I may be well out of school (and not even British) but I still hold out hope that my delivery owl just got very lost and will one day rap its beak on my window and deliver my invitation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I long to wander beautiful castle halls with moving portraits, chat with friendly ghosts, carry a wand in my belt, attend a Yule ball and try out as a Chaser.
I want to sit down at a huge, long table in a grand hall for delicious feasts with my friends… However, as a vegetarian, I fear I may be left a little hungry.
Traditionally, boarding schools aren’t exactly known for having great food but Hogwarts (and I imagine all wizarding schools, for that matter) don’t subscribe to this rule. In most of the Harry Potter books (save the final book, of course) reference is made to the amazing and often fancy ‘British’ foods that appear in front of the students every day: roast beef, fried sausages, steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie, tripe, black pudding, Yorkshire pudding… wait – where are the vegetable-based dishes?
Of course there is mention of the usual sides your mum made you finish (or at least “try”) before you could have dessert – mashed potato, sprouts, carrots, peas… but us vegos know that potato and peas does not a meal make!
In fairness, I suppose we only really see the food from Harry’s point of view and after living in a cupboard under the stairs for most of your life, you’re not going to get excited over tofu and chickpeas but there are other more ‘mainstream’ meat-free foods that he may enjoy. Surely the house elves sometimes whipped up a hearty vegetable pie, stuffed peppers, or a tropical fruit salad? No? Gosh, Hogwarts students must have been massive fatties. No wonder Fleur Delacour turned up her nose at dinner times.
If you think I’m just choosing to point out just the meaty options, check out this list that the awesome Harry Potter Lexicon has already created on food mentioned in the books. See any veggie mains? There doesn’t even seem to be any fish dishes for the pescetarians, save the bouillabaisse (fish stew) served in honour of the Beauxbatons students from France, during their visit.
The ‘casserole’ and ‘stew’ are both ambiguous but going by the other meals on offer, I’m going to make an educated guess that they contained either chicken or beef rather than mushrooms or butternut squash.
I may have been alright with the (gelatine-free) desserts – apple pie, custard tart, jam doughnuts… but again – massive fatties.
Perhaps if I spoke to the house elves, they may have been able to provide me with ‘special meals’ but then if I did that, surely every kid would rush downstairs to tickle the pear (if you’re not an HP fan, I promise that’s not a dirty joke) and request that their favourites be placed on their house table. And for liver and Brussels sprouts to be sent up to Slytherins only…
But even if the house elves were willing to help, it’s not just the food that worries me. What about Potions and Transfiguration classes? I refused to dissect frogs in biology at Muggle school and I’d certainly refuse to dice one up for a potion or turn it into a goblet with my wand at wizard school. But would Snape and McGonagall allow this? I struggle to believe that they would. Perhaps they would let it slide for one of the students in their own house but a geek like me definitely would have been a Ravenclaw, so no luck there!
Many of the potions that the students make contain typically ‘witchy’ ingredients like dragon liver, bat blood, porcupine quill and rat tail – not exactly veggie-friendly. But then I wonder if plant-based substitutes could be used in a similar way that pectin (extracted from citrus fruits) and agar (derived from red algae) are often used as a substitute for gelatine in foods we Muggles eat.
And what about wands? I certainly wouldn’t want one with a dragon heartstring core. Maybe since “the wand chooses the wizard”, a wand with dragon heartstring would know I wouldn’t want to use it, so it would stay away. The other known core materials do seem to come from magical creatures but would not involve killing or even hurting them (feathers and tail hairs). Harry’s wand has a phoenix feather core and since Fawkes periodically bursts into flames, I hardly think plucking a feather from his tail would hurt him in the slightest.
When researching (I use the term lightly) for this post, I found many forums with people posting about this topic. Some state that J.K. Rowling once said that there were no vegetarians at Hogwarts. No sources, so don’t know if this is true. But I do find it hard to believe that in a school of several hundred students, not one would be a vegetarian (or a pescetarian or a vegan).
Some people use the argument that wizards just think differently about animals and magical creatures than some Muggles do – that using them for food or potions or spells is just a fact of life. I mean, look at Hagrid – massive (pardon the pun) animal lover but also fervent meat-eater.
However, I have two problems with that argument. Firstly, not all students come from a magical background. Surely some of the Muggle-borns would have been brought up with different ideals or at least have been exposed to vegetarianism outside of Hogwarts?
And secondly, no matter what values and beliefs you are brought up with, there are always those that think differently and choose to live a different way. I was always an animal lover as a child but as I was brought up by meat-eating parents, eating meat was just a fact of life. I didn’t think of the steak on my plate as an animal in the way I would have if you had told me I was eating a Beagle burger. There was meat for eating and animals for pets and farms and nature. But as I got older, I stopped taking meat at face value, started to really think about what it was that I was eating, where it came from, and whether it was ‘right’ and as a result, stopped eating it. Surely this same idea would apply to wizard children, no matter their upbringing?
I guess for a lot of people, vegetarianism doesn’t come into their life until their teens or even later, so some students may have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle after graduating. I’d put money on it that Luna Lovegood who had a fondness for all living creatures, wore turnip earrings and went on to become a famous wizard naturalist, also went on to become a wizard vegan.