Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I don’t have a problem with vegetarians. I don’t have a problem with vegans. Whatever people decide to eat or not eat is their business, not mine. I don’t give a shit if you insist on eating only organic bamboo root that was fertilized with the pristine shells of virgin quail eggs that were swaddled in a Panda’s vagina. I’ll even pass you the ketchup.
But if you’re the kind of self-absorbed vegetarian who assumes that other people don’t mind changing up their menu at the last minute and scrambling to suit your previously-unannounced dietary needs, you can go pound sand.
The surprise vegetarian is worse than the proselytizing vegetarian or the sanctimonious vegetarian. He’s worse than the hypocritical vegan and even the strident permaculturist. The surprise vegetarian and his close cousin the entitled vegetarian think nothing of springing their meatless lifestyle on unsuspecting hosts, and then expect them to provide accordingly.
Adult vegetarians rarely do this, because adult vegetarians either have the consideration to give their host a heads up, or they’ve simply gone hungry enough times to learn to be prepared.
Bring some bean burgers to the barbecue if that’s what you eat. I’ll cook that shit right up. But if you arrive empty-handed and announce with smug satisfaction that you no longer eat meat, well, I hope you like the taste of lawn. You know where Whole Foods is. We’ll save you a beer.
Parents, if your kids have decided to go vegetarian, teach them to cook some vegetarian fare right now. Don’t start bringing them to social engagements and letting them get used to the idea that the world will always bend around them. Also, if you cook your vegetarian kid a separate meal from the rest of your family every time, you’re setting them up for some tough going when they get out in the Real World.
If a person is truly committed to a meatless or vegan diet, he or she will probably take great delight in learning to cook satisfying, tasty meals. Take me, for instance. I eat meat. But I don’t eat bell peppers. I’ve learned to cook satisfying, tasty meals that contain no bell pepper. But would I go to a friend’s house for dinner and reject their meal because it has bell pepper? No, I would not. Number one, I’m not a gaping asshole. B, I would do the polite thing and discreetly pick out all the pieces of bell pepper and place them under the rim of my plate. When the dishes were cleared at the end of the dinner, exposing a green ring of bell pepper bits in front of me, I would have a hearty laugh and blame it on the dog, who is a heavy drinker.
Don’t get me wrong—if your kid wants to be a vegetarian, that’s cool. They have to come from somewhere. Just make sure it’s not a fashion statement or a misguided attempt to be cool or hip or rebellious. A teenage vegetarian who comes home reeking of McRib is probably just going through a phase.
I live in Missoula, a place where hippies never really went out of style. You can’t swing a tempeh cat in this town without hitting a vegetarian. Most restaurants even offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. We all coexist. But you have to understand—and I’m looking at you, budding vegetarians—that if you avoid meat (or dairy or sugar or petroleum-based dessert toppings or whatever), the onus is on you to make that clear in advance if you’re invited to a meal. Reasonable people will probably just ask what they can fix for you, and not make a big deal of it. Hell, here’s five tempeh recipes right here.
But if I’ve spent the day making a fine pot of chili verde and you come over for dinner expecting me to drop everything so I can whip up some kind of tofu bullshit on the spot, you have a lot to learn about being a hippie.