To meat eaters vegetarianism is associated with those who lecture others on what they should put into their bodies. They hear the word “vegetarian” and take a deep breath as though expecting to hear why they too shouldn’t eat meat. If any of my fellow vegetarians are reading expecting me to encourage them on why we should push others to be vegetarian maybe you won’t enjoy this – think of how patronising it is when meat eaters say we should eat meat and are unhealthy or simply being fussy. In my experience very few meat eaters have verbalised this, even when vegetarians preach about animal rights to meat eaters (especially at a dinner table) I find this equally as rude.
I don’t guilt people into it or feel that it’s my duty to convert. If people care about it enough they will come to the decision on their own and when they do I will be supportive. Food choice is a very personal thing. I care about animal rights but find the negativity of some vegetarians can actually push people who are considering changing their eating habits away.
The main questions people ask me are, “How long have you been vegetarian?” I suppose the first is to test the water. If I said a few months they might assume this wasn’t a decision made with conviction or I would have too much to drink and wonder into a delightful kebab shop on a Saturday night – something I have never done. I have in fact being vegetarian for over a decade. They will then ask “Why are you vegetarian?” There is no straight forward answer to why I chose this in the first place because it was so long ago. I never enjoyed meat as a child, I only agreed to eat the over processed tasteless meat like chicken nuggets, cheese burgers or ham slices. Bacon, mince, steak, lamb and seafood were things I would never try. For me, it never felt natural to eat meat. I was born on a farm and knew where meat came from at a young age, so this was probably an influence on my decision.
There have been occasions when my decision was not respected, especially when I was younger and served meat by an elderly relative and forced to eat it before leaving the table. I have been a vegetarian for so long now that it is one of the only consistent details of my being. I am certain it was the right thing to do and it has never felt like hard work.
For this reason I would say it is easier to become a vegetarian as an adult when you have the resources to educate yourself on the food available and can prepare meals yourself. Animal rights are important to me but I separate this from my dietary choice and find alternative ways to support the cause. Not eating meat has more to do with how great being vegetarian makes me feel. The benefits of a vegetarian diet include how much energy it gives you – I always feel good eating a vegetarian diet and have never felt as though I was lacking nutrition. I don’t crave meat. Being vegetarian is an opportunity to be creative with food and if you are thinking of trying a vegetarian diet a quality cook book is an essential. I have Delia Smith’s vegetarian collection which is an all rounder for dishes that are healthy and some that are indulgent.
There are too many misconceptions about vegetarians to count. The one that always struck a chord with me was that it limited a person’s diet – it actually opens up so many options and is a great opportunity to find new foods that you will enjoy. Vegetarianism is not for everyone, but if you are thinking about it I would encourage you to try it out.