« Black Mirror | Main | Sanford-nomics »

December 04, 2008

Comments

Sheriff of Nottingham: "What? Tie him to a stake?"
Bluebottle: "No, do not tie me to a stake" (pause) "I'm a vegetarian!"
Prince John: "Then tie him to a stick of celery."

cleek: are you suggesting that a vegetarian is somehow incapable of being as much of a self-righteous scold as anyone else in the world ?

No. As any other regular knows, I'm absolutely capable of being a self-righteous scold on any topic I feel strongly about.

I'm quite happy for Now_What to gorge himself on his bacon-wrapped steaks, for Hilzoy to have her wild salmon, or whatever. People should get to eat what they want to eat.

But, like most vegetarians I know, I've run into many self-righteous scolds who loathe vegetarians for being happy to munch on salad and falafel, and who take any expression of pleasure on the part of a vegetarian in the deliciousness of vegetarian food, as a hostile attack on their own diet.

As Magistra points out, there are also a fair number of teenagers who are deliberately obnoxious about their diets, but this isn't a function of being vegetarian: it's a function of being a teenager.

Plus, I will admit: I can get pretty cranky when I'm hungry, and when I'm attending a fee-paying event and I've made clear what I can and cannot eat well in advance, but the event organisers have not only done a complete fail at managing vegetarian food but are getting very self-righteous about "How dare you expect us to manage to get the caterers to produce food you can eat!" then I can go all the way over from mildly cranky because of hunger, to real kill-the-assholes rage.

The combination strikes me as being enough in itself to explain the myth of the self-righteous, scolding vegetarian.

Mmmmmm...falafel. If every McDonald's were replaced with a Middle Eastern restaurant, I could far more easily become a vegetarian. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to happen. You go to dinner in the world you have, not the world you'd like to have.

jes -- again, seconded.

hairshirt -- you could try living in Toronto. :)

I second hairshirt....mmmmmmm, falafel.

I got lucky and spent most of October in Brussels, for work. At least in the neighborhood I stayed in, it wasn't easy to find relatively cheap, relatively casual food. (I'm not supposed to eat wheat, among other things, so this makes a big problem in a place full of croissants and waffles.)

Then I had the treat of spending the last weekend of the trip in Amsterdam. Within a block or two of my hotel was food from everywhere on earth, including, right across the street, 2 or 3 Middle Eastern fast food places. I had 3 of my meals (in 2 days) in one of these places -- basically a salad bar with 3 kinds of spicy sauces, plus the falafel to pile it all on, plus, if you wanted, some deep-fried eggplant.

I would love to go back to Amsterdam. (Not inquiring too carefully as to whether there might have been some wheat in the falafel. I didn't want to know.)

P.S. Is this the first time since pagination arrived that a thread has gone to 5 pages? Or even 4? Who'da thunk it would be "Meat" that did it? ;)

farmgirl: I normally just say that I don't eat meat because it's so much shorter than adding the caveats about humanely raised meat, which I eat about once a year, on Thanksgiving.

It was definitely easier in the Middle East. Mmmmmm.

The combination strikes me as being enough in itself to explain the myth of the self-righteous, scolding vegetarian.

you ain't seen nothing till you've seen the wrath of a shellfish-allergic, mayonnaise-and-mustard-loathing, cheese-hater at a company-sponsored heavy-appetizers holiday party!

actually, i'm not very wrathful. i just eat a lot of celery stix and count the seconds till i can start nudging my wife to start saying her goodbyes.

hairshirt -- you could try living in Toronto. :)

If the election had turned out differently...

hilzoy -- thanks for the clarification.

Sorry if this is redundant; there are too many pages of comments to check all of them.

Anyway, the idea that meat-loving (and the resulting suspicion of vegetarians) is a peculiarly modern American phenomenon is simply false. Orwell, in The Road to Wigan Pier, argued that part of the working class's rejection of socialism came from its association with cranks like men who have beards or wear sandals, vegetarians, and nudists. (As a bearded man who wears sandals when the weather allows, I forgive him for this.)

And certainly if you come to my house for dinner, I'll do my best to serve a meal that fits within your dietary preferences. Though if during that meal you criticize my choice of diet as unhealthy or immoral, you'll make me regret it.

Don't invite vegetarians to your house. Got it.

No. No, you didn't. I suggest re-reading, while wearing a +5comprehension ring, or something.

I knew this woman who was an Orthodox Vegan. She wouldn't each fruit from orchards, only from free-range trees.

(Thanks, folks, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.)

Or an empathy onion ring ;-)

Actually it does sound like now_what would be better off not inviting vegetarians to his house, and certainly the vegetarians would be better off not accepting any invitation. He's made clear that he's determined to serve them food they don't want, and I'm not sure why prospective guests would want to subject themselves to the hostility.

I've run into many self-righteous scolds who loathe vegetarians for being happy to munch on salad and falafel

Then they're jerks and sorely misinformed. Nobody's happy to munch on salad. Vegetables barely even have a passing relationship with our pleasure centers, and I don't know a single vegetarian who won't stop dead in his tracks at the smell of bacon cooking. Like the smoke tendril with the beckoning hand in cartoons, y'know? I can't keep meat down anymore but the desire's hardwired as all hell.

Kudos to this thread. I kept waiting for the "vegetarianism is a cultural insult!" argument, but even now_what couldn't manage to be as obnoxious as Anthony Bourdain.

A recommendation for people exploring the use of less meat, or cooking for vegetarians and carnivores in the same household:

The Flexitarian Table

Also, a magnificent book that's rewarding for anyone who likes to read about food, or food history, whether you are going to cook or not (also partially reinforcing the 'Middle East, yum!' sentiment here):

Sonia Uvezian's Recipes and Rembrances of an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen. Read the reviews to get an idea of its range and quality. Under-appreciated, and right up there with the giants of food and cookbook writing. Delicious ideas for less-meat menus as an incidental benefit.

Have not read it, but would imagine her Cuisine of Armenia is also worthwhile.

gil -- the smell of cooking bacon makes me sick to my stomach. so that's one.

This thread sure makes me hungry!

I think the problem with vegetarians is that they make me uncomfortable with my own choices. That whether or not they proselytize, they are still pointing out by their behaviour that my lamb chops would, if given the choice, probably prefer to be gambolling about the meadows (or feed lots) than to be gracing my plate. Not something I want to think about over dinner.

I eat meat because I find it pleasant and not out of any need. I have eaten perfectly pleasant vegetarian meals, and for a number of reasons think I should eat more of them. Its cheaper, better for the environment, and better for me to eat less meat. However, there are very few dishes in my repertoire that I find myself looking forward too that don't include some meat, and those that don't are unlikely to fit into the category that would be better for me, generally being high in other sort of animal fat (cheese, cream or eggs).

That said, a number of years ago I decided to give up eating octopus (which I enjoy) due to their apparent intelligence.

Apart from that I am fairly omniverous. As a potential guest, I try to make my preferences known. I don't drink milk, and would probably not like a dish that contains a lot; I don't like a lot of raw onions; lentils are edible but why; and I'll give my portion of andouillette to Now_What. The thought of eating eyeballs makes me nervous.

As a host, I try to accommodate my guest's needs and likes, the point being a pleasant meal. I would never serve dishes such as liver, oysters, turnips, eggplant etc. without knowing that a significant portion of my guests would not just eat, but enjoy the ingredients.

Off for a ham sandwich.

Yes, but that's part of organizing an event. Sometimes it comes down to specifying to the caterer or restaurant that if they don't manage to provide the meals as requested, they won't get paid.

You might be amazed that there are people who organize events who have no say in how the money is budgeted and can't say 'sorry, we'll choose the conference area down the street' (when you are dealing with the only place in town large enough to hold that number of people) Of course, I'm sure a sense of overweening moral superiority is not a result of a non-meat diet, it's just that vegetarianism is a convenient organizing principle for such a sense.

You might be amazed that there are people who organize events who have no say in how the money is budgeted and can't say 'sorry, we'll choose the conference area down the street'

I am amazed at any organization that does not allow for not paying caterers who don't deliver what's been requested. Or indeed any organization that operates on the basis of "Yes, you didn't do what we asked you to do, but we'll pay you just the same as if you had"...

Of course, I'm sure a sense of overweening moral superiority is not a result of a non-meat diet, it's just that vegetarianism is a convenient organizing principle for such a sense.

Plus, there's the thinning myelin sheaths.

No, seriously, this one comes from having organized multiple events where some attendees had much more complicated dietary needs than just "don't eat meat, don't eat fish". It's not a sense of overweening moral superiority due to vegetarianism - the other person who organizes events for my employer is a committed omnivore, but he'd be just as morally superior about the need to make sure caterers deliver what they've been asked to, or they don't get paid...

243: whether or not they proselytize, they are still pointing out by their behaviour that my lamb chops would, if given the choice, probably prefer to be gambolling about the meadows (or feed lots) than to be gracing my plate. Not something I want to think about over dinner.

243, your comment is genial enough, but skates right up to the 'cultural insult' idea we were celebrating having dodged.

Let's agree that when people eating their food quietly "point out by their behaviour" something that makes you uncomfortable, it's something you're doing to yourself, not that they're doing to you. Yes?

Vegetables barely even have a passing relationship with our pleasure centers

This sounds like something you read in a book.

I eat meat, but I will happily sit down, quarter a head of lettuce, and eat it for a snack. It's cool, crispy, wet, light, and delicious.

Cucumbers, tomatoes, haricot verts, potatoes. I'll slice them all up and eat them raw.

Artichoke hearts marinated in good olive oil. Brussel sprouts brushed with oil and roasted with kosher salt. Beets with vinegar and mustard.

Then, there's fruit. Fresh peaches. Olives and figs. Don't get me started.

My pleasure centers are perking up just thinking about it all.

When I wasn't eating meat, I didn't like the smell of meat. Any kind of meat. Especially pork and beef. It smelled heavy, greasy, and foul. Totally unappetizing.

I like it now, because I'm used to it again.

It's all according to what you're accustomed to.

Thanks -

I'm an omnivore from Montana, but I was curious about vegetarianism so I did it for a few months about 7 years ago. I don't see people who are vegetarians as hippy-dippy, but I do see a higher proportion of the people I encounter who are hippy-dippy are also vegetarians. In addition I have known several people who chose to become vegetarian and then became hippy-dippy as well.

Let's agree that when people eating their food quietly "point out by their behaviour" something that makes you uncomfortable, it's something you're doing to yourself, not that they're doing to you. Yes?

That was largely my point, that the problem lies with myself, and my misgivings about my choices, and that my personally very slight discomfort with vegetarians is actually discomfort with myself. However, without all those pesky vegetarians running loose I could better sublimate these feelings and enjoy my foie gras. Just think if you had to sit down to each meal with a nutritionist.

To rephrase, I think at least some of the need to marginalize vegetarians (and especially joggers) is because they are challenging things about ourselves about which we have may have some lingering doubts.

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

Way to mis-characterize a comment from someone who isn't talking to you even and to fit in a piece of Shaming Tactic snark all into to one witless comment. Pretty tight writing.

This sounds like something you read in a book

How dare you insult professional authors. Though come to think of it, there might be something in "Botany of Desire" to that effect; I'm only up to the part about apples. Kinda makes sense that unhealthy foods would evolve the adaptive behavior of tasting friggin' awesome, but I'm not smart enough to mount a credible defense of the regular ol' monkeycentric kind of evolution, so I'm not gonna go crazy speculating.

I dig all that stuff too (or at least I've convinced myself I do, since it's, y'know, what I can eat), but none of it's pepperoni, is what I'm saying. But then, you claim to enjoy raw lettuce as a snack, which makes me suspicious about your intentions. Damned suspicious. (narrows eyes)

I like it now, because I'm used to it again. It's all according to what you're accustomed to.

No, I like sex.

Not to worry. The neo-commies The One is putting in his cabinet will soon start sending out ration cards for, among other things, food. And since most of the neo-commies know what is best for everyone else, I'm sure they will limit the amount of meat any common serf can consume. Once the obamanation is in full swing, I'm sure cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and goats will be given "privileged" status above the common serf. Probably since The One will nationalize them.

Yes, but that's part of organizing an event. Sometimes it comes down to specifying to the caterer or restaurant that if they don't manage to provide the meals as requested, they won't get paid. Amazing how that focusses their minds.

Jes, the point I was aiming to make was that the definitions of "vegetarian" and other food choices are often not clearly understood (or shared) by event organizers and food providers. I'm sure this is exaggerated when the event is large and there are many different variations on acceptable food amongst the attendees. I'm not saying that it's impossible, of course; just that it takes a lot of effort and communication, and while mistakes are extremely irritating, I think they're understandable. (Of course we should still work to avoid them by explaining.)

Yes: a Malaysian-born Chinese friend tells me that basically, so much dim sum is made with pork (or chicken) it's just not the right cuisine to invite a vegetarian to. There is excellent vegetarian Chinese food to be had, but dim sum isn't it.

What I found slightly odd at the restaurant I was at was the obvious difference in how "vegetarian" was interpreted: the servers apparently thought of it as "containing vegetables" while we thought of it as "containing no meat."

Hence my thoughts on the importance of communication about food choices, and how it can be difficult even when it seems like it ought to be straightforward.

If every McDonald's were replaced with a Middle Eastern restaurant, I could far more easily become a vegetarian.

Not me. There's a Middle Eastern grill in the local food court -- it's pretty much the only place I go there, other than an occasional Sbarro [*] -- and I get the Manager Special, which is ground beef and chicken kabobs. Not been tempted by the falafel once, especially since I can get hummus.

[*] At Sbarro's, I often get the broccoli and spinich stuffed pizza, so that makes up for a small part of the kabob lunches.

"If God hadn't wanted Man to eat animals, He wouldn't have made them out of meat". Author unknown [to me].

Once the obamanation is in full swing, I'm sure cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and goats will be given "privileged" status above the common serf.

Dude, what the hell are you talking about?

NO PIGS! They aren't halal.

Thanks -

Ed Baird:

With respect to deer and cows, deer do not have the multi-chambered stomachs that cows have. Cow contributions to greenhouse gases are typically methane, produced in one of the chambers of the cow's stomach.

I doubt that deer produce methane in the same way.

Another problem with the analogy between deer and cow: cows are raised in large herds, managed to produce meat by the ton.

Deer only grow to such numbers if they are NOT hunted (and if there are no wolves in the area). However, after growing to such numbers, the deer will overgraze their feeding grounds and die off in large numbers during the winter.

In short, even if deer are a problem, an aggressive hunt to control the population is the best way to do it.

That said, a number of years ago I decided to give up eating octopus (which I enjoy) due to their apparent intelligence.

You believe an octopus is smarter than a pig? An octopus is very intelligent -- for an invertebrate. I don't understand how you're drawing your lines.

I became a semi-vegetarian for ethical reasons: I decided it wasn't right to eat something I wouldn't be willing to kill myself. So I eat fish, but nothing higher on the food chain. My choice, YMMV.

But I found that once we went "piscatarian" (my wife was close to that already, but still eats chicken once in a while), the variety and quality of our meals actually increased. (It helps that Deborah is a really good cook.)

Of course you can make interesting meals with meat--check out IOZ for his recipes, which make me want to start eating meat again. But so much of standard meat-eating cuisine in America is a slab of animal protein, a hunk of starch, and a dollop of vegetables--and, as someone pointed out above, if you try to reproduce that in a vegetarian fashion, the results are awful, and unhealthy.

The other bonus is that we get a lot of our food out of our own garden now. I've got about 1500 square feet under cultivation (not counting the vineyard), and I expect that within a few years, using biointensive methods, I should be able to make us largely self-sustaining in produce. Since I really, really enjoy gardening, that makes vegetarianism doubly rewarding.

That said, a number of years ago I decided to give up eating octopus (which I enjoy) due to their apparent intelligence.

Would you argue that someone that kills and eats someone you consider intelligent should get a longer prison term than someone that kills and eats a person you consider to be completely retarded?

You believe an octopus is smarter than a pig? An octopus is very intelligent -- for an invertebrate. I don't understand how you're drawing your lines.

Honestly, about 25-30 years ago I saw a Jacques Cousteau show which showed an octopus given a glass jar with a shrimp in it and which the octopus figured out how to unscrew the lid much to the shrimp's detriment. I thought, and continue to think, that this shows a fairly high level of cognitive ability. Consider, at what age would a human, not exposed to glass jars or similar technologies, be able to perform the same task? I have since been exposed to additional, largely anecdotal, information suggesting that the powers of observation and problem solving abilities demonstrated here were not an aberration.

My knowledge of pigs suggests that they have a dog like intelligence. I would have no ethical problem with eating dog, so why not pig? I haven't tried dog, because its not commercially available, and because I suspect the (protein based) flavour would be strange to my tastes. I did try (similarly? intelligent) horse when for a while it was being sold in the 70's.

On googling I see that pigs are considered smarter than dogs, and to be on about the cognitive level as 3 year old humans. Give a three year old a shrimp (or a more obvious food source) in an unfamiliar container and see what they'd do. In at least a certain way, I think the octopus is more intelligent, although they probably don't make as good a pet as do dogs or pigs.

I'll also admit that avoiding octopus as a food source is a lot easier than avoiding pork,so my sacrifice here isn't as great as it would be if I were to forswear pork, let alone something really yummy like lamb.

Would you argue that someone that kills and eats someone you consider intelligent should get a longer prison term than someone that kills and eats a person you consider to be completely retarded?

I would consider the issue to be sentience rather than intelligence per se. For instance Terri Schiavo may have been highly intelligent, but at the end of her life it is doubtful that she was very sentient. If you had wrapped her in bacon and eaten her, this would not be nearly as troublesome to me as if you were to do the same to say hilzoy or ocsteve, regardless of their respective intellectual capabilities.

What, to me, gives life value is the ability to (and the extent to which one does) contemplate one's existence. Thus, abortion and infanticide do not disturb me as much as later terminations would.

So in the case of the octopus, I'm assuming, lacking any other way of measuring this, that greater intelligence indicates the ability for greater sentience. There is no way of knowing whether I'm anthropomorphising this.

Only the giant squids that live miles below the surface of the sea are truly intelligent. I know this from extensive reading of Arthur C. Clarke, so there.

I don't really feel that the morality of eating ought to depend on how smart the animal you intend to eat is. On the other hand, I do feel especially weird about people who eat gorillas or chimpanzees or orang-utans, or indeed whales.

Which brings us to the morality of eating insects (cockroach cluster anyone?). ;-)

I think humans are less willing to eat animals they can observe as intelligent. While there is a lot of popular material (esp. photos, videos) that makes it clear that the squiddies are intelligent (they use their "hands" to solve problems, so we can easily see it), the same can't be said about pigs (no unscrewing of jars there). Additionally domesticated animals tend to be much dumber than their wild relatives (that includes dogs afaik).
---
The intelligence argument (pig = 3 year old human) would imply that children up to three years of age could be eaten, if there is no problem with eating pigs (Hello, Mr.Swift!).

People are less willing to perceive as food animals they perceive as sharing a part of their humanity.

Octopuses can open jars to get food, which is always thought of as a humanlike activity: chimps and other great apes (and monkeys) are perceived as human-like (and are, of course, genetically very similar). Revulsion at eating cats, dogs, and horses is because they are regarded as human companions, not as food. The traditional food animals in the West, pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, can be as smart as you like, and it won't save them from being eaten...

And it may also be because of cunning Norman-Saxon distinction which makes it easier, in English, to discuss meat as a distinct entity which is not animal. In English we see cows grazing in the field, but beef in the freezer at the supermarket: pigs in Babe, but pork at the butchers...

And it may also be because of cunning Norman-Saxon distinction which makes it easier, in English, to discuss meat as a distinct entity which is not animal.

That distinction, or something like it, goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European. 6000+ years of linguistic/cultural history doesn't shift lightly.

Some languages make the distinction more than others, and as Jes says, most of the words used for the distinction in English were borrowed from French. I doubt that there's a significant difference in meat eating that depends on whether people's language makes a distinction. The fact that English doesn't make a distinction for "chicken" or "fish" doesn't mean we feel guiltier about eating those animals, does it?

Ah, finally found it:


"Vegetarian Sausages and Subjectivity
Do you scoff at those pale Tofu dogs in the health food aisles of the supermarket? Are you one of those people who taunt vegans by talking about Big Macs? A new study suggests that you should think about biting your tongue: According to the researchers, how we feel about a sausage, regardless of whether it's soy-based or beef, says more about our personal values than about what the sausage actually tastes like. In fact, most people can't even tell the difference between an ersatz vegan sausage and the real thing.

The clever experiment went like this: a large group of people were given a "human values" test which seeks to measure fifty six different values (loyalty, ambition, social order, etc.) Then, the subjects were asked to rate a variety of sausages. People who scored high on "social authority" - they believed it was important to support people in power - tended to label the "vegetarian" sausage as inferior, even when the vegetarian sausage was actually from a cow. Likewise, people who scored low on "social power values" tended to score the vegan sausage much higher than the beef sausage, even when they were actually eating meat . . . "

"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,"

No. You need to look back to, at least, Britain of the late 19th century. For more recent examples, see, for instance, C. S. Lewis' fiction. Example, the first page of The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother", but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

Needless to say, Lewis was not influenced by the Sixties and Seventies, and neither was his attitude unusual amongst British upper or middle classes. Vegetarianism was seen as one of a number of effete and decadent fads by many such folks.

(TVOTDW was published in 1952.)

See, also, common British attitudes towards Gandhi, and other Indian practices.

Special underclothes? What fad was that? (Obviously not Mormonism.)

"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."

Yup.

[...] [...] There is something about vegetarianism that evokes gut-level hostility from non-vegetarians, and I would really, really like to understand why.

And there's something about eating meat that evokes gut level hostility from vegetarians.

Funny, I don't think it has a thing to do with either being a meat-eater or a vegetarian. Some people are just self-righteous and rude, and others aren't so much.

"I love hearing the thought processes behind choosing names."

Not much of a rebel against my parents in that way.

;-)

Your answer, KC.

Jes: I don't really feel that the morality of eating ought to depend on how smart the animal you intend to eat is.

I know a lot of people who are content to eat chicken and fish, but abstain from the more intelligent mammalian forms of meat. In my limited experience, mostly with fish, crab and the occasional oyster, most* living things don't exactly relish the thought of becoming meat. Lacking a deity to make my decisions for me, I need some way of determining what should be edible or not. So far its worked for me, but I seem to be adding things to the equation like carbon footprints, sustainability & quality. I'm increasingly eating organic, range fed, local, etc. although I mistrust some of the labels.

*Dish of the Day: The quadruped Dish of the Day is an Ameglian Major Cow, a Ruminant specifically bred to not only have the desire to be eaten, but to be capable of saying so quite clearly and distinctly. When asked if he would like to see the Dish of the Day, Zaphod replies: "let's meet the meat." The Major Cow's quite vocal and emphatic desire to be consumed by Milliways' patrons greatly distresses Arthur Dent, and the Dish is nonplussed by a queasy Arthur's subsequent order of a green salad, since he knows "many vegetables that are very clear" on the point of not wanting to be eaten — which was part of the reason for the creation of the Ameglian Major Cow in the first place. After Zaphod orders four rare steaks, the Dish announces that he is nipping off to the kitchen to shoot himself. Though he states, "I'll be very humane," this does not comfort Arthur at all. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe -- source wikipedia

If you can't tell the difference between veggie sausage and real sausage, you're eating crappy sausage.

"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."

Yup.

This pretty much answers the question publius had.

We must not serve a vegetarian a non-vegetarian meal when they are our guests. We also must not expect a non-vegetarian meal when we are the guest of a vegetarian.

Their morals and preferences are, self-evidently, more important than our morals and preferences. Any suggestion to the contrary will be met by childish insults.

We will spend the remainder of the hour of Romper Room wondering why vegetarians, in general, are seen as whiny selfish childish thoughtless weenies. I have no idea. Gee. I wonder.

Lots of folks don't understand that all situations are non mirrors.

It seems to be the basic situation of modern times.

Similarly, lots of folks fail to understand courtesy.

I'm not a vegetarian, if you haven't figured that out. I simply oppose rude and assholish behavior, and favor courtesy. YMMV.

Rants against courtesy and kindness probably have some worth, no matter my general blindness to them.

Now_what, the situation would be comparable only if your morals required you to eat meat at every meal (and if their morals allowed them to serve it to you). Some might call it childish to take pride in stubborn determination to treat guests rudely, but you may of course celebrate your freedom to be a bad host if you wish.

KCinDC: Now_what, the situation would be comparable only if your morals required you to eat meat at every meal

Actually, I think the comparable situation is a guest who's on a strict Atkins diet and who therefore is going to want meat, basically - I mean, there are other options, but eggs, meat, cheese, meat, green leafy salad, more meat... I have friends who went on to Atkins, and pretty much, it's meat, meat, moar meat...

I don't agree with or approve of the Atkins diet, but I certainly wouldn't have wasted time at a shared meal saying so (or indicating so to a guest in any way.) I'm a vegetarian so I have no expertise in cooking meat, but you can buy vacuum-packed slices of cold cuts anywhere... and that's what I did, last time I had to guest someone who was on Atkins.

(Though my preferred option, with close friends on Atkins, is to call any one of a number of good Indian restaurants that do take-out, and order a meat meal for her and a vegie meal for me, and warn her that she's going to get mugged by my cats.)

"We must not serve a vegetarian a non-vegetarian meal when they are our guests. We also must not expect a non-vegetarian meal when we are the guest of a vegetarian.Their morals and preferences are, self-evidently, more important than our morals and preferences.

I was thinking it was something like this that was bothering you - given your comments along these lines upthread about whose house, whose rules, and so on. Look, you've got it all wrong. If you're the guest of Jews who keep kosher, you don't expect to be served bacon (unless it's turkey bacon); if you have Jews who keep kosher as guests, a good host makes sure (at a minimum) that there's food to eat.
(would you agree with the above?)
It's not about their morals and preferences being more important than yours, it's about . . . hmm . . . not even respecting their morals and preferences (which one may have little concern or even disrespect for), but simply respecting that they're people of equal worth who have those morals and preferences is one way to put it, although I tend to think of it of simply not being an ass.

If they were asking that you serve only vegetarian (or kosher, or whatever ) food in your house, to everyone, when they were there - that's another matter. (In some circumstances - ie, recovering alcoholics concerned about drinks at a family gathering - that's one thing, but that's another matter). But of course, that's not what we're talking about. It's only that you're looking at it through this prism of dominance . . .

"and warn her that she's going to get mugged by my cats.)."

My cat mugs anybody trying to eat green olives - he's obsessed, & will try to climb up folks to get to them, acting completely crazed . . . Apparently it's not uncommon, but nobody knows why (or even if it's safe) . . .

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.

Orthodox Jews can eat pork, too. They aren't allergic to it. It won't kill them. But inviting them to your home and serving them bacon-wrapped steak would make you a world-class jackhole. So what exactly do you imagine your point was?

A couple of general comments:

1. Anyone who says "I haven't found any vegetarian food I like" has never been to an Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese or Thai restaurant, or is lying.

2. Food chain, schmood chain. There's no such thing, and if there were, you wouldn't be at the top. Beetles, worms and maggots would, as they ultimately eat pretty much everything. You're made of food just like every other living thing on the planet, and every once in a while a cougar, bear or shark is going to make a snack of one of us. Suck it up.

3. Anyone who feels they have a right to make disparaging comments -- to my face or behind my back -- about what I eat will quickly get a very important lesson taught to them.

Jes: I'm a vegetarian so I have no expertise in cooking meat...

You know there are cookbooks that can help, and many meat recipes are simple enough to require basically no expertise. If you can bake a squash you can cook a roast. I'm not saying that you should, but that lack of expertise shouldn't be the reason. Simply not wanting to would be sufficient. FWIW, if you were to be a guest at our house we would make an attempt to prepare interesting and good vegetarian fare. We have several cookbooks for that purpose, and we often find that we like many of the recipes, although not in practice enough to cook just for ourselves. If I were a guest at your house I would not expect the same in return because I would not expect you to make something you could not partake in, although I would probably be appreciative if you did indeed make something meaty. ;-)

Phil: Anyone who says "I haven't found any vegetarian food I like" has never been to an Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese or Thai restaurant, or is lying.

I don't think I have had an entirely vegetarian meal at any of the above except possibly rarely Italian where for instance the eggplant parmigiana might not have had any meat in the sauce. There are all sorts of non-meat foods that I like, say apple pie and ice cream, but I wouldn't want to subsist on that. It would be fair to say, that while I like all above cuisines, except Indian on which the jury is still out, that their presentation at least in my experience have been fairly meat intensive, and hardly count as vegetarian food.


243, every Indian, Thai and Japanese restaurant that I have ever been to in my life -- I'm 40 years old -- has an entire section of their menu labeled "vegetarian entrees" or "vegetarian specialties" or something of that nature. Every. Single. One. Without fail, and for what should be fairly obvious reasons. If you somehow took away from my comment that I was implying that those cuisines were entirely vegetarian, you read it wrong; but it's impossible -- literally, impossible -- to not find a plethora of vegetarian options at all of them.

Although I think it should be possible for any caterer or restaurant to serve vegetarian food, I would imagine it often takes a lot of thought and discussion on the part of the organizer.

Oh noes! Not thought and discussion! The horror!

I just got back from my company's annual sales meeting, held this year in Santa Monica. There were . . . let's see . . . three lunches and two dinners provided by the company during the event, for some 130 attendees, including people from India, China and Japan. Every single meal included at least one and in most cases several vegetarian options, including an off-site event at Sony Pictures Studios. It really isn't that hard.

Incidentally, my wife and I, vegetarians for nearly 20 years, hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year for 8 other family members. We cooked a simple turkey breast for them, while the two of us ate a Tofurkey. I guess this particular vegetarian couple happen to be better hosts than now_what can even conceive of.

Phil,
When I first came to Japan 20 years ago, on the same program was a woman with a violent allergy to fish. She came to discover that almost everything on a Japanese restaurant menu uses dashi, which is made with bonita tuna flakes that are reduced. The same is probably true with Thai cooking (I'm a consumer, not a producer, so I'm not as versed with the ingredients) as nam pla or fish sauce is a key ingredient. From this link

We frequently receive requests asking if Kasma teaches vegetarian Thai classes. She does not. What she teaches is traditional, authentic Thai cooking and in Thailand there is not much of a vegetarian tradition, aside from a very small Buddhist sect, far outside of mainstream Thai cuisine. The most important food in Thailand, after rice, is seafood. (See Chapter 2, A Seafood Culture, from Kasma's book Dancing Shrimp.) There is an old Thai proverb that says: "To eat rice is to eat fish." Probably the most important single ingredient in Thai cooking is fish sauce.

If you are a vegetarian these classes may or may not be appropriate for you. If you eat fish and seafood of all kinds (particularly fin fish, shrimp and squid / cuttlefish) you should have no problem taking the classes, getting enough to eat and participating in many of the exercises in harmonizing flavors that lie at the heart of Kasma's teaching; there will be many dishes that you will not be able to eat or taste, however. If you are a vegan or do not eat fish and shellfish, these classes are not for you as you would be unable to taste any of the food or participate in any of the tasting exercises. Kasma does not provide information about "substitutes" that would allow a vegan to adapt her recipes because, to her, there are no substitutes if you want authentic Thai flavors and authentic Thai food.

243: You know there are cookbooks that can help, and many meat recipes are simple enough to require basically no expertise.

I don't cook things unless I can tell, when I taste them, I got it right. As I find it impossible to tell if I got a meat recipe right, since (a) I'm not tasting that stuff (b) all meat - at least, all meat I ever accidentally tasted or involuntarily smelled up close - tastes disgusting, I just don't cook meat. This is a good reason for preferring the take-out option: a good Indian meal smells delicious even if the base ingredient is meat instead of vegetables or pulses.

The only disadvantage is my cats will mug my guest for it, and if my friends can't fight off two small, cute fuzzballs for their dinner, well, they're clearly not worthy of my friendship or the name of carnivore. On the savanna, they'd have to compete with hyenas and lions, so they should be able to cope with my cats being terribly, demandingly cute at them.

243: I don't think I have had an entirely vegetarian meal at any of the above except possibly rarely Italian where for instance the eggplant parmigiana might not have had any meat in the sauce.

There is actually (as Elizabeth David noted) no such thing as "Italian cuisine" - there are many regional/seasonal Italian cuisines, some of which are more veggie friendly than others.

But in the UK at least, all Italian restaurants will serve variations on pizza and multiple versions of pasta, and if it's properly (ie freshly made!) there's no problem finding a vegetarian option. The chief difficulty I ever found is that many Italians cannot believe that a person exists who will not eat parma ham...

Phil you are right, I'm not understanding your point. It is quite possible for someone to go to a restaurant that has a separate vegetarian section on the menu, and learn nothing about finding "vegetarian food I like", because they simply don't try the foods from that section. We often do order stuff from that section, figuring that we are getting enough meat in other dishes, and because my wife actually, for some inexplicable reason, likes tofu. FYI, I think all of the Indian places I've been to have had vegetarian sections, I'm not sure about the Thai, and I don't think all of the Japanese did. The last couple of sushi places I ate at don't have menus online, but the first I found in Seattle didn't have a vege section. It did have vegetable rolls and some vege appetizers and salads but was a bit sparse on the vege offerings -- all of the entrées or combos had meat.

Jes, if the smell of cooking meat nauseates you then you just shouldn't do it. That said, you can make good meat dishes just by following instructions, and without the need for personally tasting it. Here is a recipe which doesn't require tasting or any real skill at all, and which I assure you that most meat eating friends will love. I would personally volunteer to let you test it on me, and would even share a minute bit with your cats.

Not being a vegetarian, I don't track which restaurants have good vegetarian fare. When I go out with vegetarians I let them pick the restaurant. I do have friends with severe food allergies. I have found restaurants here (Seattle) increasingly willing to accommodate people with food issues. I recently (2007) travelled with a person to Italy, France & Spain who couldn't eat gluten, soy, cow-dairy, eggs, or sulphites. While we did a lot of our own food prep, going out to eat didn't turn out to be as problematic as feared.

Oh noes! Not thought and discussion! The horror!

Indeed, but not always done with great effectiveness. When I lived in my university residence a few years ago, for example, while there was always a vegetarian (though not necessarily vegan) option apart from the salad bar, at least once a week that option consisted of a large slab of tofu in sauce.

I like tofu quite a bit (though I prefer my soy in edamame form), but a slab of tofu in sauce is not a complete meal.

I don't think it should be that hard to provide (tasty) vegetarian options; it just seems as though for many people who should really know better (i.e., people planning 3 daily meals for a thousand people with widely varying dietary needs), it is. I think it's because of a lack of attention to the importance of good food that is acceptable to, and safe for, everyone eating it, especially if some preferences are seen as less normal or important.

On the savanna, they'd have to compete with hyenas and lions, so they should be able to cope with my cats being terribly, demandingly cute at them.

If they're only being demandingly cute, that's not so hard to defend against. My parents' cat (and most of our previous cats) all independently picked up the habit of sneaking into one's lap and then casually swiping food from one's plate. Although the current cat seems to be omnivorous and will go for bits of rice, couscous, and corn as happily as he'll go for chicken.

Does anyone find a bit of cognitive disconnect between keeping cats/pets and being vegetarian?

I suppose it depends on the level of strictness, and if one is willing to serve meat to a guest, a cat should not be much more of a problem. (And if you keep them indoors then they're not out killing birds or what have you... still, housecats are a particularly destructive factor in the songbird population.)

I ponder this because I may very well re-take up vegetarianism at some point.

Mac, while most dogs can perfectly well cope with a properly-planned vegetarian diet, since dogs, like humans, are omnivorous - cats are carnivores.

You can buy specially-made vegan cat food at some pet stores: it's expensive and unless a kitten is fed nothing else but this stuff from weaning onward, most cats will refuse to eat it. (So owners who have tried it report.)

I accept that my cats eat meat. I accept that, given the chance, they'll hunt and kill. I feed them what they can eat, and I don't let them outdoors without a belled collar that ensures any songbird or small furry animal they could catch would have to be exceptionally deaf. And the mice they occasionally catch indoors get regretfully disposed of: they're usually very small mice, probably the equivalent of dumb teenage boys showing off to their friends.

I am contemplating moving them over to eat organic cat food, though. Right now the older cat is on Hill's Science Diet because she's elderly and fragile and too thin and I definitely do not want to take any risks with her losing weight again...

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad