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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Column: Veggie tales

Personally, I love meat. Bacon is amazing. However, there are people in this world who do not feel the same way. Many of them identify as vegetarians, some as vegans.

Some might call these people crazy for not eating meat, but they have their reasons. They vary from religion to culture to animal rights to taste preference and beyond. It’s a lifestyle that I have very little direct experience in, but I understand some of the difficulties.

To clarify, vegetarians generally do not eat any animals. Some may clarify the level of exclusivity of their diet with “ovo” or “lacto” which describes whether eggs or milk are also consumed. Pescatarians don’t eat meat such as beef or poultry, but they do eat fish – usually chosen by people who need to have higher levels of iron or protein in their diet.

I have a fair number of friends and roommates who don’t eat meat. I support them in their decision as best I can by making sure I create meatless dishes for them. While cooking without meat at home may seem like a fairly easy task – especially when one factors in cost – the real difficulty can come in dining out.

I encourage you to try and go without eating meat for a month or two, both at home and when eating out. This will both improve your understanding of the difficulty many people face and expand your eating horizons. You can even sign up with PETA to receive a vegetarian starter kit. Meat isn’t the only thing to order on your Woodstock’s pizza.

It shouldn’t be too hard in Davis. It’s fairly veggie-friendly both on campus and off. However, the key is variety. While a lot of places may offer vegetarian dishes, creativity becomes the deciding factor for many when the options aren’t just salad.

I’ve gone out with friends who are vegetarian and watched them have a hard time finding options to eat. This can be especially difficult when planning family-style events. You have to keep in mind that even though it doesn’t explicitly list some kind of meat in the dish, you have to consider preparation of the meal as well.

What many meat eaters don’t know is that animal products are everywhere. Dishes like refried beans are made with lard, an animal byproduct. Many vegetarians also skip foods made with gelatin, such as Jell-O, gummy bears and marshmallows.

Soups and pasta dishes can also be made with chicken stock and not listed on restaurant menus. The classic Caesar dressing is also typically made with anchovies, or at the very least the Worcestershire sauce added to Caesar dressing has anchovies.

Obviously those who aren’t lacto-vegetarians don’t eat or drink anything dairy-based, so they drink other types of milk such as rice, soy or almond milk.

With these things in mind, many vegetarians must actively be aware of what they’re ordering and purchasing. Shilpa Grandhi, a UC Irvine senior and lifelong vegetarian said, “It’s not really that difficult to be vegetarian, especially living in California because a lot of people are conscious of alternative eating styles. When my dad moved to America 30 years ago it was virtually impossible.”

A lot of religious groups have meat related dietary restrictions. Catholics who observe Lent (the 40 days prior to Easter) do not eat meat on Fridays, and many give it up for the whole 40 days.

Another option is just to reduce the amount of meat you eat on a regular basis or not ordering a meat-based dish when you go out. Instead of getting chicken in your curry at Sophia’s, try tofu.

One thing I would advise against is replacing all your meat products with meat substitutes. As delicious as Chik’n Nuggets and meatless balls are, they definitely aren’t the same and aren’t the point of being vegetarian. I say this because while they seem like great options, the point is to try living without meat in your life – to not be dependent on it.

Many people have made a lifestyle and their food without meat. Hopefully it’ll open up your dining options as well. There are so many great ethnic restaurants in Davis that you can easily order vegetarian dishes at and expand your horizons.

Have a veggie tale of your own? Send it to SABRINA VIGIL at svvigil@ucdavis.edu.

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