Last week F and I had a good conversation that clarified things for both of us about my meal choices. The inspiration was a pizza restaurant; the question, could I split a pizza with F if there were meat on his half. My automatic response was that I’d really prefer not to, so we got two separate pizzas and spent the meal talking it over. F thought that it’s a little extreme when vegetarians freak out over meat touching their food; your meal didn’t contribute to an animal’s death just by being near some meat. I explained that, for me, it’s not just about causing the animal’s death, it’s that I don’t want to take any part of that death into my body, so if prosciutto grease got on my side of the pizza, that would bother me. It was interesting to talk over the distinction between “I don’t want my choices to cause another creature’s suffering and death” and “I don’t want to consume any product created by a death”. F understands where I’m coming from a little better now and my choices make more sense to him, and I feel like I’ve clarified my views a little for myself.
We also talked about vegetarian behavior (for lack of a better word). F’s opinions had been formed after an experience he’d had at an Ethiopian restaurant with a group of friends. The server had placed several foods in the center of the table all on a big piece of bread for everyone to share, because that’s what they do at Ethiopian restaurants. It happened that some of the meat was touching some of the veggies, and two of his vegetarian friends got angry and stormed out of the restaurant. That’s a pretty extreme reaction, which explains why F had thought vegetarians were unreasonable on this topic – he had seen vegetarians acting in a pretty unreasonable way. I told him that in that situation I’d just take my scoop of cheese and chunk of bread from the side that wasn’t touching the meat, and moreover, I’d do so without saying anything about it. The different foods weren’t prepared together, so the whole meal isn’t contaminated just by the presence of the meat on the table, and I don’t see a reason to make a big deal of it (unless I specifically asked for separate dishes, or everything was all mixed up together).
Most of us know a “vegetarian saint” type of person: the guy who can’t get through a meal without mentioning his preferences 18 times, or the girl who acts all holier-than-thou about how your dinner killed a cow. Those people are really into being vegetarian, and that’s fine, but I just don’t see a need for all that. My diet choice is for myself; if my friends ask about it, I’m happy to share, but I go out for dinner with my friends to enjoy their company and have fun, not to proselytize. If you’re going to eat out in restaurants and share food with others, you have to kind of go with the flow, and that goes double for ethnic restaurants, where you’re dealing with someone else’s culture. I have the right to order and receive food I can eat, but I don’t need to talk about it all night or go overboard with expressing my needs.
People who are militant about vegetarianism or veganism can be annoying. I agree that ttheir food are annohere is no need to go all, “there’s a corpse on your plate!” during a meal. I tend to go on about how awesome vegan food is sometimes, but I don’t think I actively put down other people’s choice.
When faced with a situation as in the Ethopian restaurant, I think I would have done the same as you would have. Vegetarianism and veganism aren’t religions – the food doesn’t become “dirty” by being in proximity to meat. If worse came to worst, I probably just wouldn’t have eaten anything, or maybe asked them in advance to make sure I could eat something free of animal products, but making a big act of it seems… pointless. At least when it wasn’t done on purpose.
Something I find very difficult is cooking with other people. When cooking with friends, I really don’t want to cook anything with animal products. So far the situation hasn’t arisen, but I don’t think I would be comfortable with my friends cooking meat when I’m over. Even though of course it’s their choice. That’s a bit of a conundrum. Last winter, two friends invited me over for their Xmas baking, and at first I didn’t want to come because they insisted on making most of the cookies the “normal” way. In the end we compromised and I made two batches of vegan cookies with one friend while the others made non-vegan cookies. But I admit I wasn’t very happy with that, which isn’t exactly rational, because of course they’re “allowed” to make non-vegan cookies, and I certainly don’t start preaching at them when they eat them. I think there the difference is in me being an active participant in someone else using animal products, and even when I’m just standing around it still feels like I’m participating. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a massive pain in the ass. This is something I’m still trying to work out.
It’s one thing to go on about how awesome something is, and another thing to go on about how un-awesome something is. Just, I mean, in general. People who talk about awesome things are usually perceived as enthusiastic and personable, even if the other party doesn’t agree with the opinion, while people who complain often come off as tedious. I would be happy to hear all about how awesome vegan food is, because it’s something you’re honestly excited about, and that’s fun to listen to.
The idea of cooking with other people never even occurred to me. I could totally see that being a moral issue. I don’t think I’m quite at that point, since I still eat milk, cheese, and eggs (plus my husband is still a meat-eater), but I definitely sympathize. Thank you for sharing!