Many times we vegetarians and vegans get asked many questions due to the unfounded myths that surround the vegetarian and vegan diets.
That said, here's my effort to debunk some of those misconceptions and myths.
1. "You're vegetarian? I'm sorry."
Why? I'm not. I feel this to be along the lines of "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" with my version being "Don't feel sorry for me because I'm a vegetarian." I have chosen this lifestyle and I make that choice every day, with every meal and with every question that I ask at any restaurant I visit. It's a way of life and I'm very happy with it.
2. "You have it easy with staying skinny and healthy."
Really? Let me introduce you to my friends: pizza, cheese (all types), nachos, chips, cookies, queso, enchiladas, pastas (alfredo sauce preferred), lasagna, bread, butter, cheese, pizza..... Yes, I know I listed pizza and cheese twice. We're besties.
3. "It must be so hard to follow a vegetarian lifestyle."
No - actually society has just made it incredibly easy to eat meat. Back in the days of my childhood, it was definitely more difficult to be a vegetarian. In today's day and age, it is all too easy to follow a vegetarian diet. I went to a Crain's Chicago Business luncheon at the Four Seasons and was given a very tasty vegetarian option without drawing any unnecessary attention to me or my request. (Thank you Crain's.) I can also visit the grocery store and pick up tons of flavorful meat alternatives that can be cooked in much the same way that meat products are. Although I still love a good PB&J on occasion, I've since graduated to a broader selection of options to bring to work for lunch.
4. "I bet it must be boring for you to be a vegetarian. You're missing out and not getting enough protein."
And your life is so exciting from eating meat? Indian food is largely vegetarian. Ethiopian and Mediterranean food have delicious vegetarian options. Some amazing vegetarian restaurants here in Chicago serving up fantastic meat alternative meals include Karyn's Cooked, Karyn's on Green, The Chicago Diner, Native Foods Cafe, and the list goes on. They have options like Chorizo Sliders, Crab Cakes, Chicken Legs, Homestyle Meat Loaf, Country Fried Steak, Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger and lots more (all vegetarian). Additionally, there are lots of sources for protein besides meat. Contrary to what people may believe, the body truly doesn't need tons of protein to function. The last meal I made at home was "chicken" stir-fry. What did you make?
5. "So, does that burger/hot dog/chicken patty taste real?"
.......... I will always answer this question with a long pause and blank stare. You're asking a vegetarian if the meat alternative item tastes like the real thing..... Think about that for a second..... Nuff said.
6. "You must be really gassy from all those vegetables you eat."
Just because I eat more plant-based foods does not mean that I fart any more than anyone else or am any more effervescent. Each person's digestive track is sensitive to different foods and spices and will toot-speak accordingly.
7. "The salad bar is really great!" or "They have veggie burgers."
Taking me to a steakhouse or anything similar and expecting me to be happy with a salad just isn't gonna cut it. It isn't a convincing argument. Don't make me use my supposed stores of excess gas as a weapon against you. Try again with somewhere that we can all enjoy an appetizing meal. And to all the restaurant chefs out there...enough with the veggie burgers already. Can we move beyond heating up a frozen Boca burger in the microwave and serving it up as if it's a delicacy? I can do that at home. I can just imagine the chef saying "Vegetarians? Just throw a Boca burger at 'em and call it a day."
8. "Why do you choose not to eat meat and then eat stuff that is made to look and taste like meat?"
Wouldn't you want to diversify your plate if "all you ate was salad"? Actually - having more options makes life taste better. That's what it basically boils down to. I like variety - sue me.
9. "I didn't realize you were vegetarian. Does it gross you out that I'm eating meat in front of you?"
No. The wide majority of vegetarians are not going to object. We're usually paying attention to the words coming out of your mouth rather than what you're putting into it. Let me put to rest the fear that flashes behind your eyes when I reveal that I'm vegetarian. I am not going to get up on my proverbial soapbox to browbeat you with the leg of lamb you're eating by going on a rant about PETA or animal rights. But please do me a favor and give me the same respect by not trying to convince me of all the reasons why I should be eating meat. You can be assured that if eating meat didn't require killing an animal, I'd be the first person in line with fork and knife in hand. You focus on your plate and I'll focus on mine. Deal?
10. "I have a question..."
If you have invited self-professed vegetarians into your home for a meal, don't hesitate to ask questions on what they do and don't eat. It's equivalent to asking if anyone has a food allergy. During a recent conversation with my new friend George, he said that he didn't want to ask too many questions about what to serve. On the contrary my friend, we appreciate it when you ask questions. Unlike the general public, you actually cared and took the time to ask. At the same time, do not go above and beyond the call of duty by making an elaborate vegetarian meal just to accommodate us. We will shower you with thank you's and be insanely appreciative, but at the same time will leave feeling incredibly guilty. We just want to join you in the ceremony of breaking bread without being relegated to a salad for dinner. Vegetarians - Some responsibility also falls on us to inform our hosts in advance of our vegetarian preference. Do not announce that you're vegetarian when the turkey arrives at the table. You will end up causing the host to step away from the table to scramble and make you "a salad." AWKWARD!
So I hope that I've helped in answering some questions and correcting any misconceptions that may exist around the vegetarian lifestyle. Now that you know, go find yourself a vegetarian, give them a hug, and ask us where we would want to go to dinner....but please don't take us out for a salad.