Five Things I’ve Realised By Going Vegetarian

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About a year ago, after many more years of deliberating and cutting down, I decided to go veggie. Except I didn’t. My attempts at changing my eating patterns came just before I went on a ten day cooking holiday to Italy, so that put a dampener on things, and then I was a bit worried about telling friends and being that awkward dinner guest, so I ended up being a veggie who ate meat when other people cooked for her. Oh, and the occasional bit of fish because fish don’t have feelings and because I was doing some research into Vitamin D for work, and became convinced I was deficient.

I properly became a veggie after a week at home over Christmas, which included a day when I managed to eat five different types of pie in one twenty four hour period. Yes, five. Yorkshire is amazing. But, like most people who indulge in things which they don’t normally eat, I felt incredibly unwell and decided It Was Time.

Now, I’m not going to bang on about why I made my choice (see my first point below) – but I have been pondering diet, health and food, particularly as it’s National Vegetarian Week. And so, I present Five Things I’ve Realised By Going Vegetarian.

Nobody Really Cares

It used to be that being a vegetarian was a sign of fussiness, a political statement or an attempt to be interesting – luckily things have moved on since my mum’s 1980s foray into the world of lentils and about 20% of my age bracket are now veggie. I’ve read a couple of articles written by vegetarians who are apparently interrogated about their food choices but I’m happy to say that either my friends have better manners, or they’re just not bothered. Vegan seems to be the new thing. As always, I’m behind the times.

Eating Out Is Boring Now

So boring. It’s pretty much macaroni cheese, mushroom risotto, or a sodding veggie burger. Occasionally a beetroot and goat’s cheese tart. I quite frequently look at the Instagram food pictures of friends in London, Leicester and Manchester with envy. Despite Edinburgh apparently being the vegan capital of the UK (I’m raising my cynical eyebrow) options are usually pretty dull unless you go to one of the vegetarian only restaurants in town.

No, I Don’t Miss Bacon

I’ll admit that I’ve not been asked whether I miss bacon (I’ve never been a massive fan) but it does seem to be trotted out as a standard quip whenever giving up meat is mentioned. The thing I do miss? Oddly, it’s sweets. I have a weakness for chewy sweets, most of which are made with pork gelatine which does sneak its way in to a lot of things. Low fat yoghurts were a particular surprise. For a lot of veggies this isn’t a big deal, but it’s pork in particular which I’m keen to avoid, so thank goodness for M&S and their green eared Percy Pigs.

I’ve Become Obsessed With Protein

When I was a student I’d be chatting to my mum about cooking and she’d frequently ask me about my protein levels. I never really understood what her obsession was… and now that is me. I find myself frequently bemused by vegetarian recipes which have no protein in them, irritated by people who tell me that I’ll be deficient in all sorts of nutrients if I don’t eat meat, and I have recently discovered the joys of almond butter. I don’t know who I am anymore.

Life Becomes An Ethical Minefield

I am one of life’s over thinkers, and therefore this probably won’t surprise anyone, but the more I contemplate the ethics of vegetarianism the more I worry that I’m going to become that woman who only eats bananas. I can see how people become vegan and why buying leather shoes could be hypocritical – but then I also don’t like the idea of oil-based plastics and I’d rather have one high quality pair that will last me two years. Choosing makeup brands which don’t do animal testing is straightforward, so I’ll stick with that. Ultimately I think it’s about picking your battles and my one woman crusade against mushroom risotto is currently absorbing most of my energy.

12 thoughts on “Five Things I’ve Realised By Going Vegetarian

  1. Janet says:

    We’re so lucky in Leicester, I don’t know how or why it became such a vegetarian and vegan paradise but I can guess. I think it’s linked to the fact that we have one of the most diverse populations in the UK – we’re the first city to have no overall ethnic majority – plus a lot of that diversity comes from traditionally cultures in which a lot of the food is vegetarian. But those options aren’t limited to places that serve cuisine of x culture (although the Indian food here is the best in the country, no joke). We’re going out tomorrow to our favourite pub and there will be upwards of 8 options for vegetarians on the menu, with at least 4 for vegans. We visited Leeds recently and really struggled to find vegan food in the city centre, which we just found weird after years of having it so easy here!

    • Gwen says:

      I suspect you’re right about diversity (something Edinburgh isn’t really known for…). It’s a shame about Leeds, when I was younger there was a rather well known Gujarati veggie restaurant called Hansas on the edge of town, but I suspect it’s very much a local favourite as it’s a bit out of the way.

      • Janet says:

        I’ve rarely found the Indian food in Leeds/Bradford to be as good as what we get here in Leicester. One exception is Bundobust, which does the most incredible veggie & vegan Indian street food plus beers, ales and ciders. Heaven, basically!

  2. Sarah Rooftops says:

    Completely with you on point five – I feel like I SHOULD be vegan (foodwise, I almost am) but I want quality shoes and I don’t want to be responsible for Matilda missing out on… I don’t know… calcium?

    I *do* like macaroni cheese, though…!

    • Gwen says:

      Yes, it’s a funny one isn’t it? I’m surprised by how few shops offer ‘free range’ leather. Although saying that, H&M do say their leather is always a byproduct, so maybe that’s a start!
      (And I like macaroni cheese too… but not at £11 a bowl!)

  3. Jamjar says:

    The good news is that puddings seldom contain meat! Custard is well up on protein (eggs) as is sponge cake (Flour and eggs). Steamed ginger syrup sponge with custard may well be the most nutritious food on earth. Ever.

  4. Elise says:

    I think gummy sweets are the main reason I haven’t turned fully vegetarian by now! Damn you, delicious pork gelatine. I’ve tried a few alternatives but they’re just not the same (although the M&S veggie fruit pastilles are nice) I AM one of those super fussy people though, so sometimes it’s easier to tell people I’m veggie (like weddings/places with v small menus) to avoid eating something I can’t stomach. I’ll try most things once but in doing that I’ve found lots I don’t like, so it may have backfired!

    • Gwen says:

      I agree… they’re just not as nice are they! I’m with you on the perils of function catering. I’ll eat pretty much everything, but choosing the veggie option has led to some slightly odd combinations at weddings!

  5. Laura says:

    I’ve been either veggie/pescatarian now since I was 13 and it’s interesting to read that 20% of my age group is veggie, as I’d always thought the national average seemed quite low when I compared it to my group of friends!

    I loved the veggie places I visited in Edinburgh when I was there (Henderson’s and David Bann) but agree that eating out can often lead to quite boring food choices. (I also hate when a veggie burger is just a flat mushroom in a bun – that’s not a burger!!) I also feel a bit awkward kicking up a fuss if I go for a meal with my partner’s family (once I had to ask for a special meal to be made in a Jamie Oliver restaurant as everything on the menu contained parmesan which isn’t veggie!) Also with leather it’s sometimes difficult to avoid, I wanted to replace my watch strap for instance but couldn’t find an alternative that would fit besides leather.. but I think if you know that you’re trying to make a difference then anything is better than nothing! Even cutting down on meat is a great start.

  6. Liz says:

    I went vegetarian (well, pescatarian) last year and I’ve been surprised by how easy it is. I definitely don’t miss bacon either! That said, sometimes eating out can be more boring, not so much in London but when I visit my parents in Somerset the veggie options are pretty limited.

    Liz x
    Distract Me Now Please

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