Just so we’re clear, this is a rant.
I usually tell people I’m a vegetarian, as I don’t eat meat or fish. I’ll eat seafood like crab, lobster and oysters, however (not whelks though. Nasty, slimy, rubbery little mouthfuls of filth), so don’t personally consider this categorisation of my dietary preferences to be strictly accurate. It’s just easier than launching into a list of what I will and won’t eat. The term Vegetarian also seems to be a trigger for verbal warfare. The second you mention it whole rooms of people will turn on you… “B-U-T W-H-Y?” They shout, whilst arming phasers and activating shields.
Unfortunately ‘vegetarianism’ encompasses a huge range and variety of reasons for not eating meat, all of which are amalgamated by carnivores into one collective perception of vegetarians as freaks. Some of them are. There is the ‘vegetables have feelings too’ brigade out there. There are those who feel it their duty to educate the meat-eating world as to their wrongdoing, but who only damage the cause further by pissing everyone off. Some love the taste of meat but abstain for moral reasons. Some people are just fussy eaters.
Personally, I have a number of different reasons, which, after a heavy sigh, I will dredge up and recite every time I am asked “BUT WHY?” Firstly, I am a fussy eater. I have tried different kinds of meat before, and I just didn’t like it. I also have a vivid imagination, and the slightest thing will put me off my food. Images of death, blood, and organs being ripped out of animal carcasses… yep, that’ll do it. The idea that I am eating muscle and tissue, something that was once animated into life, equally disgusts me. I do object for moral reasons as well. I love animals, and eating things you love seems to push the boundaries of what is humane. To be honest, given how far the human race has advanced in terms of knowledge and technology, I find it shocking that we have not advanced beyond eating the flesh of other creatures, flesh similar to our own… But that’s my opinion, and the perversions of the human race will always be difficult to suppress, so I’ll (usually) keep my arguments to myself.
Now, to the real point of this post.
Why does every restaurant offer the same vegetarian options? I have become a lover of seafood, suppressing any moral reaction to this I may have had, largely just to add a bit of bloody variety when I eat out. If a menu lacks seafood, then it will invariably offer me the same old crap. I’m sick of goats’ cheese. I’m sick to death of risotto. I can’t even eat butternut squash anymore, so frequently has it been forced upon me. Waiters stare at me in confusion if I reject a ‘meat substitute’ – “surely madam wants her vegetables to taste of sausage?” – and even mushrooms, those perfect doses of serotonin, are beginning to pall for me.
There are a couple of restaurants in Hampstead that frequently impress me. The Horseshoe, and The Holly Bush. Even their salads are innovative; the ingredients intrigue, surprise, and taste fantastic. Though there will usually only be one or two vegetarian options, and the menus don’t really change frequently enough for this to negate my little rant. Today at The Horseshoe I had saffron and potato dumplings, with asparagus, a tomato-based sauce, some sort of green stuff (possibly pesto?) and button chestnut mushrooms. The boys had fancy fish and chips, and we were all perfectly happy. Last night, however, I had a full-on sulk at dinner. We ate at the Riverfront Bar and Restaurant on the Southbank, and my only options for a main course were a SANDWICH, or a goats’ cheese salad. I had leek and mushroom soup, a starter (it was passable, but I only had a mouthful then continued sulking), and a handful of chips (they came in a little bucket, they didn’t just put them into my hands, but it was a side-order so petitely proportioned).
Perhaps I’m just being a brat, but isn’t it about time restaurants put a little more effort into their vegetarian options? It isn’t just vegetarians that want to eat them!