Veggies - an endangered species ??
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Supermarket vegetarian sections are dwindling (in some cases disappearing) and often eating out means having the one veggie option available while meat-eaters get 22 variations on a theme of dead animal.
My wife and I find the best thing to do is frequent Indian shops/restaurants - but we like Indian food and have the relevant outlets nearby. How do others fare ? Do you have the same problem in the USA ? Our local supermarket is Asda - owned by Wal-Mart - so I`m guessing you do.
I have noticed a decline in my vegetarian friends--one after another, the majority of them have gone back to eating meat, although most could probably be called "conscience omnivores" or some such, since they tend to the organically fed, free range etc. I don't know if it's just not cool anymore or what, but I don't see a lot of people choosing a veggie lifestyle anymore.
Inclined to agree with your more general comment.
I suppose it depends on your motivation. I used to have a flat behind a slaughterhouse which had a night shift. That was enough for me.
My wife was a vegetarian, then lapsed then unlapsed after we spent a holiday on a farm in Wales and she bonded with the animals.
Maybe people need that `trigger point` that makes them become veggie.
As far as eating out, an upside to Corporate America’s domination is that most of the big chain restaurants have a several veggie-friendly items available, or at least items that you can have the meat left off of, and most have something like a Gardenburger as well. Some of the smaller, locally owned restaurants do make it a bit harder for meatless options though. There also seems to be more and more veggie-friendly Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai restaurants opening all the time throughout the country.
Sounds great though. A good tip - if you can find a good quality Caribbean restaurant with veggie options, that`s great food.
Unfortunately, a lot tend to cater for the "bring me half a goat now !" tendency.
Speaking of eating half a goat, the closest thing to a Caribbean restaurant I know of near me is a Brazilian steakhouse; and I definitely wouldn’t classify it as having many vegetarian options—they server flesh by the skewer on an all-you-can-eat basis. The waiters walk around bringing grilled pig, cow, chicken, turkey, etc., on a skewer to every table. Ironically, they have a salad bar too.
As far as turning into “conscientious omnivores” I have to admit, I'm one of those who is close to turning. I have been veg for almost half my life, since I was 13. At age 13, I felt that I had no more a right to live than the animal, and it should not be sacrificed for my sustenance, especially because i could live quite healthily with out it. However, over the last few years I have begun to crave some kinds of meat- and no longer hold true my previous beliefs. I feel that free-range, organic meat is an acceptable source of nutrients. However, until I can afford to eat it, I will remain a vegetarian...
10 or 15 years ago, my co-op went from selling no meat to having a meat counter. They focus on free range and natural meats and seafood. It was a big deal for me, since the co-op used to be one of the only places I could go where being a vegetarian was virtually 100% supported. The day I tried a free sample and was reading through the ingredient list and found shrimp almost at the bottom of the list was the shattering of my "innocence".
Now I have to read every label on every can of soup in the store, but I'd still say that less than half of the packaged goods contain meat.
I'm usually able to find at least 1 or 2 items that are vegetarian (but not necessarily vegan) at almost all restaurants around here. Even if they don't have something on the menu, I can usually ask for them to make me something. I can't say that there is never any beef or chicken stock or lard, but I know they are trying.
I used to travel to the bay area for business and usually had terrible problems finding a place that had vegetarian items on the menu. Going out to dinner with business colleagues in S.F. was a constant disappointment that I never face in Minnesota. The attitudes that I usually noticed were that chicken or seafood options were plentiful and that's what "vegetarians" were supposed to eat.
I try hard to be polite about my needs and sometimes people are just plain rude. They'll keep asking "Well do you eat chicken? What about fish? or shrimp? or clams? and what about eggs or cheese?" and finally I tell them very bluntly that I don't eat anything that was killed (or dead animals, depending on which I think will be the most shocking to them). Their discomfort in talking about animals dying usually shuts them up right there.
There are very few people besides vegetarians (maybe except for those who keep kosher or hallal) who find they are asked to discuss their ethics and very personal beliefs every time they eat with new people.
To me, vegetarianism has become more and more accepted and mainstream. Bilbette, your point about having to explain your ethics and very personal beliefs every time you eat really hits home for me. As a kid it was especially hard to explain to other kids (and even many adults) who had never encountered a vegetarian before. I certainly never had any desire to be a non-vegetarian (I imagine at some point there was a converstion along the lines of "why don't we eat meat?" "because we don't feel it's right to unnecessarily kill animals for food" and it made perfect sense to me).
Here in the Portland Maine area there are certainly lots of vegetarians, but not all restaurants have decent vegetarian options. I wish more restaurants would clearly label vegetarian options on the menus - to me it seems like it would be so simple, but I guess there is always the question of how exactly to define vegetarian. For me, I ask about and avoid things made with any type of meat stock, meat flavoring, fish sauce, etc, but reluctantly accept rennett in cheese gelatin in all kinds of junk that I eat, carmine in red grapefruit juice, and probably many other trace animal products.
I became vegetarian in 1991 because I no longer wanted to eat things that had been killed for no other reason than to feed an already overweight and unhealthy population. I don't eat gelatine or fish and have plenty of cheeses to choose from that are made with vegetarian rennet. At that time, there was no such thing as vegetarian convenience food like Quorn, and about all you could get to eat in restaurants was a cheese salad, particularly outside the cities.
Now though, I have very few complaints about how vegetarians are catered for. In Glasgow there are loads of good places I can go for food, including loads who cater for my carnivorous family and friends as well as me. The majority of restaurants and supermarkets use the 'V' sign to show that their meals are veggie-friendly, and if they don't I just take my custom elsewhere.
At first, I did have to contend with comments about my reasons for choosing not to eat meat or fish, but I have plenty of other friends and family who are also vegetarian and I've never actually had to defend myself against hostile questioning about it.
If I ever have children, they'd be brought up as vegetarians until they were old enough to make up their own minds about it. Mainly because I'd have no idea about how to cook anything with meat in it (!) but also because I believe we are entitled to make these choices without having to justify ourselves to anyone.
Asda is also my local supermarket, and their veggie selection is awful. I end up having to get what I want from a variety of places which is a real pain for someone without a car.
Still pretty mixed fortunes on the veggie front here - one new veggie shop has opened in the last 18 months, then again, two restaurants and a cafe have closed. Like you, we go to Asda for some things, then go elsewhere in the same area for other stuff.
Talking of Asda, their veggie selection`s pretty terrible isn`t it ?
I really like being able to go to a place where I have no doubts about what goes into my food. My personal opinion is that I trust Indian restaurants more than any others since there's more cultural awareness of vegetarian choices. But having even limited choices at a large majority of restaurants is preferable to having no options.
I do think we still need to promote vegetarianism even though it has become more mainstream. I believe that the ethics behind it is disappearing and it is becoming more of a niche market kind of thing.
Frankly people react with more shock when they find out I am a vegetarian then when they find out I am a lesbian. I am not sure what this means exactly but it really surprised me at first. At work I get many negative reactions for not eating meat.
I don't mind so much because it starts interesting discussions. I also do a lot of the I understand I am a hypocrite because....
I feel 100% entitled to eat dairy, but not meat for instance, even though there are plenty of arguments for being completely vegan and evidence to show that intensive dairy farming is not good for cattle. Same with wearing leather shoes (you can't wear hemp shoes in a Scottish climate, believe me!).
I do what I can to make a difference when it comes to the environment, and that's more than some people. I don't lose any sleep over people who cross-examine me about my choices - it's a lack of understanding that some people are just different that makes people hostile in my humble opinion.
Vegetarianism is my choice, and I'd never suggest that anyone else's choice was invalid, even if I didn't agree with it. More often than not, people I've just met are genuinely curious about what I eat and I try not to get into my reasons because they're my own business. I'm veggie - end of.
But if my vegetarianism makes someone think a little about their Big Mac then hurray. Then when they've thought a little, give them Fast Food Nation to read and grin wickedly ;D
I have come across people who have the rather odd response you describe when meeting someone whose view of the world is clearly different from theirs. It is a strange response to vegetarianism !
Of course, a lot of people are what my wife calls `bubble people` - they may be supremely confident in their own world, but they never stray far from their comfort zone, hence can be rather insecure.
I must remember to check out that publisher you mentioned (lateral thinking).
deargreenplace - I agree about the `hypocrisy` thing, which I have no patience with. I`m a veggie but not a vegan, though I accept the strong arguments for being a vegan, principally because life`s too short and I have other things to do. I can absolutely guarantee if you became a non-leather wearing vegan who was a paid up member of an animal rights group, then the next time you went into a pub, someone would go "what about human rights then ?". Presumably no-one can embrace every cause they feel supportive towards fully (unless their outlook is very narrow), so we all do what we can according to where we are in life.
Anyway, I`ve rambled on more than I meant to, so time to go.
By the way, regarding Asda/Wal-Mart - their veggie selection`s terrible !
Good tidings, my Glaswegian veggie accomplice !
We went to Asda yesterday and found they had upgraded the veggie section - i.e. they`ve improved it from `pitiful` to `negligible` - no only joking it was a bit better. They also had re-instated the Shana range freeezer, which was sorely missed.
There`s still no comparison between mass-produced samosas and the home-made ones we buy for a pittance from a shop over the road where they make them on the premises though.
Re. supermarkets, I get the feeling that their veggie food is often spread out through the whole shop rather than in one particular place. I like it at Christmas time when supermarkets suddenly sell lots of interesting vegetarian food for meateaters to give their vegetarian guests. I just wish they'd sell them throughout the whole year!
I can't find the post that mentions it, but I feel sorry for those of you who have to check the ingredients on all the food you buy. I love being able to rely on 'V' labels.
I think eating out in the States has become a littler harder as of late, since the E. coli problem and subsequent spinach ban. It has been a week now since the FDA stated that spinach could be sold again (unless it’s from specific counties in California) but it has yet to return. You cannot find it in supermarkets, and as I say, dining out has changed a lot. I have found that several restaurants’ veggie friendly items are no longer available because they contained spinach--mixed green salads, many Asian dishes, vegetarian lasagnas and pizzas, etc. I miss spinach!
Oh, and I figured it has been a while since anyone has stated just how much they hate Asda. I think I’ve only been in an Asda once or twice, and I do not remember what their veggie selections were like, but I thought I’d give those of you in the U.K. a chance to vent some more. ;-)
There is, however, only one Asda related to Wal-Mart, and their veggie selection`s not too good.
In the UK, I think one of the changes has been the growth in farmers' markets and cruelty free meat and animal products, which have to an extent tried to address the animal welfare and quality issues. It's our local farmers' market tomorrow, and I'll be getting my usual free range eggs, Wensleydale cheese and spinach pies and a few scones, but gone are the days when I'd buy several pounds of different kinds of sausage!
In the UK, things are a bit mixed. Oxford and Cambridge are OK but London is excellent, to be frank. Then again, I went to Brighton the other week and was in absolute heaven. It is a town of pubs, vegetarian cafes, second-hand bookshops and vintage clothes stores. If I could figure out a way to get between there and London more easily I might well move there permanently.
Wal-Mart hasn't provided me with much of anything really. I have gotten soy cheese and soy and rice milk but they really don't carry many "vegan" products. Most of the "meatless" products contain egg whites or milk.
I live in a small town outside of a college town that has a wonderful locally owned health food store. I was elated when I went in! It had every possible type of vegan product you can imagine.
I was in Sydney a few years ago, and was really shocked when I went into one of the supermarkets - no ingredients on the packages!!! How do you know what you're eating? The restaurants were okay I think, even with the glut of seafood places. Surry Hills had some good restaurants.
In spite of my complaints, I do agree with Winternighttraveller that the UK is pretty good in terms of catering for vegetarians. Long live the V sign!
I shop at Sainsburys (UK) and find the choice there pretty good. There again, I don't really eat 'veggie convenience' food much - tofu is about the only prepacked item I buy.
What really does annoy me at the moment in the UK is the way that more and more restaurants are seemingly reclassifying 'vegetarian' as meaning 'eats fish'. It's shocking the number of (high quality) restaurants I go into where they put a 'v' sign next to fish dishes. You'd think that those in the catering trade would eat least have a basic grasp on what is, after all a simple concept. I blame people who go around saying 'yes, I'm a vegetarian, but I eat fish.' Well, you're not a vegetarian, then, are you? It's making it more and more difficult for the rest of us.
I don't object to people eating fish and calling themselves vegetarian. What someone else eats is their business, after all - it's your colon, not mine. I've never liked meat, hate the taste, texture and smell. The moral issues are a sideline for me, though of course The Smiths' 'Meat Is Murder' was the initial impetus. My favourite cookbook is Cranks but I've been cooking veggie for so long that I can chop onions and garlic in my sleep, the recipes are burned into my brain.
I rarely eat out (I'm poor) but Indian / Pakistani / Kashmiri food is my favourite by a long chalk. My ideal man would be one who cooks his mother's recipes and has dual Indian / Italian heritage - !
Firstly, it now seems that restaurants are happy to fill up their 'vegetarian quota' of dishes on the menu with 'v' marked dishes which actually contain fish - meaning that there is actually much less choice for those true veggies than before.
Secondly, I've had the unhappy experience, several times, of being served a 'v' marked meal which turns out to contain fish (this not being evident from the menu). When bringing this to the attention of the restaurant, their response has been, 'Well, vegetarians eat fish, don't they?'
I do honestly think that if people choose to eat fish but not meat (and good for them!) it would be much easier if they said so, rather than muddying the definition of vegetarianism and creating issues for those who don't choose to eat fish.
Off my soapbox now :)
I think coming from such a hair-raising veggie start, plus horrendous starvation holidays abroad, things are so much better I rarely perceive a problem. :)
Travelling abroad can be hazardous, too, as you say, particularly coastal holidays where fish and seafood is naturally going to be a speciality. I'm also reminded with horror about a very mainstream hotel in Croatia, whose restaurant (more of a canteen, really) had nothing for me bar a few overcooked vegetables. They'd even sneaked gravy into the mashed potatoes. So yes, starvation holidays, I understand :)
I chose to go vegan because of wider environmental reasons than simply animal rights so it has made me question where my food comes from - I try to buy locally-produced food as well as animal-free. I haven't found it as difficult as I had thought and I seem to be managing quite well. But I do live in Edinburgh and rarely eat out. It would be more difficult in smaller places or in the country.
I am more relaxed when I do eat out - just making sure there isn't anything obviously non-vegan without freaking about it - or at other people's homes. I have found most people curious and I am happy to talk to them about it but I have not found the sort of negative reactions I used to get when I was vegetarian in the 80s.
As for starving - never! I haven't lost much weight since I went vegan - but I have discovered dark chocolate and flapjacks!
I live in London and getting veggie food isn't a problem. There are a few excellent veggie restaurants and the range of curry houses, Thai restaurants etc means I get a good choice.
But I have had some horrible experiences outside of the capital. Try getting a veggie roast dinner in deepest Wales.
Continental Europe on the other hand, that was hard.
Animal Free Shopper is a great reference for anyone wanting to easily track down what is vegan, and therefore veggie friendly in UK supermarkets.
Animal Free Shopper sounds great. Animal Ingredients A to Z is excellent, too!
As to veg food in grocery stores in the US, I think a lot of the reason these things are more available is that the manufacturers began marketing meat subs and other veg convenience foods as a freat supplement to a carnivorous diet. So, instead of saying look, we have great products for vegetarians, they say try our lighter products occasionally to cut down on fat and calories without making your diet seem unrecognizable. A lot more carnivores eat meat subs and tofu occasionally than they ever used to.
Another big impact is the environmental issues. When I point out the environmental advantages of not eating meat, most hostility to me being vegetarian melts away. People nod there heads and say, good point. Also, I don't really try to convince people to stop eating meat. I want them to leave me alone about what I eat, so I leave them alone about what they eat. I do cook a lot of delicious food though, so they don't see me suffering for my choices.
As for vegetarians who eat fish--I hate that, too. A LOT of people think that vegetarians eat fish, which I don't get at all. Even worse, I once had someone tell me, with great enthusiasm, "I'm a vegetarian, too! All I ever eat is chicken!" I just stared at her, not knowing what to say. I mean, cutting out red meat is great, but last time I checked, chickens were animals, not plants.
And, wonderlake, when I go shopping, the vast majority of items in my cart are fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, and other real plant foods, you are right. It is nice to be able to pick up some convenience foods or meat subs sometimes, too, though. I am loving that there are some good, completely dairy-free cheese substitutes, too. Maybe it would be healthier to do without, but they are so good!
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