Being a vegetarian has never been easier. Dietary restrictions have become something of a fad, and we live in an age where you can buy everything from soy bacon to meatless Ikea meatballs. I'm not here to proselytize the carnivorous contingent, however despite a growing acceptance from the meat-eating majority there are still a number of signs that some people still don't fully understand vegetarianism.
Full disclosure: I eat seafood, which means I am NOT strictly a vegetarian. I fall under the label pescetarian, someone who does not eat meat but does eat fish. However many people still don't understand the difference between pescetarian, vegetarian and vegan. When I introduce myself as a pescetarian, more often than not I am greeted by a blank stare -- which is why I label myself as a vegetarian when I don't feel like explaining.
I am also asked surprisingly often whether I eat eggs or dairy. The answer is yes. Here's a crash course: vegans do not consume any animal products. Vegetarians consume animal products that can be obtained without killing an animal (such as eggs and dairy), but do not eat any meat or fish. Pescetarians eat a diet almost identical to those of vegetarians, with the addition of seafood. All pretty standard stuff.
Another wide-spread misconception is that non-meat eaters are automatically healthy. While flattering, this is simply not true as a rule. This is most definitely a first world problem, but one of my biggest pet peeves is that many restaurants and fast food joints advertise their veggie burgers on whole wheat buns, while all the other burgers are shown on white buns. Being a pescetarian has in no way impacted my ferocious appetite for white carbs! Double points if the soda is exchanged with water, and I will walk out of an establishment if fries are replaced with carrot sticks.
The amount of ignorant questions and comments I am on the receiving end of is also slightly baffling. Some personal favourites:
"Do you do a lot of yoga?" No.
"How do you go on dates?" Like everyone else.
"God wants you to eat meat." I don't think God cares what I eat.
"How do you get nutrition?" From food that isn't meat.
"I could never give up bacon." Ok?
"Do you eat free-range meat?" Is it still meat?
"Do you eat turkey?" Unless turkey became a fish since I last checked, no.
To be fair, on the West Coast not eating meat is almost never a hinderance. However that's not true in all parts of Canada, namely the Prairies. I spend a lot of time in Saskatchewan visiting relatives, and there I have found a certain amount of mistrust towards my eating habits.
Even so, nowadays in any part of Canada it's hard to find a restaurant where there aren't at least a couple vegetarian options. Most people are also very understanding of my dietary restriction, which I almost never bring up. However when I do bring it up, some people apparently feel like it's an open door to remark and pass judgement on my diet.
Honestly, I don't care what you eat. I don't want to turn this country into a hemp wearing, Soylent eating commune any more than you probably do. But I choose what I eat for a reason, just like you do, so a little more education and a little less commentary I think would do us a lot of good.
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