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No, vegetarians do not eat fish!

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Originally posted on Medium.

The amateurs

“So, you do eat a juicy peace of grilled salmon, right?”
“No, I already told you, I’m a vegetarian.” (sigh)
Frowning. You can almost hear them thinking “that’s what I meant”.
“If you’re a pescatarian, you eat seafood but not other animals”.
“Oh, right right, sorry!”.

It must have been the fourth conversation with somebody, where I have to explain what “being a vegetarian” actually means. Not that I get upset by that, it’s fine if somebody who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge on that matter asks about it. Two things can happen after that.

One — the person accepts my choice and carries on.

Two — the person starts misbehaving (I have written the word “dick” here but don’t really know what is appropriate to use).

“Stop trying to save the world dude, you simply can’t by yourself!”
“But the spareribs are very good, try some, haha!”
“Ohmygosh you’ll have a lot of problems with vitamins and stuff!”

Even most vegetarian cookbooks include a section about nutrition and diet, where it also gives the reader some advice on how to counter such silliness. That’s the main reason why I don’t even like simply saying that I’m a vegetarian — even people which you judged as fairly reasonable start acting stupid. And I’m not even a vegan.

The professionals

It’s not that hard to see something like that coming — most people who eat to eat (Filling instead of Feeding) and who aren’t really interested in the subject of food in general will act like that. But people who work in the catering sector should know better. I expect every single restaurant to offer at least one vegetarian option (sorry vegans, you’re fucked, as always. Enjoy the sauce, wanna bet it contains milk? sigh). And most places I’ve visited luckily do. There are some really great vegetarian restaurants, but there are also very good steakhouses which offer a lot of decent vegetarian dishes.

Last week, we went to an Italian restaurant for my birthday. It’s actually also an Hotel, quite posh, nicely decorated, you know what I’m talking about. And I thought “hey, it’s Italian” — surely they do offer some vegetarian dishes, right? Like… Pizza’s? Pasta’s? Sure. Well guess again. Nothing on the menu. Okay, so I ask a waiter.

“Well, we do have a pasta with scampi” — she looks at me and waits for my nod to quickly write the order down. I frown. She blinks and starts to get impatient.
“I’m sorry but fish is not vegetarian. Is it possible to get the lasagne without ham?”
She starts clicking with her pen. “No.”
“What do you mean, no? Do you have a pasta with vegetables?”

Urgh. I really, really hate that. Especially because my grandparents came along and they don’t approve of my choice of being vegetarian — they simply don’t get it. So another discussion follows “why don’t you simply eat blahblah and I told you blahblah”. Thank you very much, Italian restaurant, just what I needed.

In the end, I managed to get a simple boiled spaghetti with some baked vegetables and olive oil. For 15 EUR. Can’t be bad, I hear you thinking. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t good either. It was bland and I was upset.

I expect people who serve other people dinner to know what it means to be a vegetarian or vegan or whatever you like or dislike, especially in a place like that. I can hardly believe I was the very first person in that place to ask something stupid like that.

I know this story might sound weird if you live in an area where vegetarianism is more accepted — I thought it was here too. There’s still a lot of work to do on educating people and spreading the message that it’s okay to eat whatever the hell you want to, even if it’s not the same as what your parents or great-grandparents ate and even if it’s not according to tradition. I live my own life and decide myself what goes down my stomach, thank you very much.

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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