Psst! That's Vegetarian Food!

Vegetarian Food

Lasagna by any other name is still lasagna...

An extended family was enjoying a potluck meal that included a variety of tasty dishes to choose from. One young husband and wife were sitting next to each other at the table, and the wife was enjoying a nice serving of vegetable lasagna.

She was about half done with her portion, when her husband leaned over and whispered, “That’s VEGETARIAN lasagna, you know!” The wife looked at him in surprise and didn’t touch another bite of the lasagna that she had been eating with such relish only a moment before her husband’s startling revelation.

All in good fun

There have been a lot of spoofs done about the subject of vegetarian food, including one involving a jiggling “turkey” made out of tofu, and another where a romantic dinner (with a beautifully prepared roast as the main course) is spoiled by a sobbing vegetarian girlfriend. While it’s fun to laugh at ourselves, and probably even more fun to laugh at the vagaries of others, it seems that there is some real misunderstanding about what constitutes vegetarian food.

Vegetarian varieties

One of the reasons for this confusion is that there are several types of vegetarians. A number of popular movie stars have popularized the vegan lifestyle, which is a vegetarian who excludes all animal-based products from their diet, and may even avoid those clothing and accessories made from animal products. Another type of vegetarian, the lacto-vegetarian, excludes meat and eggs, but includes dairy products in their diet. The most versatile of the vegetarians is the lacto-ovo vegetarians, who exclude meat, but include eggs and dairy products in their diet.

Enough to thankfully stuff ourselves

So what exactly is vegetarian food? Well, you could say that vegetarian food is all the foods that you eat that are not meat or animal based, depending on the type of vegetarian you are. If you consider the typical American Thanksgiving dinner, all of the dishes on the table, with the exception of the turkey, gravy and stuffing, are probably vegetarian foods. That means that the cranberries, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, Waldorf salad, etc. are all things that can be enjoyed by the vegetarian at the feast. Of course, a vegan will be more restricted in their choices, but even the strictest vegan can probably find enough good food to end up overfull as Thanksgiving tradition dictates.

Strangely enough

Vegetarians tend to include a variety of foods in their diet that may be unfamiliar to the average American meat eater. These include things like tofu, Tempeh, soy-based meat analogs, and a variety of beans and lentils. They also may eat a broad range of vegetables and fruits, often including some of the more exotic varieties. Oddly enough, although vegetarians restrict their diet in terms of meat, on average, they tend to eat a much wider variety of foods from all of the other food groups than the average meat eater.

Pick and choose

Having said that, it isn’t necessary for a vegetarian to eat any of these more unusual foods. Many vegetarians don’t like tofu or lentils and don’t eat them. Conversely, a meat-eater may enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of soybean curd and those tiny legumes, respectively, and include them regularly in their diet. The point is that, while the vegetarian will skip the meat dishes, they can still decide which of all the other myriad of food choices they wish to consume. Likewise, meat eaters may feel free to enjoy foods, both meat-based and otherwise, with equal gustatory pleasure.

Meat notwithstanding

At holiday meals, a concerned hostess  will anxiously ask her one guest who doesn't eat meat, if he will have enough to eat. The vegetarian will let his eyes sweep the beautifully appointed dinner table, resplendent with fragrant and mouth-watering offerings, and assure his hostess that he will indeed have plenty to eat. More than enough, in fact, to satisfy tradition.

Eat and be well with my warmest regards,

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