Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why do chefs have contempt for vegetarians?

Yesterday I read an article called "25 things chefs never tell you," compiled from responses to a survey conducted by Food Network Magazine. Most of it, of course, is not actually surprising. For example: Unfinished bread baskets get recycled (I'm glad they don't waste it actually) and "vegetarian" food might not be 100% vegetarian. I can understand that some people would be pissed about the latter, but I generally don't bother to ask if something that appears vegetarian, like soup or risotto, contains any chicken stock; my food options are limited enough as it is. This makes things easier on the chef, right? Who "hate picky eaters"?

Well guess what, chefs hate that too: "Some of their biggest pet peeves: When customers pretend to be allergic to an ingredient, and when vegetarians make up rules, like 'a little chicken stock is OK.'" I thought it was maybe just one crazy chef who said that, but when I commented about it on Twitter, a chef named Brandon Chavannes responded "because you're not vegetarian, you're just difficult," suggesting that this really is a common annoyance.

So on the one hand, the vegetarian food may not be vegetarian. But if we say we're OK with that, then it's "Fuck you, you fucking hypocrite." Does this make sense to anyone? Also, I really don't see the hypocrisy in not wanting to order a hunk of meat, but not caring if a little meat juice from someone else's order dribbles on your fries. Most vegetarians do it for ethical reasons, not because they can't stand the taste or smell of meat. A little cross-contamination is inevitable in restaurants, but at the end of the week/month/life, you've eaten a lot fewer dead animals.

Even when I ate meat freely, 5+ years ago, I disliked this contemptuous attitude that some meat-eaters cop toward vegetarians. The very existence of vegetarians doesn't prevent you from eating meat. (If their existence prevents you from enjoying meat, you might have some unexamined hangups.) It's like being pissed about pacifism.

13 comments:

  1. you have to admit that a lot of vegetarians look down their noses at meat-eaters, no? i don't have contempt for vegetarians, but i do have contempt for snobs (and i realize not all vegetarians are snobs).

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  2. Oh, I hear you with this one. I don't eat much meat because of both health and economic/environmental concerns. I do eat meat once per week, and fish once per week. I'm very careful about what kinds of meat and how it's produced, so I tend to eat it only at home. To most people, I simply say I'm vegetarian. Talking about this with a friend who's a chef, he was of the opinion that I had no right to order a vegetarian version of a fixed menu, for instance. Since I wasn't "really" veg. Made no sense to me then or now.

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  3. Matt: I honestly don't know any vegetarians who are contemptuous toward meat eaters. Not one.

    Beloved: Argh.

    I often tell people I'm vegetarian because I feel like explaining pescatarianism is too complicated, and 90% of the time I am a pure vegetarian. But doesn't anyone have a "right" to order the vegetarian option if that's what they want???

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  4. I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian since I was 13. I am only contemptuous of zealots those who want to convert, on either side of the fence, and sometimes of those who scream GREEN! GREEN! GREEN! then drive huge cars and eat tons of meat then I don't look down my nose but I often want to engage in the conversation that one the one about how the rain forests are being razed so the land can be used to grow feed for cattle how this is a crime because all that wheat could be fed to starving countries. Usually I don't. If I pick the chef who doesn't know if his beans have lard in them I ask to see the can. And I am careful in Thai restaurants where they put fish sauce in everything but they're about the nicest people in the world when it comes to understanding vegan. Most of the time I try to stay out of the conversation. I've had it too many times. But if you drive a giant car or truck and there are only two or better yet one of you in it I'll point and laugh.

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  5. Yes, the inefficiency of meat is at least as big a problem as the way animals are treated in industrial farming, for me anyway. There's no way for everyone to eat meat.

    That's another reason not to hate on vegetarians. There's more meat for the rest of yous.

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  6. Of course not. Who's in PETA? You can't take an activist group to be representative of a huge population.

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  7. well *somebody's* buying those "meat is murder" bumper stickers/t-shirts/tea cozys...

    ok, you don't know any vegetarian snobs and i don't know any mac user snobs. call it even? :)

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  8. So now you're hating on Morrissey?

    If you look around and don't see any Mac snobs, you're the Mac snob!

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  9. 1) i don't get the reference

    2) i could return that serve, but that would be too easy:)

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  10. Meat is Murder is the name of an album by The Smiths.

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  11. you mean that band i skip every time one of their songs comes on my slacker radio?

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