Monday, 6 May 2013

vegetarian etiquette

So, as I've mentioned before, I love Hadley Freeman.  I read her book - Be Awesome - recently.  It is, well, awesome.  I think she may be one of the few people who loves the Princess Bride more than I do.  And that's a compliment of the highest order.

It was one of those really self indulgent reads for me in that I spent most of it thinking "YES, I totally agree."  Except, sadly, for the section on "how to be an unannoying vegetarian" which seemed to boil down to:  you should sit in the corner on all occasions apologising and eating crumbs from the omnivorous table.  Which I found particularly strange because a lot of the rest of the book is about how women should spend more time being clear and honest about their needs.  Just apparently not if they need food to be vegetarian.

I get the impression that Hadley is, like some other vegetarians I have come across, a self-hating vegetarian.   Here's a simple test to determine whether you are one too:

If someone you know suggests going out for dinner and asks you if you have any preferences, do you:

a) suggest going to a steakhouse as you're fine with a side salad and the bread basket.  No, really, you're FINE.  In fact, you love salad.  And bread.

b) say "anywhere with a vegetarian main course option not involving beetroot* is good for me"


c) say "sure, but it has to be macrobiotic, vegan and serve wheatgrass shots"

If you answered a), I'm afraid you are a self-hating vegetarian.  You need to realise that your feelings matter too.  And also that people who are eating with you want you to be happy with the meal too as they don't enjoy watching you looking hungry with your side salad.  Plus, they wanted some of that bread.

If you answered b), you are normal.  I.e. like me.  Hey, it's my blog.

If you answered c), you are weird and, to be honest, people probably don't ever ask you out for dinner anyway.  Admit it.

So, here's my take on the etiquette of being vegetarian.

If you're invited to someone's home for a meal, tell them that you're vegetarian.  People like Hadley Freeman will gasp "but you don't want someone to make something SPECIAL for you!"  Well, actually, that's what going to someone's home for a meal is like.  When I invite people round for dinner, I do cook something special for them.  I don't usually cook myself a three course dinner, make sure the tablecloth is perfectly clean, iron napkins and use matching crockery and glassware.  I want to make something special for them.  I have, in fact, invited them because I want to do this.  I try always to check about dietary needs when I make the arrangements but, if I forget, I want people to let me know.  I would hate it if someone came round for dinner and ate nothing but the bread because they hadn't told me that they hate mushrooms and I'd made a feast of mushrooms with mushrooms on the side.

If I'm going out to dinner with friends and we're picking a restaurant, I think I have as much of a right to a view on where we go as everyone else does.  Hadley suggests that vegetarians just go wherever omnivores want to go and, if necessary, eat side dishes.  It slightly makes me wonder what her friends are like.  Mine will spontaneously say "oh, but that only has one vegetarian main course, is that ok for you?" or "Oh, no, we can't go there, they have nothing vegetarian for TheMightyAubergine" because, well, they are my friends and they wouldn't be happy if I had to sit through a meal with only side dishes to eat.  Of course, I don't expect to get my first choice of restaurant every time, but I do think that my views are just as important as everyone else's.  Not more important but just as important.

Hadley also says that you should never take your omnivorous friends to a vegetarian restaurant.  I.e. that your omnivorous friends are being perfectly reasonable to take you to places with no vegetarian main course but obviously it's evil for you to take them somewhere with no meat.  Just doesn't make sense to me.  Now, I am actually not that big a fan of vegetarian restaurants - all too often they are tedious places with wheatgrass shots and under-salted food (what is with that anyway?  salt is not a meat product, people!) - and, of course, I would never force a particular restaurant choice on any of my friends (see above - I think that sort of decision is one best reached by consensus) but I have no hesitation about suggesting vegetarian restaurants when appropriate.  For instance, I am going to a show with friends soon near the Gate so I have suggested going there beforehand.  If my friends said that they didn't like the look of the menu, but suggested somewhere else with a decent vegetarian option, I'd cheerfully agree with that.  But, in fact, my friends have said that they're happy to go to the Gate.  So, everyone's happy.  Except for Hadley.

*Beetroot is EVIL.

No comments:

Post a Comment