When I was in hospital in Canada a few years ago, I told them on Day One that I was a vegetarian. Low and behold, when the first meal was brought to me, I lifted off the plastic lid to find rice topped with vegetables… and chicken. Big chunks of fleshy, veiny, distinctly meaty chicken.
I said to the serving girl that I couldn’t eat it as I was a vegetarian and without even a pause she snapped, “Can’t you just pick the chicken off?”
They brought me toast. Then for the next five days I was served rice with mashed kidney beans. For lunch and dinner.
I lost a lot of weight that week.
It’s not just grumpy hospital catering staff that hold that view that it’s okay to just pretend that the meat was never there – friends, family and colleagues (basically any non-vegos) have all been known to subscribe to this belief as well. Pepperoni pizza, chicken Caesar salad, and ham and cheese sandwiches are all food items that people have tried to make me eat by telling me to simply pick the meat off or out and all would be fine and dandy.
They don’t get that meat more than freaks me out; to me it looks gross, smells gross and leaves a gross taste, so I want my food to be completely meat free.
Now, this isn’t actually out of fussiness. To a vegetarian, picking meat from a food item is not quite the same as picking off, say, red pepper from your pizza because you don’t like the taste; red pepper doesn’t leave behind slimey, shiny, peppery residue. It may just leave slight dent in the cheese. Yet all I would see in the dent on the pizza where the piece of pepperoni used to be is greasy, greasy meat juices.
It’s not even all about the meat juices. I don’t want to support or be associated with an industry I don’t agree with. If you’re vegetarian because you just don’t like the taste of meat then, well, meat is just your red pepper so pick away!
But to the colleague that has been known to buy carbonara pasta packets and just pick the ham out, yet claimed to be vegetarian because she was “against the meat industry”, I say this: The meat industry doesn’t care whether the meat enters your mouth or not; they simply care that it enters your shopping bag. Whether you eat him or not, Babe has still died so that you can have that pasta lunch!
So next time I go to a party, picnic or restaurant, I certainly won’t be picking flesh off or out of anything, thanks.