by Kate Heyhoe
I was speaking with a man the other day, a talented artist, who told me he was a vegetarian. But he readily admitted that when his friend Stubb, a Texas barbecue legend, set a plate of meltingly tender, barbecued ribs in front of him, the artist instantly became a carnivore again.
Stubb's barbecue (you've probably seen his sauces in the supermarket) could indeed co-opt the most dedicated vegetarian, but the story raises the issue of part-time vegetarianism. Truth is, many people are wanna-be vegetarians: they try to live the chaste and meatless life, but occasionally they sin. So, if you occasionally enjoy red meat, can you then truly call yourself a "vegetarian"?
Very simply, a vegetarian is one who eschews the consumption of meat or other animal foods (implicitly on a regular, unconditional basis). More specifically, the USDA's definition notes:
Vegetarian—There are several categories of vegetarians, all of whom avoid meat and/or animal products. The vegan or total vegetarian diet includes only foods from plants: fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds, and nuts. The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovovege-tarian) diet also includes eggs. Semi-vegetarians do not eat red meat but include chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.
I have no issue with vegetarianism one way or another, except to ask that people be honest about what they call themselves. Perhaps we need a new scale of definitions, ones that recognize degrees of meat-avoidance or meat-dependency, like this:
The Compulsive Carnivore
This group simply can't get enough meat—ever, and they don't hide it (literally). They typically start their day with bacon, sausage, and/or ham and eggs, chomp on a cheesesteak or pastrami sandwich for lunch, then segue to sirloin dinner (though they may temper it with a surf 'n' turf special at Red Lobster). Green foods are optional, but rare and never required.
The Recovering Carnivore
Like the compulsive gambler or the recovering alcoholic, these people face meat as the ultimate addiction. Perhaps their doctor has put them on a heart-healthy diet, but in their dreams, meat is not just one-step closer to heaven, it is heaven. They've tried to kick the habit completely, but live every second on the cusp. They're just a whiff away from failing, and when they do, it's not pretty. But after wallowing in a platter of ribs, sausage and brisket, they courageously jump back on the haywagon and head back to the land of low-fat milk products and honey-crisped granola. The have a support group of friends, family, and physicians.
The Yo-Yo Vegetarian
Like revolving door dieters, this group goes on one vegetarian kick after another. When temptation periodically breaks their commitment, they dive mouth first into a Double Big Mac. One bite and they're on their way to meatloaf, fried chicken, and rib-eyes. It's hard to tell from one week to the next if they're eating meatfully or meatlessly, making them hard dinner guests to plan a menu around.
The Wanna-Be Vegetarian
For personal reasons, they've decided that cutting back on meat is, in the words of Martha Stewart, "a good thing." That doesn't mean they won't eat roast beef if served it (though they may take a few bites and push the rest around on their plate), but they do try to limit their meat consumption. They're flexible, but given a choice, would prefer non-meat meals. When they permit fish and chicken in their diets, they're sometimes known as semi-vegetarians (or semi-carnivores, if you consider meat and flesh to be synonymous.)
The Complete Vegetarian
This group is wholly committed to being "vegetarian," which may mean not only meat avoidance, but also eggs, cheese and dairy products. Their dedication is admirable, and they never stray beyond whatever boundaries they've chosen. When it comes to being a "vegetarian," these folks define the word, whether it's as a vegan, lactovegetarian or ovo-lactovegetarian, and they are never "semi-vegetarians." (Certain religious sects are complete vegetarians.)
The Secret Vegetarian
These are Complete Vegetarians, but they won't tell you that until after they've sat down to your specially prepared prime-rib dinner.
The Seasonal Vegetarian
Also known as Part-Time Vegetarians, this group follows meatless mandates, usually dictated by religion. For instance, Catholics observing the pre-Easter period of Lent replace meat with "fish on Fridays," though the consumption of fin-food more accurately qualifies them as Seasonal Semi-Vegetarians.
In timely recognition of the last category, Seasonal Vegetarians, I've collected some Lent-worthy recipes—which may also befit the Wanna-Be and Semi-Vegetarian groups as well. (Of course, if you're Irish and observing Lent by avoiding meat on Fridays, you'll have to skip or reschedule the 2006 corned beef dinner, as St. Patrick's Day, March 17, falls on a Friday.)
Copyright © 2006, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created March 2006
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