vegetarian 101One of your best friends moved to the vegetable side of the force? A colleague you invited for dinner texted you to tell you « oh by the way, I am a vegetarian. »? Your daughter called to say that the new boyfriend she is bringing over this week-end is a veggie? Fear not, here comes a quick guide to understand what a vegetarian is all about.

What do all vegetarians have in common? Easy: no meat. 

Watch out, meat is not only beef. Chicken is meat, pork is meat, fish is meat. And sorry to say this, but shellfishes are also meat. To sum up they do not eat animal flesh. Or in other words, a dead animal that ends up in a plate.
“A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish*, insects, by-products of slaughter** or any food made with processing aids created from these.” – Definition of “vegetarian” by the Vegetarian Society.

Do they eat eggS and dairy products? 

Here comes the good news! Very often they do. But sometimes, they don’t. So stay with me:
– Ovo-vegetarians. They eat eggs (ovo in Latin). So why don’t they eat dairy products? They might be lactose-intolerant, or for ethical reasons (in other words, they do not accept to fead themselves from animal suffering – and yes there is animal suffering in milk production). But watch out regarding the eggs, they are very careful of animal life conditions so make sure you are putting free-range eggs in your fridge!
– Lacto-vegetarians. I think you got the drill. They eat dairy products (lacto means milk in Latin) but they don’t eat eggs. The no-egg policy is often linked to the sometimes horrible conditions, in which chickens « live » in cages, with no daylight, etc… They might also cut down on the egg for health reasons (high cholesterol for example).
– Lacto-ovo-vegetarians. These are the easy ones. They eat eggs, milk, cheese. So you can always survive with a pizza or some pasta. However keep in mind that they tend to be very conscious on the origin of where the food comes from and the conditions in which animals providing these products are living.

BUT I KNOW VEGETARIANS WHO EAT FISH! NO, YOU KNOW PESCO-VEGETARIANS.

They exclude from their diet land-animal sourced meat but add to it fish and shellfish. “True vegetarians” would argue that as fish and shellfish are animals, these people are not vegetarians but semi-vegetarian also known as “pesco-vegetarians” (pesco comes from the Latin word for fish).

SO WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT?

Well everything else, and considering the array of delicious things that the planet provides us with, that means a lot. With no surprise, vegetarians eat vegetables. Lots of them: zucchinis, aubergines, tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, artichokes, … They are delicious and healthy. They eat legumes such as lentils and beans, and whole grains such as rice and wheat (and of course the cliché quinoa…). And no, they do not eat tofu everyday. They also eat bread, and pizza, and veggie burgers. Pasta, falafel wraps and deserts with butter and cream.

So what can you cook for a vegetarian?

Oh no! It’s burger night. Keep cool: grill them a halloumi to replace the steak and all good! No halloumi? No problem: just mix a can of black beans with some old bread and make a patty. It will replace the steak perfectly and it is filled with proteins.
It’s barbecue time. What do I do? Put some halloumi on the grill, a few aubergine slices and some baked potatoes and you will be just fine! No halloumi again? No problem: get them red bell peppers on the grill with big Portobello mushrooms and some corn and they will be super happy.
Don’t forget the pizza. If vegetarians are around ordering a pizza (or making it yourself) will solve all your problems. Just keep the bacon and pepperoni away and stay with the tomato and cheese and you will be just fine.
Pasta is always a good idea. Make a dish of pasta with some fresh tomato sauce, garlic and some basil. Or go for mushrooms, garlic and parsley and dinner is served.
And you can also go for spinach lasagna, shakshuka, gnocchis, roasted vegetables, delicious salads, soups, stuffed tomatoes, risottos… See? Not that hard, right? And somewhere a cow or a pig just got one more day to live.
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