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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vegetarian definition

Vegetarian thali platter, Shriv Sagar, Houston, TX
Living in Texas, vegetarians tend get a bit of a short shrift. The meat-eating cuisines of Europe - from Germany to France to Poland - agonize over what to serve vegetarians, much less the more restrictive vegan lifestyle. Older cookbooks afford a heavy reliance on cheese and salads; while in Germany, I was served a plate of shrimp when I ordered the vegetarian special.

Vegetarian special, Hugo's, Houston, TX
The biggest confusion I see with vegetarianism is that the term defined by what is not eaten rather than by what is included. Carnivorism means someone exclusively eats meat, locavorism only on "local" products (some people put that an arbitrary radius of 100 miles). Vegetarianism, however, is practiced by excluding something, and its definition becomes elastic in that form. It's possible to a vegetarian meal without vegetables of any sort, botanically speaking. Say, for example, an all fruit and beer meal.
Fried stinky tofu, Yummy Kitchen, Houston, TX
Except tomatoes. Because they're legally vegetables. And the yeast in beer are not even plants, they're fungi (which are evolutionarily actually closely related to animals).

Waffled carrot latkes with oven roasted applesauce. No schmaltz was used. 

Addendum: I have to include this NPR article reporting that meat eating is now so pervasive in India that vegetarianism is becoming archaic there.

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