I have no problem with vegetarians. I really don’t. I equally have no problems with vegans, pescatarians, ovo-lacto-whatevers, or any other dietary choices. People choose vegetarian diets for many reasons including concern for animal welfare, living a healthier lifestyle, or concerns over food safety. Polls show that the 7-13% of Americans who identify themselves as vegetarians have followed that diet for 10 or more years. There are studies that show marginal extensions in lifespan and other health benefits from eating vegetarian, so why don’t more people do it?
I don’t like vegetables. That’s why I don’t do it. When I was young, my vegetable intake was limited to corn and potatoes, primarily. Now, I enjoy a leafy green salad, the occasional slice of onion on my hamburger, and green smoothies. I still cannot stand broccoli, cauliflower, cooked spinach, carrots, celery, beets, radishes, bell peppers (occasionally), tomatoes (I know they are a fruit), and peas. That is not an exhaustive list by any means. As an adult, I absolutely have more options at salad bars and buffets than when I was younger, but there are plenty of foods that I still avoid. THAT’S why I’m not a vegetarian. I’d be limiting my diet to a very narrow set of foods. My current schedule also makes it hard to plan and pack meals, so I eat out frequently. Have you ever looked for vegetarian options at fast food restaurants? I haven’t, but I hear it’s horrible.
My family owns a barbeque restaurant in rural Tennessee. We do not have any specific vegetarian options for a few reasons. First, no one in my family is a vegetarian, so it’s an issue that we don’t particularly care about. Second, we strive to keep costs low by offering a limited menu. Sure, we could add options that appeal to vegetarians AND normal people, but that negates the benefits of having a limited menu. Our limited menu allows us to offer the freshest food possible and spend more time serving our food and less time prepping, dating, rotating, and ordering it. The final, and most important, reason we do not offer any vegetarian menu options is the complete and utter lack of demand. Vegetarians that chose the diet for concerns of animal welfare (54%) are not likely to support a business whose primary profit is from pork and chicken sales. Frankly, any vegetarian that was concerned about animal welfare that did support such a business would be a hypocrite in my eyes.
So when a family recently visited our establishment and expressed utter exasperation that we did not have any vegetarian-friendly items (aside from a plain baked potato or coleslaw), I found myself speaking borderline defensively. Of course, we don’t have any vegetarian options. Unless you live in a city that’s great for vegetarians, you should automatically assume that any given restaurant does NOT have vegetarian options. With only about 10% of the population being vegetarian, it would probably not be far off to assume that only 1 in 10 restaurants outside of an urban setting would have such an option. It’s also worth noting that this family thought catfish was a suitable vegetarian option but had never heard the word pescatarian, which I thought was curious.
After they purchased their food, they decided to take it to-go so that they could scout out dining options for their daughter. Poor family. Only one member is vegetarian, yet she dictates what and where they eat. And in a rural, isolated resort community in the middle of Tennessee, there are not many options for her. Whatever she ended up eating that night, it motivated me to create a vegetarian-specific menu once and for all (or ~10% of all).
And before any Cyrillo-philes get all butthurt, I understand that these fonts use Cyrillic characters outside of their proper Russian phonemic usage. I’m partially with you. The use of sigmas instead of Es in the television show Greek or the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding made me cringe, but haughty vegetarians expecting to be accommodated in a most decidedly non-vegetarian setting makes me cringe even more.