Go back three years, and National Vegetarian Week wasn’t something I ever thought I’d take part in.
But something shifted in 2016: I started thinking about the origin of the food I bought, rather than just the meals I could make from it. I did a lot of research and the more I knew, the less I enjoyed eating anything animal-derived. That September I stopped eating meat—just to see if I could—and I haven’t (knowingly) touched it since. I stopped eating fish a few months later. (This from someone who once swore she would never be able to give up smoked salmon or bacon.)
Time has passed very quickly since then. I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve made mistakes, and I’d like to think I’ve figured out how to talk about being a vegetarian without sounding like I’m preaching. So I’ve put together summary of what I’ve discovered so far. I hope there’s something that speaks to you here, whether you’re interested in a different point of view, new to vegetarianism and looking for tips, or want to see how your own experience compares.
Some people will get it; some people won’t. Most are curious.
Reactions vary enormously when people find out you’re vegetarian. I remember my aunt gasping in horror when I told her I was going to stop eating fish, and another friend wondering how I’d cope without trips to a local cafe specialising in pulled pork buns. Then there was the person who claimed he wanted to shove a burger in my face.
That last one aside, most of the negative reactions I’ve encountered have been born from concern, rather than hostility. People have questions, sure, but they ask them because they want to understand your way of thinking. I believe this is a good thing, and I try and answer as honestly as I can. I’d rather enter into a conversation and have each of us learn something.
People become more accommodating as they get used to it.
My loved ones have shown very sweet sides of themselves once they’ve realised my vegetarianism isn’t a phase. (I know I’m lucky and not everyone gets this support.) Whether it’s making sure I’m catered for at family events (my Auntie Sue made me a delicious starter last Christmas), checking restaurant menus ahead of time, or even cooking for you (shoutout to Jess and the delicious fajitas we ate last weekend), they want you to be well fed. I know my mum will have stocked the freezer with veggie meals every time I go back to my parents’ house for a visit, and I’m grateful.
You’ll become more creative in the kitchen.
Meat substitutes are getting better and better, and they’re a godsend if you want to make vegetarian alternatives to staple meals like lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, and sausage casserole. But I’ve branched out as I’ve become more confident and ended up trying all sorts of things—burgers made from sweet potato and black beans served with a slaw recipe I made up on the spot, tacos that use walnuts and sun-dried tomatoes to make the bulk of the ‘meat’ filling, and a pink pasta recipe with cannellini beans and roasted beetroot. That last one did not look so appetising when I took it into work for lunch the next day, but it was fun to experiment.
You won’t ever be perfect.
Everyone makes mistakes. No one can be a flawless vegetarian, consumer, or human being. I’ve accidentally eaten parmesan cheese on several occasions, for example (it contains rennet, which is often derived from cows), and I’ve lost count of the number of times Drunk Me has lusted after a greasy cheeseburger. I’ve yet to cave, since I don’t think the momentary enjoyment would outweigh the stomach pains or guilt, but the thought is there, even though I don’t want it to be.
Blog posts you might have missed:
- 7 Tips for New and Potential Vegetarians
- I Finally Watched Cowspiracy
- 3 Easy, Positive Ways to Promote a Plant-Based Diet to Your Friends and Family
I’d love to know what kind of experiences you’ve had, vegetarian or otherwise. Leave me a comment below, and feel free to ask questions, too.
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Beth, 26, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travelling, and gin. Always thinking about my next meal.
I write about ethical & eco-friendly living, minimalism, and mental health, as I muddle through one step at a time. Enjoy!