I am a vegetarian.
That means I don’t eat meat.
I don’t eat beef or chicken or fish, or anything made from them.
I don’t eat meat because I choose not to eat anything that had a life before it was plunked on a plate and prettified with parsley.
And in spite of my vegetarian lifestyle, I am generally a congenial and convivial dining companion to all, and in most locations.
But there are times when it feels as if some of my dining partners might be lumping “vegetarian” in with “severe diminishment of mental faculties,” and well, I don’t like it.
So in the spirit of reaching across the (quinoa-and-carrot laden) table, I would like to offer some helpful hints on the topic, “How to Eat with a Vegetarian and Have Everyone be a Grownup About it.”
- I understand that my choice is not currently the standard here in America, and so I undertake to ensure that whatever restaurant chosen for our meal can accommodate my needs. Let me reiterate: I have already determined that I can eat there, and with you. You do not have to recite every…single…thing on the menu and tell me whether or not there’s meat in it.
- Vegetarians like me do not eat meat for moral reasons, and you know that because you’ve already asked me why I don’t eat meat. Encouraging me to just “take out” the meat in a dish makes me feel that you were only looking at me (as opposed to listening to me) when I answered your question about why I don’t eat meat. It means that you are not being respectful of my choice, which irritates me a lot, since I don’t EVER say anything about what you eat (I want to be a congenial and convivial dining companion, afterall). There are plenty of things for me to eat that weren’t made with meat to begin with. I am okay, really. Really.
- It would be great if you would finally understand that no matter how many times you ask, “You don’t eat fish, do you?” the answer will always be no.
- Do not put your vegetables on my plate. I am a fully realized human adult, I am capable of ordering an entire complement of foods to comprise a plate. You do not need to feel sorry for me or look at me with those pathetic eyes. I am eating plenty.
- Just because it’s soup doesn’t make it vegetarian–even if it’s vegetable soup.
- In general, every place you and I will eat at can create a vegetarian plate for me, and I am very nice when I ask for such accommodation. So please do not look embarrassed when I have a short and polite conversation with our waitperson about the kitchen’s ability to prepare something for me. And if it turns out that they can’t assist me and I have to order from the “Sides” section, I won’t get all grumpy and take it out on you.
- I would also prefer it if you didn’t look positively horrified when I order a baked potato (although I suspect that’s a carbohydrate issue and not a vegetarian one).
My ultimate goal is to have a nice meal with a nice person, not to make anyone uncomfortable. But I think it’s not so much my choice as someone’s reaction to my choice. Honestly, I don’t talk about being a vegetarian when I am out to eat, and certainly not when I’m out to eat with people who have not made that choice — why would I want to wreck my dinner and theirs by getting all moral and outraged and in their faces?
I just want to eat, and laugh, and enjoy myself. My being a vegetarian shouldn’t preclude you from being able to do that as well.