On Vegetarianism and Tolerance

Those of you who know me personally probably know that I’m a vegetarian. If you don’t, hello, I’m a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat in about 16 years.

I feel really strongly about it, but I try to make a point not to lecture others or judge, because firstly, its not my place, and secondly, I hate when people do it to me. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard things like “But what do you eat?”, “But it’s so unnatural to be a vegetarian!”, “It’s the circle of life!”, “Animals would eat us if they could!”

I have a few pet peeves – I don’t like it when people make remarks about how we can’t go to certain restaurants because of The Vegetarian. Guys, chill. In London in particular, pretty much everywhere has at least one veggie option, or can make me something if I ask nicely.
It also really bugs me when people say “Oh I’m a vegetarian… but I eat fish/chicken”. Come on lads, they’re still animals. I don’t tell people I’m a vegan just because I’m not fond of eggs, but love a good cheese pizza. You can eat whatever you want, that’s up to you, but just please be mindful that a vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian/whatever are different things.

Most of this stuff though, I don’t bother getting upset about because I’ve learned over the years that having my say isn’t always as important as being respectful of someone else and keeping a nice relationship. I have pretty strong views, and actually get really upset about the idea of meat eating and its whole industry when I get into it, but if I spent my whole life battling everyone who didn’t share my views, it’d be a pretty lonely life.

I do, however, have one gripe today that I felt like writing about.

London, generally, is great for finding veggie options. My parents live in the US and the vegetarian options in restaurants tend to either be non-existent or in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich. Here in London though, especially where I live in East London, there’s such a mix of different cultures that having dietary requirements really isn’t that unusual or a big deal.

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There’s a Japanese place in Chinatown called Tokyo Diner that does fairly cheap, simple dishes. The selection for veggies isn’t amazing, but its the service that makes me want to go back. The last time I was there, I informed the waitress that I was a vegetarian and she actually went to the effort of going into the kitchen, asking the chef what things on the menu were cooked separately to any meat and came back and told me what I could order. That doesn’t happen very often, so it was such a lovely gesture.

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On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I went to Taro in Old Compton Street, another Japanese restaurant, with my boyfriend last week. We ordered the vegetarian gyoza to share, and I took a bite and saw chicken sitting inside the dumpling. Not cool.

It really bothered me that the restaurant made such a careless mistake. I get that mistakes happen, but when its something like this, it really gets to me.

It’s not the first time this has happened, although it is the first time in London, and I just find it really frustrating that establishments can’t be a bit more mindful of their customer’s requests, especially a fairly reasonable one like that. I know to those who do eat meat, this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it’s a bit of a mountain out of a molehill situation, but I’ve made the choice for years not to eat meat, so having eaten it without my consent just feels kind of wrong. I guess I could liken it to a teetotaller drinking an alcoholic drink when they’ve asked for non-alcoholic.

This is just one incident, but it got me thinking about the amount of times I’ve felt that my being a vegetarian has gotten kind of dismissed.

While I choose not to pick arguments or lecture people, I often feel that as a veggie, I’m expected to stay quiet because I’m the one with the “weird” lifestyle and I’m the one that’s chosen to be “difficult”/”a hippie”/whatever else you want to call it. And that’s fine, I’m happy to be pleasant and respectful, but I’m just asking that maybe we all take that on board and just try to be excellent to one another.

It’d make the world a much nicer place to live.

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