Four Questions People Ask Me About Being Vegetarian – And My Answers
Article published in Vegetarian Living Magazine
Vegetarianism can be a weird thing. Veganism can be even weirder. In fact, putting “ism” on the end of any word can be an invitation for judgement and suspicion.
I try to take judgement and suspicion with a serving of good humour. I think people are really just looking for answers to things they don’t understand.
I don’t like getting caught up in debates about whether people are supposed to eat meat or not. I think everyone should live in the way they feel is right, as long as they’ve got all the information. That’s why I’m happy to answer questions about my lifestyle choices and let people make their own decisions about theirs.
Here are four questions I’ve commonly been asked about being vegetarian - and my answers to them. These are only my personal answers and everyone’s got their own thoughts about these things. But I hope sharing my answers will set the table for some food for thought.
They’re also in no way intended to make fun of the people who ask the questions. Communication is an important part of being human. Knowledge, gained by politely asking questions, is an important part of understanding each other.
Q. It must be difficult to go out to dinner as a vegetarian. Do you need to phone the restaurant beforehand to see if they cater to vegetarians?
A. Not at all. I just show up to restaurants like everyone else. I never feel the need to announce I’m a vegetarian. It would be unusual to find a restaurant which only served meat products. Most kitchens have vegetables, grains, pasta, oils, nuts, mushrooms, etc. Even if there isn’t a dedicated vegetarian dish on the menu, it’s easy enough to order a plate made up of side dishes. I once went with a group of friends to a steakhouse. My order was, “give me the steak meal… and hold the steak.”
Q. Why are you depriving your children of meat?
A. I’m not depriving my children of anything. They’ve never eaten meat and, sure, that was initially because I don’t eat meat. However, at 9 and 10 years old, they’ve gained some understanding of their own beliefs and boundaries. I remind them they don’t have to be vegetarian just because I am. They’re very healthy boys, so obviously it’s unnecessary for them to eat meat for nutritional reasons. If they did choose to eat meat, they’d be going into it with their eyes open, since they know where meat comes from and what needs to be done to obtain it. They have plenty of information and the choice is theirs.
Q. Now that you’re pregnant, will you start eating meat?
That was 11 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. It was a bit tricky because even though I’d done a lot of research around pregnancy and nutrition, I was being offered some uninformed advice. Even my Plunket nurse at the time advised me to eat meat and warned that I would need to feed the baby meat. Fast-forward through 11 years, two rounds of IVF, two pregnancies, two births and two healthy children. The answer is now clear.
Q. When your kids go to birthday parties, do they eat the sausage rolls?
A. No, they don’t. However, kids’ birthday parties can be trickier than dinner at a restaurant. I’ve discovered it’s common at children’s parties to not find any savoury dishes without meat! Sausage rolls, saveloys and chicken nuggets seem to be standard party food. Therefore, I always mention in the RSVP that my child doesn’t eat meat. Once the host knows this, they can add something like sandwiches without meat to the menu, which are appreciated by the meat eaters as well as the vegetarians.
People are interesting. If we all keep asking questions of each other, we should gain deeper insights into how we all tick and why we make certain choices.
Maybe some of us will even change the way we live, for the better, once we have enough knowledge.