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Vegetarian means different things

Excerpted from the WSJ:

As I grew older and my tastes changed, I increasingly favored meat-free cuisine. When I moved to Berlin, where dining out is affordable, even on an intern’s wage, I was shocked. Haben Sie auch etwas vegetarisches? I would ask the waitress, after scouring the menu for several minutes. “Do you have anything vegetarian?”

Natürlich, she would say, much to my relief, and then give me the choice of a duck salad, a salmon filet and a meal of king prawns—accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of potato.

The label “meat,” it turns out, is reserved for beef, pork, venison and veal.

Returning to Switzerland for visits with my family, I often faced a similar scenario. Once during a ski holiday, I ordered the “vegetarian option,” a traditional barley soup called Gerstensuppe, only to find myself with a mouthful of thin bacon strips.

It turns out in Switzerland, too, if meat isn’t the centerpiece of a meal, it’s deemed fit for herbivores.

I should have known that being vegetarian in London—a city where you can get a decaf soy latte, almond-milk shake or wheatgrass smoothie on practically every corner—is almost as normal as being blonde, brunette or not liking Marmite. “Vegetarian? Great, we have halloumi salads, quorn Bolognese, tofu burgers, braised tempeh and nut roasts.”

I once ordered a quinoa salad in an eatery in London’s Soho, and the waitress asked me if I was fine eating the honey dressing. “I just wanted to check that you weren’t a strict vegan,” she said, full of concern (and, ironically, with a German accent).

The lesson I would pass on to fellow vegetarian, or partially vegetarian, globetrotters is, Do your research, and keep an open mind.

Make sure you ask, and be firm, if you have strict dietary requirements, intolerances or allergies. Seek a translator if language barriers are an issue. No one should force you to eat what you don’t want But who knows—on your quest for meat-free options you might discover culinary gems you didn’t know existed.

Posted by
8293 posts

It would have been nice to have noted the author's name.

Posted by
2564 posts

does knowing it's JOSIE COX change anything in the article?

Posted by
2246 posts

^ ^ No, but I do consider it courteous to that author..that's just me though.

...often a link is provided that takes one right to all of that so it's not a question. I understand copying it in for ease of the reader, but for me I miss just going to the source, author, etc

Posted by
2907 posts

As an author myself, I believe it is only fair and right to give credit to the author.

And as a periodic vegetarian, it is laughable what people think a vegetarian diet is in many parts of the USA, too. "Oh, so you eat chicken. Oh, so you eat fish."

Posted by
8293 posts

Phred, knowing the author's name allows me to google him or her to learn the credentials. How else can I know if it's not just a lot of hot air or a space filler? Besides that, it is a matter of being respectful. You often post articles from the Wall Street Journal and I bet the writers there would be grateful if you gave credit where credit is due.

Posted by
2246 posts

From the WSJ:

Josie Cox, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal.
Josie covers European markets from the Wall Street Journal’s London bureau.
Previously she worked at Thomson Reuters’ in London and Frankfurt, most recently covering the European corporate bond market for the company’s International Financing Review publication.

This is why I want to know; I find the article infinitely more credible when I see that this person-who normally writes about the rather mundane world of finance-is sharing something a bit more down to earth, and not her usual fare-no pun intended.

I put writers in the same category as other artists, I'd no sooner skip giving credit for an author than I would a photo, a song, or a painting. And I don't mean to be jumping on Phred, I just think we/I need to be careful about giving credit to those who deserve it.

Posted by
668 posts

As a vegan in France last May, it did not take long for me to begin counting Emmentaler as a vegetable :-)

Posted by
5842 posts

To bring things back to topic...I have to say that over the years, vegetarian and even vegan option have grown greatly. I am surprised about her comments regarding Germany, it was certainly true 15 years ago, but on my trip this year to Berlin, many menus indicated Vegetarian options and there seemed to be a good comprehension of both vegetarian and vegan.
I do think it can be difficult, if only due to the language barrier and being able to query about preparation. I do agree about the difference in definition, what one might assume is vegetarian from a menu may likely have chicken stock, eggs, or fried with bacon fat. Vegan can be more of a crap shoot with cheese, butter, etc. As for the definition of vegetarian...there are as many different types of vegetarians as people with varying levels of fish, dairy, and eggs.

Posted by
3491 posts

Yes, vegetarian is completely misunderstood by many as to what it means. But some of this is the fault of people who call themselves vegetarian and then say "except I eat fish or poultry or ..." .

My favorite was watching a cooking show where a famous chef stated he was going to make a completely vegetarian soup "starting with 4 quarts of chicken broth". Sorry, but the last time I checked, chickens were not vegetables.

Another thing I had to laugh at was a local Chinese restaurant that expanded its menu to include a new "vegetarian" section with chicken, pork and beef items. When I asked exactly what that meant, the waiter said he guaranteed the chicken, pigs and cows used to make these dishes were completely vegetarian.

Posted by
9674 posts

@ Mark...SO funny! That's like the saying in Wyoming that they serve vegetarians...cows are vegetarians.

I, too, agree that some of the confusion is over people who refer to themselves as vegetarian except they eat fish or poultry, etc. Last time I checked they have Moms and faces.

Posted by
2933 posts

The strange thing is, some people begin to go vegetarian by cutting out some meats, then working their way to cutting out all meats. I cut out beef and pork a couple of years ago. Within the last year, I have cut out chicken and fish. Yes, they all have parents and faces. The problem is, most of our parents taught us that you must eat meat to have a proper diet. And old habits die hard. My meal of preference is now a big salad with all types of raw vegetables added, especially avocado. When I'm traveling and staying in an apartment, salads are so easy to prepare. When I'm in London, I go to a lot of Indian restaurants that have vegetarian dishes. I would highly recommend Indian vegetarian dishes to anyone--delicious. And I'm sure by now they would have vegan meals if you ask for them.

Posted by
13524 posts

phred, I googled

Natürlich, she would say, much to my relief

and it took me right to your article. Thank you. Very informative. Very much appreciated. I have some vegetarian friends and occasional guests and this will be a good starting point for them.

Posted by
4978 posts

Back to the original (well, copied) post, "meat" is culturally defined. Some years ago my husband and I were in Poland at Christmas time, and were invited to dine at our landlord's table. The groaning board included (among many salads, vegetables, soup, potatoes, noodles, pierogi...) two kinds of homemade sausages, and at least one kind of storebought. I think there was also ham, and the soup was loaded with chicken. Our host apologized for not having any meat to offer us. To a Pole, only beef and pork are considered meat. Or at least, that was true then (long long ago, in a country far far away...)

Posted by
4978 posts

In fact, Polish has a word that doesn't really translate into English, wędliny (vend-LEE-nee) that is a category of smoked and/or cured meats. Bacon, sausages, cold cuts, lunch meats, paté, ham... But there is a definite distinction between wędliny and meat. Sorry for wandering off-topic, but in another life I was a linguist, and find cognitive categories interesting.

Posted by
1098 posts

Jane: I like that kind language differences too.

It always gives me a kick, when Italian waiters think that the English word "coffee" translates to the Italian word "caffe" :-) I think "Caffe Americano" would be a better translation. And "caffe" in Italy is closer to "espresso" in England or US.

Posted by
4978 posts

So, right, l.p. And we always warn Americans not to order a "latte" in Italy, unless they want a glass of milk! I I was once lunching with an American in Positano who ordered a panino. I admit, I should have warned her, but I didn't. She was very disappointed that her sandwich didn't come squashed and toasted, but instead was bulging out of a crusty loaf. It could have been worse; she could have just been served a small crusty roll - no filling at all.