A Few Questions You Should Just Never Ever Ever Ask A Vegetarian

'Are you one of those people who doesn't like eating things with faces?' 'Can you eat chicken?' I DON'T KNOW, CAN YOU?


by Stevie Martin |
Published on

It’s National Vegetarian Week so I’d like to take this opportunity to a) celebrate and b) point out all the effing annoying questions I get asked every time I have a goat’s cheese tart at a pub. Or a mushroom risotto at another pub. Or anything that isn’t the steak at a steakhouse.

Sadly, it’s unsurprising I get quizzed every time I go to a dinner party, considering (and according to the Vegetarian Society) only two per cent of the UK population are fully-fledged veggies. That’s around 1 in 50. I had no idea we were that special, but that still doesn’t mean asking the same questions over and over again is OK because hey, I just want to eat my food and have a nice time, not talk about my childhood eating habits and discuss the various options available to me on the menu.

The most memorable meal of 2013 was my mate’s birthday at a steak restaurant where the only veggie option was a side portion of chips and salad. I ate three portions of chips, got a side portion of salad and had a bloody great time because nobody said anything.

In fact, I think at one point someone said, ‘Why aren’t you getting steak?’ and I said, ‘I’m vegetarian’ and they said, ‘Oh’ and continued talking to me about real stuff.

So. If you meet a vegetarian, and they’re not annoyingly strident, don’t eye your burger while saying things like, ‘Do you know how much pain that patty has seen?’ (If they do this, then punch them in the face. It’s not OK to be strident when someone is enjoying a meaty meal), then try and avoid asking them the following:

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How long have you been vegetarian for?

I’ve been asked that every time I eat anything, and I’m sort of bored of talking about it now. Also, when I say, ‘Since I was ten because I don’t enjoy the taste and texture of meat’, where do you expect this to lead, conversationally? Because it seems like it’s going to turn into a huge chat about that time you tried to go vegetarian and didn’t. Please, tell me about that. Then I'll tell you about the time I nearly went for a wee but then decided I didn’t really need one so didn’t. Or the time I was going to a party but thought, ‘Hang on, I might go to this other party’ and went to that one instead. Can’t wait to see how our friendship pans out.

Why are you a vegetarian?

Again, a totally valid question, but there’s no way I can answer it without sounding either sanctimonious, annoying or both sanctimonious and annoying. Let’s face it, we all know it’s crueller to eat meat than to not eat meat (and if you genuinely can’t empathise with this, then you’re either in denial or a psychopath) and I’ve essentially beaten you by actually managing to do it. Fine. Do you want to know the real reason? OK. I never liked meat as a kid but forced myself to eat chicken for a while. Then, when I left home for uni, I didn’t want to eat it any more and also accidentally came across some horrifying pictures of balding chickens dying in cages and cows that were all sad so I figured I wouldn’t force myself to like it. And now I feel bad for me, you and the sad cows. How’s your burger? Argh.

Can you eat fish?

No, because I'm a vegetarian.

Can you eat chicken?

No, because I’m a vegetarian.

Are you one of those annoying people who can’t eat anything with a face?

I sort of want to eat you just for asking that question. And not in a cute way or a sex way, I mean in a really violent way. Sorry, I feel quite violent when people take the piss out of me for not liking a particular type of food. When someone says they don’t like curry, I don’t say: ‘Are you one of those annoying people who can’t eat anything made in India?’, so cut me some slack. Just like I cut you slack when you like a shit band, or post selfies to your Facebook profile or go out with people who are really shit. Live and let live, man.

You don’t like mushrooms? If I was vegetarian, I'd eat mushrooms.

There is more complexity at play here than first appears, the implication is that, because I don’t eat meat, I should automatically like every vegetable or vegetable-based protein that nature can offer. The most common response when I profess my dislike for celery (it’s stringy and it tastes like shit) or coriander (it tastes like shit) or parsley (it tastes like coriander which tastes like shit) is, ‘But you’re a vegetarian!’

As if I’ve forgotten this, and am weird for having the same discernible tastebuds as the next person, meat-eater or otherwise. The whole point of food, apart from the fact you need it to survive, is that the taste of if is subjective. Because vegetarians don’t enjoy one type of food, that doesn’t automatically mean they can’t dislike anything else by default.

You went to McDonalds? But you’re a vegetarian!

This is usually said with a sly triumph, as if they’ve caught you out. Like you went to McDonalds and had a Big Mac, 12 Chicken McNuggets and a McFlurry (suitable for vegetarians, but worth a mention due to how excellent they are). Broseph, all fast food outlets have vegetarian options – even KFC stocks fries – just like pretty much all restaurants. Yes, McDonalds do two vegetarian meals – one in wrap form, one in burger form – and yes, when I’m really drunk or fancy a McDonalds, that’s what I eat. Because I don’t want to eat a Big Mac. Because Big Macs have meat in them. God, it’s like talking to a child.

READ MORE: How To Totally Nail A Vegan Barbecue

What do you eat?

Do you want me to say I only eat lettuce and beans? Because I don’t. A dickhead friend of a friend once asked me what I eat, and when I couldn’t answer the question (because, er, it’s the most broad question I’ve ever been asked), triumphantly surmised that I don’t eat anything of worth. Well, Mr Arsehole, I eat curries and enchiladas and Chinese takeaway and salads and burgers and chips and cottage pie and sausage and mash and Vietnamese and Lebanese (can’t tell the difference between the ‘ese’s, tbh) and roast dinner and stews and chilli and mezze and do I need to go on?

I eat all the same food you eat, but vegetarian versions of it. Because I don’t eat meat. If you want to partake in the world’s most boring conversation, then ask a vegetarian what they eat because there’s nothing more fascinating than listening to someone list foodstuffs.

I could never do that.

That's nice, thanks for your input.

You do realise that by being vegetarian, those animals are going to be eaten anyway?

Yeah I do, but I don’t eat meat. So they're not going to be eaten by me. I’m not sure what your point is? Unless you want to strap me down and forcefeed me a pork chop, I won’t be consuming that pork chop. And, let’s be honest, if more people were vegetarian, then the demand for meat would be lower and less chickens would be bald and sad and bred in tiny cages.

Yes, I’m aware that there are other atrocities in the world and I am equally sad about poverty so I donate to charities and all that, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be empathetic towards bald chickens. If everyone said, ‘Bollocks to it, they’re going to die anyway’ then three-quarters of the world would probably have starved to death by now, we’d have nobody helping out with the Ebola crisis and I reckon someone would have nuked a country off the map. The world isn’t going in a happy direction, so if the fact I don’t like eating meat helps in any small, miniscule way, then I’m not about to force myself to start. It’s not like I can be arsed recycling, so this is just one contribution I can make. So leave me alone.

You don’t recycle? But you’re a vegetarian. You’re supposed to be helping the world.

Do you recycle? If so, why aren’t you also in Syria?

Do you wear leather? Vegetarians aren’t supposed to wear leather.

I own leather shoes. Are you calling me a hypocrite? OK, cool, let’s go through everything you believe in and we’ll tease out some of the loopholes in that. Because, again, that makes for a really fun evening. Do people call you Captain Fun Brigade? Because they should.

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Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

Picture: Getty

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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