So I was reading an article the other day that was about someone preparing a dinner party for vegetarians and accidentally using chicken stock. You can read the full article here. His premise was that, just as you wouldn’t fill a Ferrari with inferior fuel because it’s, well a Ferrari and an amazing vehicle, you wouldn’t make risotto with just any stock if you care about food. You’d naturally make it with the best ingredients you have to hand- in this case, homemade chicken stock.
It’s all in the stock. Apparently.
There are so many vego and vegan foodies out there that I can’t even link to a few of them without doing an injustice to the others. But I thought we’d gotten over the idea that vegetarians and vegans can’t be foodies. I have crossed town for wanky spices, purchase stinky cheeses and keep saying “quinoa” correctly even when those around me don’t. I’m just going to say it: I am vegetarian and I am a foodie.
But it’s not as simple as that for the author of the article. He also argues that chicken stock contains less than 5% actual chicken anyway and his was a fancy organic free range chicken. Not even 5% cruelty.
I have to say, that I was not really angered by this article, just saddened. I have had numerous people cook for me over the years accidentally using chicken stock, soy cheese that wasn’t vegan (when I was vegan), Worcestershire sauce and other more or less sneaky ingredients that pose as culinary landmines for the vego and vegan. I get it. We all make mistakes. Even vegetarians. Especially vegetarians (There. I said it).
“I maintain that it is very impolite to straight-up refuse something someone has taken the time to make for you (and the other, probably carnivorous people present) because of your personal preference.” stated the author. I agree with this statement to a point. If a vegetarian or vegan wanted to eat his risotto, fine. If they didn’t and nommed on sides dishes or dip all night, fine. That’s not rude, that’s making the best of a situation that the host put them in. Gracious guests realise the effort made but should not have to compromise an important part of themselves. Gracious hosts should be aware of this too.
The author states “I am aware that those herbivores who possess a strange, almost metaphysical fear of contamination will remain impervious to my logic.” I thought about who those herbivores are. Are they the ones who don’t want to pick ham off their pizza, or send back a pasta covered in cheese? Is there anything wrong with that? If one was Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Jain or perhaps Buddhist, one would have dietary restrictions and recommendations which would also stop them from ignoring it or picking it off.
“This corn bread just tastes so much better made with bacon fat. I’m aware you can’t eat it for spiritual reasons but the fat is only a small percentage and it’s not gracious to the host if you refuse” said no one ever to a Jew or Muslim (I hope).
Just as religion is more than going to a house of worship once a week, being a vegetarian, for many, is a complete lifestyle. It’s a belief system. We are all in it for different reasons but we believe, based on either research, experience or emotions, that being veg is best. We’re not asking you to prepare our food using only unicorn-horn utensils (we’d hate that anyway) or facing east while doing a handstand, or even source kosher or halal ingredients, we’re just asking for no meat. Chicken is a meat, therefore chicken stock is a no-no. If you can’t do that, order out. Or make toast. We’re supposed to be your friend, we’ll eat breakfast for dinner with you.
But before vegetarians and vegans with veg-friendly mates relax and think “at least my friends are nice”, take stock (Ha! Had to use that somewhere) and note this from the author’s parting paragraph: “Which is why, in the end, perhaps the tried-and-true model of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is the best policy”.
Oppressive and secretive military policies as a strategy for cooking for guests?
What a gracious host.