out pumpkins for Halloween, and working in a meat packing plant is for illegal aliens. I know plenty of people who have never even caught and cleaned a fish in their lifetime.

On the rest, it’s a strong cultural image. Think of a steak coming sizzling off the grill – what do you picture? Cowboys and backyard BBQ with Dad running the grill... Now think of tofu… Yeah – dirty smelly hippies…

You’ll get me driving a Prius before you’ll get me to give up one ounce of steak or burgers. Reducing emissions is just generally a good thing so it’s something I can support. But if my doctor can’t get me to reduce my meat consumption for perfectly valid health reasons then environmentalists aren’t likely to convince me based on an unproven hypothesis.

My wife is moving more and more vegetarian. We don't eat much meat in the house, and it's been difficult to me. Most of what I know to cook is meat-related (or meat-included) and I've had trouble trying to cook non-meat recipes (that aren't mostly premade). While I'm not anti-vegetarian, my wife gets that vibe a lot from anti-vegetarians when planning meals (we're currently in the South now). They don't know how to work with a vegetarian diet, don't want to try, and are upset that they have to plan for one more hurdle.

I'm not saying it's a fair attitude (it's not) it's just the way people down here see it.

To me, the vegetarian diet doesn't fit me well. I'm very athletic, and eat alot. To keep myself full (without meat) I need to eat alot of beans (chili, bean salads, stews etc). After a few days with beans, my wife complains. If I'm cooking beans for myself anyway, i'd rather throw chicken on the grill (so I do).

Occasionally, I have found faux-tofu recipes to be good, but generally I have texture issues with tofu to keep me from loving it any other way.

Now-what: if I host a vegetarian and serve them a bacon-wrapped steak, I'm a self-righteous jerk, boring, a poor host, an unimaginative cook, etc.

*nods cheerfully* As many non-vegetarians on this thread have already pointed out to you. Serving cake and ice-cream to diabetics, traif to Jews, wheat bread to coeliacs, or live ants to almost anyone, is also a sign of being a poor host: you're a self-righteous jerk if you complain about their refusal to eat it. This is so obvious I think you're troll-baiting, hence my initial comment to you in this thread...

Slarti: But vegetarians are tastier than other humans.

So they tell me. *winks*

the stereotype started because, for a long time, so many vegetarians WERE self-serious, humorless scolds that looked down on everyone who ate meat.

i've been a vegetarian 10 years now, but during my 1st month i met another one who, when she found out i was, whispered conspiratorially that we "were so much better people" or some nonsense like that.

i made up my mind then to never be one of those type of people.

plus, up until fairly recently, there were very few vegetarian-specific foods, so you were always eating something different than everyone at the family dinner table, at restaurants, etc., and we see how much in America we hate to be DIFFERENT.

now, there's morningstar, boca, plus most chain restaurants even offer a veggie burger substitute, so its become less and less odd.

V for Vegetarian!

World-class straight man, me.

i do all the cooking in our house, and i'm sure my wife would like it if i cooked less meat - and i can even talk myself into be repulsed at the idea of eating meat, if i try. but i have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of a meal without meat. in my head, meat is the center of the meal; everything else is there to compliment it. she: "what's for dinner?" me: "pork chops! and [mumblemumble...brocolli]". it should be easy, but i just can't seem to grasp the notion that broccoli or beans or pasta could be the center. plants are sides.

but i just can't seem to grasp the notion that broccoli or beans or pasta could be the center

That's just because of your violent tendencies, cleek. WEAN YOURSELF FROM TEH VIOLENCE!!!eleven

I think a lot of our attachment to meat is cultural; we've grown up with relatively cheap and plentiful meat, and it's what we remember Mom and Dad cooking. (I wonder if it's coincidence that vinceneilyoung's family never cooked meat particularly well!) When people attack meat-eating, they're attacking our memories. It's the same reason, IMO, that Atkins never caught on; we all ate too much bread and pasta as children to permanently think of it as 'bad.'

And I second the recommendation of My Year of Meats; it's an excellent book and very funny.

As someone with celiacs, eating out or at others homes can be a scary proposition. When ever I am challanged on just how much a little
beer in the soup or soy sauce in anything (unless its gluten free) can hurt, I give the polite answer first, if they persist, I give the gory details with full scatological visuals. If someone cant or prefers not to have some type of food in their diet, just do the right thing and let it go cause it might just be someone like me that will make it a point to ruin your appetite if you persist.

The relationship between white tail deer and agriculture goes way back before 1492, and the overpopulation today is a result of growing so much grain for fuel and feed for cows and pigs. Same for Canada geese. So deer hunting is an eco friendly green way to work out that macho war-making meat-eating instinct. At least thats how we see it in my house. That said, if we invite you over for dinner, and your a vegetarian you will be served a delicious vegetarian meal. Vegans on the other hand will be on their own,because hard as I try, I simply dont understand.

If a vegetarian comes to my house, they're either going to eat bacon-wrapped steak or they can graze on the grass in front of the apartment building. They don't like that, but that isn't my problem, it's theirs.

No, that's your problem. If you invite guests into your home, it's considered basic human courtesy to offer them food they can eat. It's also considered pretty damn rude to bellow "Eat what I'm eatin' or go hungry, weirdo." But, you know, that assumes you are more interested in being a good host than dick-swinging about how you're on the top of the food chain.

(And yes, I eat meat. I don't find that makes it impossible for me to offer vegetarian friends something they can eat when they visit.)

But anyway, let's get back to non-meat eating. I'm being snarky, but I'm honestly curious. What are the precise origins of these stereotypes with vegetarians? Is it that vegetarianism is an implied rebuke? Does merely proclaiming you eat no (or little) meat make others feel defensive, thus triggering a need to ridicule them (or, more often, silently dismiss them)? Or is it a class thing? A culture wars thing?

If I had to put one word to it, it'd be an acronym: PETA. If you don't actually know any vegetarians, most of what you know about them is probably through PETA, which has probably done more to associate vegetarianism with moral scolds than all the right-wing blowhards put together.

A look at their news page gives some idea as to how that impression got started.

Not to come across as a crazy hippie or a self-serious scold, but a few points. I am not a lifelong vegetarian, I became one. Since I'm in the strange bind of being opposed to a habit I once strongly identified with and now being a member of a group I once hostilely ridiculed, I recognize that moral bluster isn't the best idea or tactic. But some things I beg you to consider:

1) What do you mean by "proselytize"? I'm not a member of a cult or militia or even any organized group. When I try to convince someone that they ought to (or must or should) stop eating meat, how am I "proselytizing" any more than any other moral, political, or cultural viewpoint. When someone makes the argument "You should tolerate people who eat meat. Here's why..." or "You should vote for [insert candidate here]. Here's why..." or "You shouldn't prohibit the sale of firearms. Here's why...", why isn't this "proselytizing" as well? Like "ideology", this is one of those words that I find people use pretty inconsistently and disingenuously, naturally to their own favor.

2) I am a vegetarian; I find the current prevailing practices in the west of producing and consuming animal products to be objectively morally repellent. This is an uncommon viewpoint in the world. I also find slavery to be morally repellent. This is (at this point in history) a more common viewpoint in the world. If I express my disgust at ongoing practices of slavery that persist around the globe, am I "proselytizing"? To use an extreme (but still interesting) example, if slavery was still around in the U.S. today, how would people treat the issue? Would there be a more expansive brand of "anti-slavery" products that you could buy at certain upscale markets and stores? Would some restaurants or farms in college towns be "slave-free"? Would this engender similar elements of classism among poor and rural populations ("Pretentious latte-swilling abolitionists can afford to buy products made by uncoerced labor!")? Would we have bizarre arguments over whether a slave-owning host should suspend the activities of his slaves while abolitionist friends are visiting? I do not consider my vegetarianism to be a "Wooo, go Red Sox" attitude. It is not something I do to be "radical" or "different" or a part of the team of "morally righteous". In fact, I precisely do not want to be different or special or righteous. Ideally, I would like to be the norm, with everyone supporting a healthier animal agriculture. Until that day though, I will continue to confront meat eaters over what their justification for that particular activity is, just as I would any other problematic and contested social activity or policy.

3. The "I eat what I want to eat" or "I didn't make it to the top of the food chain for nothing [by the way, you had nothing to do with this evolutionary trend, and thus reap no dessert from it]" arguments are so vacuous that even when I ate meat I knew better than to consider these as anything other than bad faith posturings. I don't care to offer a complete reconstruction of this line of reasoning, but it seems to hinge upon a proposition something like, "If I can do x, I am allowed or entitled to do x", or more sinisterly, "If my body's tastes and cravings inclines me to do x, I am allowed to or entitled to do x". Not even an Ayn-Rand-reading crackhead would endorse these propositions unqualified. The latter is pretty easy to see why it is completely false and perniciously so. No one excuses pedophiles, rapists, or cannibals for their behavior with this logic, and for good reason. I realize that for certain people in certain times and places, meat tastes good. I don't give a shit. No one says about rape, "You don't have to rape other people if you don't want to, but don't go telling me what to do, you ninny! I don't have a proportionately larger body mass than my smaller and weaker targets for nothing! And plus, it just feels... so... goddamn... good!" This clearly ignores the moral status of whoever or whatever is being "raped", if they possess such status at all. The moral status of animals (and the billions of humans whose lives are adversely effected by modern agricultural practices) is not a clear or easy question, but it is still a question. Rubbing your tummy and wearing a t-shirt that says "For every cow you don't eat, I will eat five" is not a legit response.

4) A common response by many meat-eaters put on the spot (or actually anyone whose values are put under judgment), is to get sort of jokey and dismiss the issue in a lighter way (for good examples of this, I recommend you peruse this entire thread again, which is rife with witty banter that shoves aside the actual issue). Given how many severe problems there are in the world, what a shitty job our laissez-faire society does in handling them, and how many problems there are we probably haven't even become aware of yet, I think it's far better to be humorless and "self-serious" in this way than someone who blithely makes remarks like "The only good Arab is a dead Arab", "So many women wouldn't have eating disorders if they were good-looking in the first place", or "Bacon tastes better with suffering".

I will make no argument for vegetarianism here. I only wanted to point out: 1) there's nothing crazy or unusual about trying to change someone's behavior and viewpoint, either through argument or social pressure and 2) while there are some weaker and stronger arguments for the moral permissibility of meat eating, the "Let me do what I want, hippie" arguments are pretty shallow (to put it gently). Sorry for the length of the post.

I think the idea of eating meat as manly is going to be a particularly difficult one to counter

I would counter with these guys. They look pretty manly to me and they only eat bamboo and such stuff.

The other problem is that the more you show that eating meat is a bad thing, in terms of health, the more that feeds into a certain kind of macho posing that sees trying to avoid risks as unmanly. Real men don't worry about their arteries hardening, because they'll die fighting sharks or driving fast cars first.

Eating meat is not bad for you as such, eating too much bad meat is.

But you have a point regarding macho posing, yet it cuts both ways. I'm in the curios position of being a smoker who doesn't drink alcohol, which at least in the UK puts me in a very odd spot (drinking a lot is a national past time, yet everybody and their dog has stopped smoking a couple of years ago). I never, ever lecture anyone on drinking and since I go out a lot, I am constantly surrounded by people drinking and generally have no problem with that.

My friends and acquaintances are all cool, but almost every single time I meet strangers my abstinence comes up as a conversational topic in one way or another at some point and depending on how polite or rude these people are, this can turn out be mildly annoying or downright offensive. So I think I can relate to what vegetarians must feel sometimes.

Yet, as far as lecturing on smoking goes, UK society seems to have decided that smoking is the number one health priority (never mind the binge drinking, the emissions or the obesity rate) and one is constantly confronted with all sorts government sponsored announcements telling you that it's bad for you, to which I reply: I KNOW THAT, do you think I've been living under a rock, that I'm an idiot or a 4 year old? - so leave me alone!

And yes, sometimes my inner libertarian/macho (I'm not much of either in general, but it's there somewhere) gets so incensed by all this paternalism, that I want to keep smoking just out of spite. So convincing people to change their behaviour is a tricky balancing act indeed and I'm not sure if some of the government's efforts aren't actually counterproductive.

Further evidence that vegetarianism and meat-eating are heavily influenced by cultural pressures: when's the last time you've met a right wing vegan? It is unsurprising that food choices get bound up with political identity, since pretty much everything else does too.

ChuckD, thanks for your extremely on-point comment analogizing meat eating to rape.

which is rife with witty banter that shoves aside the actual issue

Fixed: "which is rife with witty banter that shoves aside my actual issue"

ChuckD, thanks for your extremely on-point comment analogizing meat eating to rape.

It's kind of a meat-rape-violence connection, BrianA.

Sometimes a pork loin is just a pork loin, though.

If it's the case that reducing meat consumption has a strong effect on carbon footprint (specifically, consumption of factory-farmed, long-distance-shipped, grain-(and worse-)consuming beef, chicken, and pork), then environmentalists who want to encourage that reduction are well advised to go the route of recommending particular non-meat-containing menus and dishes that contain less meat. I.e., emphasize the positives rather than focusing on the absence of meat.

Advocating complete vegetarianism does raise the whole set of associations discussed here: self-righteousness, scolding, eccentric or unpopular beliefs on non-meat questions, etc. (and brings on the corresponding counter-self-righteousness and hostility). Experimenting with dishes containing less meat or no meat can be a pleasurable exploration.

There are quite a few fine, non-self-righteous cookbooks aimed at people interested in that exploration, whatever the reason (health, budget, environmental impact, animal welfare). All-or-nothing is not a sound way to begin, even if the reasons are moral or religious.

Food shouldn't be a crusade. The most effective "evangelism" is the quiet kind, in which the food speaks for itself: Good cooks sharing good food with family and friends.

now-what
//Way to miss the point.//
I was not responding to you. I was reacting to the quote by someone else that was imbedded in my comment.

Way to miss the point.

I suspect that many meat-eaters ridicule and attempt to marginalize vegetarians for many of the same reasons that schoolyard jocks and bullies ridicule and attempt to marginalize "nerds."

Full disclosure: I love meat, but acknowledge that the best thing (for our health and for the environment) would be if we were to eat a lot less of it per person. Especially a lot less red meat. I don't think there's a need to go completely vegetarian, but we probably eat many times more meat than we ought to.

My problem with now_what's original post has more to do with self-preservation: it makes me nervous when my host makes a point of saying he's at the top of the food chain.

There's an old Hollywood stereotype of the self-righteous crusading vegetarian who lectures other people at the table. Usually it's the sitcom episode about some kid becoming vegetarian for the first time--the standard kid-gains-passion, kid-goes-overboard, status-quo-lovingly-restored plot.

I'm not a vegetarian but I fitfully and inconsistently try to reduce my red meat consumption for health reasons, which involves eating vegetarian sometimes. I've noticed that the vegetarian options in places like institutional cafeterias are often horrible--the only choice aside from the salad bar is usually some kind of token meatless pasta laden with so much cheese and butter that it probably has more fat than the steak, and leaves me feeling sick.

People have mentioned class issues but there's also a gender angle. Low-fat and low-calorie items on restaurant menus often are in this sort of cutesy ghetto, advertised as being for women who are trying to lose weight, with names making references to them being "guiltless" or "sinless". I get embarrassed enough ordering them; I can only imagine how it would be if I actually were a woman trying to lose weight.

Health and environmental and social-justice considerations don't always pull in the same direction. I eat a lot of fish because it's good for me and makes me feel good, but it's not environmentally benign. I get a little twitchy when people suggest that the solution to obese poor people is that food should be more expensive--the side effect is that somebody's gonna starve to death.

(On the other hand, as somebody suggested above, legally hunted venison is both healthier, probably better for the environment, less cruelly made and better-tasting than beef--worse on these grounds than vegetarianism, but a spectacular win if you're going to eat mammals at all. Of course, the fact that it's hunted places limits on how much people can get without causing trouble. But I think anyone who accepts eating meat ought to be ethically OK with well-regulated hunting.)

The American culture is one which has a particular admiration for physical vigor and athletic prowess; however, it's more difficult (though certainly not impossible) to build and sustain muscle mass on a purely vegetarian diet. So, an association between meat-eating and physical heartiness may be one more factor in creating a cultural bias against vegetarianism.

The point about muscle mass is true, though of course if that were really the rationale you'd think Americans would be working out more.

No, that's your problem. If you invite guests into your home, it's considered basic human courtesy to offer them food they can eat.

Vegetarians can eat meat. They aren't allergic to it. It won't kill them.

When they serve me food, I will eat what they choose to serve and like it. When I serve them food, they will get bacon-wrapped steak and like it.

Matt and Marie,


You can sustain a high degree of muscle mass on a vegetarian diet if you're willing to consume a large degree of protein powder and soy products.


Now then, building muscle mass on a vegan diet is something else entirely, but then, since most Vegans I've known have tended to smoke like chimneys, I don't think they're in it for the health benefits anyways.

I am a vegan and very much like to think of myself as not a complere jerk...
I would try and make the case for veganism but judging from what appears to be the consensus view among you, that would be considered obnoxious finger-wagging and self-righteous proselytizing so I'll just stuff it and let you enjoy the apocalypse (ups, I think I just did it anyhow, didn't I...)

ChuckD--I'm not a vegetarian, but I appreciated your point, particularly on the fact that people are all to eager to laugh and joke and ridicule their way out of a moral challenge to their lifestyles. Probably we all do this.

That said, though, self-righteousness isn't the way to change people's minds. I don't know how one does do it.

now_what: regarding your use of the word "can" -- would you apply the same standards to someone who doesn't eat meat (or at least certain types of meat) due to religious observance?

I've faced some interesting attitudes about this in my own extended family, both over vegetarian diet and not drinking alcohol. My father (currently estranged, his choice) would ALWAYS ask before I visited him if I was still choosing not to eat meat, and would ALWAYS offer me beer, etc, even though he knew that not consuming these things was part of my spiritual practice. However, my aunt's husband, a recovering alcoholic, was never offered beer.

At some level it comes down to a fundamental disrespect of the choices a vegetarian has made, when you insist that they "can" eat meat because it won't kill them.

environmentalists who want to encourage that reduction are well advised to go the route of recommending particular non-meat-containing menus and dishes that contain less meat.

A personal recommendation.

Also, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines offer many, many delicious vegetarian and/or low-meat-content choices.

It's actually not that hard, it's just making a new habit. Assuming it's something you're interested in.

Chacun a son gout.

Thanks -

now_what:

Serving me a bacon-wrapped filet would make you a bad host.

The unspeakable acts I would do to your bathroom after eating said steak would make me a bad guest.

@ChuckD:

Though I've experienced many occasions where people made offensive comments of the sexist and anti-Arab racist variety, I've not run across anyone, however meat-loving, who's said anything like "Bacon tastes better with suffering."

If you have, could it be that something you said provoked that reaction?

There is a moral dimension to food production, as there is to the production of just about everything we consume. Exposure to the realities of production creates uncomfortable knowledge for urban/suburban-raised first-worlders, and it can be hard to avoid being overwhelmed. In my experience, the best outcomes result when people undertake that exposure themselves.

What do you mean by "proselytize"?

    proselytize v.tr.

    To convert (a person) from one belief, doctrine, cause, or faith to another.

When I try to convince someone that they ought to (or must or should) stop eating meat, how am I "proselytizing" any more than any other moral, political, or cultural viewpoint.

what does "any more" have to do with anything ? either you proselytize for vegetarianism, or you don't. if you do, some people will be annoyed; if you don't, they might not be.

Most of our semi-hemi-demi vegetarian cooking comes out of the Moosewood books, of which we have four, I think.

"What are the precise origins of these stereotypes with vegetarians? Is it that vegetarianism is an implied rebuke? Does merely proclaiming you eat no (or little) meat make others feel defensive, thus triggering a need to ridicule them (or, more often, silently dismiss them)? Or is it a class thing? A culture wars thing?

I'll just open the floor. Again, the precise question is why exactly non-meat eating is associated with these absurd connotations"

PETA

The fact that it is harder to keep the over-muscular build that many Americans seem to idealize in masculinity (the fact that many Americans don't hold to that from the larger end is indeed ironic).

Actual Moral Scolding and self-righteousness(see the rape analogy above).

People are weird about food. Seriously.

The problem here, as with another more prominent political disagreement, is that the moral status of the beings in question is subject to very differing axioms. Axioms that are self-evident to YOU, but self-evidently wrong to the person who disagrees with you.

Amusing anecdote about a dear friend who also has a slight propensity toward hectoring about veganism:

I drink 2 gallons of whole milk a week. I’m not really sure how that fact came up, but my friend was aghast and tried to argue that it was grossly unhealthy for me. His main point was that 40% of adults are lactose intolerant so it couldn’t be good for me. My response was “at 2 gallons a week, I would have noticed if I were in that 40% by now”. He continued in the ‘it just isn’t good for you’ vein for quite some time.

I think I like the story because it includes one of my pet peeves: misunderstanding of how an accurate statistic applies to the situation at hand.

N.B.—the actual percentage is more like 25% of adults, but among African-Americans the percentage is about 70%. My friend is black, so I can understand how his personal experience likely inflates his perception of how many people are lactose intolerant.

when's the last time you've met a right wing vegan?

Well, d'd'd'docile dave in this thread certainly isn't conforming to the stereotype one might have expected from his contributions to other threads.

Seb -- if it's not organic milk, you might consider contacting the company to see if they've tested for melamine transferring into the milk from contaminated feed.

I used to be a dedicated milk drinker, and regularly put away 1/2-gallon of whole milk a week. so, 2 gallons? wow, I'm impressed.

i'm sorry, but steamed milk IS not a very attractive thing to be identified with in a post 9/11-culture.

Right. That’s why we had a total freak-out over Palin giving an interview with turkeys being slaughtered (not even slaughtered as that part was off camera) in the background. The outrage! It was pretty hilarious, all the outrage and pontification a couple of days before the same folks had their Thanksgiving dinner.

I don't remember any outrage, actually. I remember laughing at the way Palin kept prattling on oblivious, while the farmworker behind her kept looking at the camera with this expression that said, "Huh...this is kinda awkward."

Just to clarify, I would never recommend being self-righteous. I would recommend being open and direct, without resorting to ridicule or dodging the issue. This may seem "asshole" to some people, but it can be done with respect and patience. I might not even be a vegetarian now if I had been exposed to a lot of aggressive vegeterian dicks.

Regarding the definition of "proselytize". The problem is it has a religious or fanatical dimension. Whether they are good or bad, I am a vegetarian for what I consider to be REASONS (maybe they're not very good reasons). If I argue for the proposition "You shouldn't eat meat from a factory farm", this is no different than any other secular issue: "You should tolerate other religious faiths", "You shouldn't spank your child", "You should give money to charter schools," etc. In one sense, yes, I am trying to convert you, but it's nothing insidious, it's just the everyday process of adapting our beliefs and practices.

Nowhere did I imply that eating meat is as barbarous as human rape (raising an animal in a cage for slaughter is more barbarous than bestiality, though). I just was illustrating the completely valid and true point that no one would bring up the possible "enjoyment" of rape in a serious moral conversation, but somehow we can't avoid giving moral weight to the equally irrelevant "enjoyment" of meat.

I have heard terrible things about animals from meat-eaters (that t-shirt slogan is a real one). The difference between these statements and the racism of an anti-Arab individual, is the anti-Arab individual is probably more sincere and the anti-animal peson is probably just trying to get under my skin.

People are making good points about the different cultural aspects, but no one has brought up my question of what abolitionism would look like now. If the slavery debate raged in our current cultural climate, wouldn't it somewhat resemble in form every other unproductive debate we have as a society ("Ignorant, immoral backwater hicks!" "Fucking elitist hippie scum!"). What if your friends were slave owners? Would you mandate anything of them regarding their meals, dinner parties, or gifts ("Merry Christmas! Sulu spent all last week in the ol' asbestos mill making this for you! Do you like it?")? Wouldn't it just seem silly to even try to reconcile your completely different moral viewpoints in such a temporary and slapdash way?

Slarti's mention of the Moosewood cookbooks reminds me that the previous high point for interest in home gardening, and in cooking with less or no meat, was during the 1970s. (counterculture diffusion, environmentalism, and inflation being the biggest spurs).

This was accompanied and followed by a huge increase in availability of and knowledge about different foods. Those of you under 40 take that part for granted, but it's sometimes difficult even for us geezers to remember how much more limited pre-1970 supermarket offerings were.

We're re-embarking on a surge of organic gardening, home cooking, and reduction in meat consumption. But we're doing so at a much higher level thanks to the institutions and knowledge built during and since that earlier wave --Seed Savers, square foot/intensive gardening classics, shelves of excellent cookbooks for vegetarian (full to hemi-demi) and less meat-intensive cuisines.

Does noone remember the bumper stickers with "I am a vegetarian not because I love animals but because I hate plants" on them?
---
farmgirl, The "food x only" periods were usually dictated by outer circumstances and limited to a few weeks, the most exreme being the preparation for a colonoscopy: No vegetables (esp. no potatoes*), no grains (i.e. only bread from finely milled grain), no milk products (i.e. no cheese, yoghurt etc.) for two weeks (a lot of types of fruit were also on the list). Since I get toothache from jam/honey/etc. it was German (grey) bread with sausage almost exclusively. On other occasions it was no meat for about the same time (with cheese as the replacement)**. I can cope better with "meat only" than "no meat at all" and there are a number of common vegetables I have an extreme dislike for (e.g. the mere smell of leek or radish causes nausea, although I could eat it without endangering my health).
---
A classical method to spoil the appetite for meat are educational movies at school showing abbatoirs and meat processing***. In my expericence the effect is only temporary though (and seems to affect girls more than boys).

*that was the worst part. I love potatoes.
**I am an agnostic but the environment was not and there was a holiday approaching with a preceding no-meat fasting.
***in a neutral way, not the "if you eat meat after that you are a Nazi" variety

"Right. That’s why we had a total freak-out over Palin giving an interview with turkeys being slaughtered (not even slaughtered as that part was off camera) in the background."

Count me, and most of the population, out of that "we"; It's so entertaining when the media tries to create widespread outrage over things most people just don't care about.

In order to stabilize my yo-yo weight problem I've been sticking to a low carb high protein diet for the last 8 years. It's really the only system that's kept my weight constant. That means meat three times a week and lots of salads and berry type fruits. But I need the low carb protein(meat).

kcindc

//Well, d'd'd'docile dave in this thread certainly isn't conforming to the stereotype one might have expected from his contributions to other threads.//

Y'all may disagree but I don't consider myself particularly right wing. I'm more about individual rights and responsibilities than right and left. The right often seems predatory and imperialistic or wanting to legislate morality. The left seems too focused on class warfare and whingey it's-not-fair-isms or just outright marxism. They also seem to want to treat people who make stupid choices as if they were forced into it by 'the system'. [I owned a mobilehome park at one point and believe me, there is a surprisingly large group of people who are determined to make stupid choices over and over again.]

"I used to be a dedicated milk drinker, and regularly put away 1/2-gallon of whole milk a week. so, 2 gallons? wow, I'm impressed. "

It is mostly because I eat a lot of cereal. I've probably had Cheerios (original, not that honey-nut stuff, the sugar that early makes me crash an hour later) with milk in the bowl and a glass of milk on the side, 5 mornings out of 7 for the past 30 years. And I have it when I'm in a hurry as a snack too.

To be honest, I hate cooking and I really hate cleaning up after cooking, so milk is a great non-cooking source of protein.

2 gallons? wow, I'm impressed.

I never knew it was a way to impress a farmgirl, lol, but I drink about the same amount - water bores me to death, and you can only drink so much espresso, diet coke or fruit juice until your stomach lining starts to revolt, so I find milk very pleasant. And since it's organic I have nothing to worry about, right?

"Nowhere did I imply that eating meat is as barbarous as human rape"

Quite true, but the unwritten rule on these things is that an activist who thinks society is fundamentally wrong on some moral issue will be held to the very highest rhetorical standard, and anything in your words that can be twisted to make your viewpoint seem ridiculous will be used for that purpose.

You might want to skip the meta-discussion, though, and just make your case for vegetarianism.

A large measure of our dietary choices is determined by afordability. Fresh fruit and veggies are expensive and corn and beef are both heavily subsidized in the US (as is beef in the EU). Fewer people would eat beef if these cost supports were removed.

Anyone have a decent comparison of the relative food efficiency of the various animals we consume for protein and of the land use patterns most suited to balancing carbon footprint, food demand, and other environmental concerns (like animal waste)? I've poked, but couldn't find any good summaries.

American culture worships violence

Oh. Is the rest of the world vegetarian then? I must have missed that. I wonder why my strict vegetarian best friend had such a problem eating in France... (They kept telling her things like "but there IS no meat in this onion soup! Just ham!")

The following is, obviously, NOT meant to be a universal pronouncement:

I grew up in a religion where being a vegetarian was somewhat obnoxiously privileged. The institutions would serve vegetarian food, colleges, schools, church dinners and whatnot.

The thing is, the majority ate meat at home. Meat allowed by Leviticus (cud-and-cloven-hoof, fins-and-scales), but still, meat. (This might also be an intersection of culture and religion -- the religion was American by my particular church was pretty much wall-to-wall Caribbean immigrants and were not about to give up curry goat.) And those who were vegetarian (this is simply my own experience) were INSUFFERABLE about it, as though they were more religious, even though the church did NOT require vegetarianism (just the Leviticus rules). And they would cite things that were not true, or things that had been true in the 1840's but were not true today, now that we have laws -- to back themselves up. So it became less about being healthy and more about hierarchy.

Plus, with a very few glorious exceptions, vegetarian meat is horrible. Tasteless lumps of gluten and sodium in tart brown gravy forced on children at summer camp. And called "burger" or "spaghetti sauce." I see no reason why spaghetti sauce needs anything in it other than tomotoes and spices, and if I ever do decide to "repent," I will eat vegetables, not vegetables pretending to be The Enemy.

(Also, when I was in college with the cafeteria veggieburgers, I weighed twenty - thirty pounds more than I do now, cooking for myself. They were Doing It Wrong, I suspect. Or one of us was.)

Oh, and by the way, nobody ever told me I couldn't have vinegar. No caffeine (which recommendation we all broke in college anyway), maybe, but vinegar? What the hell? Vinegar is awesome. It preserves tomatoes and makes fries yummy.

I still can't eat pork, though. Actively sickens me.

(I second the book rec for "My Year of Meat.")

Like other non-normative things, vegetarianism is to a large extent only visible to others when practiced obnoxiously. I am a vegetarian. Most of the people I deal with on a day-to-day basis don't know this. Not because I devote effort to hiding it, but because it simply doesn't come up. Some of my acquaintances may even falsely believe that they don't know any vegetarians, or that the only vegetarians they know are self-righteous types who can't shut up about it.

But what the heck, it's not like we're being oppressed.

Thanks for this post (and the replies, even from the vehemently pro-meat crowd). It summarized a lot of reasons I feel frustrated with my newly vegetarian diet. My mom would be cool if I were gay, but is horrified that I don't eat meat. I never ate much anyway, but taking that final step is apparently traumatic to everyone I know except my husband.

And I live in Massachusetts.

Also, lattes are delicious. But I definitely prefer tempeh to tofu.

mac
Which academy did you go to? The caribbean immigrants suggest it was in new york or england.

I think Publius is on to something. People are leery of vegetarians, feminists, atheists, etc. because they're all lumped together in people's heads as something that only dirty hippies would be. Not all of the above are humorless scolds, or at least not any more than any other subgroup on average.

The problem is that most of the reasons (other than religion) to become vegetarian have a serious potential to seem aribitrary and inconsistent, if not hypocritical.

Even if that was true, so what? Plenty of my friends have quirky beliefs, religious and non-religious. If your friends just happen to not like broccoli or Chinese food you probably wouldn't have the same desire to force them to justify why they don't want to eat it.

Deciding what to eat or not eat is a personal decision that doesn't have to be justified to anyone. If not liking something is good enough for people to get out of eating somebody's lasagna or Phad Thai, why isn't that reason good for vegetarians? Maybe they just don't like meat. They don't need a 'reason,' hypocritical or otherwise, for that.

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