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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Can we have a word...?

What’s not to understand about the word “vegetarian?”
By its very nature and sound – practically having the word vegetable in it, it nearly begs to be interpreted as referring to beings that survive by loving food that comes from plants and eschewing food that comes from dead animals.
It has become apparent to me, however, that this interpretation is not so clear to everyone.
The following is taken nearly verbatim from conversations I have been part of this year. (yes, I know journalists don’t have ‘nearly verbatim’ in their vocabulary, either it is or it isn’t but this is written to protect the identity of the uninformed.)
“Oh, you’re a vegetarian,” says the other person.
“Yes,” says me.
“But you must still eat fish or chicken, right?” says the person.
“No,” says me, “Those are animals and vegetarians don’t eat animals.”
That is when the perplexed other person usually inquires about getting enough protein, and a third person pipes in with a comment about how eating eggs is killing animals too.
Now, anyone who has taken biology knows eggs are not alive – we really don’t need a sex education lesson here to explain why. (or do we?) I have utter and complete respect for vegans (that’s people who not only don’t eat animals but also won’t consume any products that come from animals) but I have not reached that level and I do eat eggs and use some milk products.
But chickens and fish count as animals just as much as cows and pigs do. (and for that matter as much as turkeys, rabbits and any other animal that might make onto dinner tables around the world)
I know people who ask about the eating of fish as vegetarians are not dumb. Dumb (and much, much worse) is the word I would use for the idiotic drivers on Interstate-95 who get in the left lane going 64 mph and refuse to budge when anyone tries to pass them.
People who don’t understand what it means to be a vegetarian are simply uninformed. In some cases they wish to be uninformed and remain that way (you know who you are...ahem, Brian) as they are joyful about eating meat.
But for those omnivores looking for a quick rule of thumb when considering what it means for their friends to be vegetarians, consider the way my two vegetarian daughters have put it numerous times.
It means “never eating anything that had eyes.”
While some naysayers will note that that rule of thumb seems to leave open the possibility of munching on a variety of mollusks, I would have to add that anyone who thinks that clams, et al, are not animals are likely those driving 64 in the highway’s passing lane.

In the interest of full disclosure: On Christmas Day at my mom’s house, I picked up a lump of stuffing and popped it into my mouth. My mom is a saint and always makes “regular” and vegetarian stuffing; I assumed it was the latter. It was not. With an amused sideways glance, that really meant “that’s what you get for using your hands, gross,” my mother let me know this was not the stuffing intended for me. I could have spit it out – but that would have been worse than the already committed sin of picking it up with my hand. So for that brief and horrible moment (the stuffing was actually quite yummy) I had to swallow it. Shame on me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Helen, you daughters are right..dont eat anything with eyes or a heartbeat..Potato's and beets not included..happy new year..great article..enjoyed it..judy

January 03, 2009 7:12 PM 

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