Commentary: When veggie meets carnivore

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No matter your taste in steaks, chops or burgers, if a single person at a party you’re hosting claims to be vegetarian, he or she must be provided a separate menu. Just don’t expect reciprocity.

Have you ever agonized over how to accommodate the dietary delicacies of vegan friends or acquaintances when you’re throwing a fancy party at your pad?

Me neither.

But on the flip side of that coin, I’ll have to give credit to a vegan blogger who actually expressed some angst that he “couldn’t make something special” for his meat-eating guests. "I don’t eat or buy meat or dairy, even though [my friends] may have done so for me. In some way, this seems unfair.”

Exactly. We’re supposed to go out of our way to provide vegetarian alternatives no matter what the occasion, whether it’s a formal dinner party or a backyard barbecue. However, God forbid that a born-again veggie even tolerate the presence of animal foods on his property, much less actually touch it (even wearing those giant BBQ grill master mitts) or — horrors! — serve it to someone who’s supposed to be a friend or relative.

It’s beyond unfair. It’s absurd.

But not to worry. Our concerned and helpful veggie blogger has the solution for those pure, noble vegans who must summon the fortitude to survive a meal occasion with flesh-eating carnivores — a five-point plan, if you will:

  1. Don’t try to fool them. Veggies “shouldn’t try to feed meat-eaters mock meats or nut cheeses,” our friend suggests. “At least, they shouldn’t present them as such.” Amen to that! Instead, he recommends firing up some veggie burgers, because “they’re delicious, regardless of one’s stance on meat.” Uh, huh. Just make sure to have lots and lots of ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, pickles, salt, etc., on hand to add some flavor.
  2. Fill them up. When “an everyday meat-eater is coming over for dinner” (as opposed to people who what, eat meat once a month?), “it is not the time to show off that frou-frou quinoa salad recipe you learned last month.” Let me clarify that: It’s never a good time to roll out a quinoa salad as the main course. I don’t even know what “frou-frou” means, but I know I don’t plan to eat it anytime soon.
  3. Sauce it up. According to our veggie gourmet, “What people crave or identify with is saucy.” He suggests barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce, mushroom gravy or Buffalo sauce. (Hey, wait. You can’t in good conscience serve something with the world “buffalo” on the label. That’s exploitation of sentient beings!). That faux pas aside, he suggests that veggies should remember that “sauces make meals richer” — thanks for the tip, Wolfgang — “and they are a more familiar taste than the animal flesh beneath it.”
  4. Serve side dishes. As our veggie gourmet helpfully explains it, a typical meal has “a slab of meat and decorative, edible other things around it.” Yeah, that’s how most restaurateurs like to present their entrées: A slab of flesh surrounded by “decorative things.” Talk about appetizing. Truth is, many vegetarian meals I’ve watched people eating tend to be a blob of soy protein, surrounded by a bunch of greens or tropical fruits - wholly inappropriate to the “eat local, eat responsibly” meme veggies wear on their shirtsleeves.
  5. Make a dessert. Ah, yes. Dessert. According to the urban legend veggies keep telling themselves, “Vegan cakes are moister. The chocolate is richer. [The desserts] all somehow seem to work with a different, cleaner harmony than the egg-and-milk dishes of old.” And if there’s one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s a dessert that doesn’t have harmony!

Look, it’s helpful, I guess, for a vegan to attempt to address the imbalance between vegetarians refusing to accommodate “others,” and meat-eaters automatically arranging for some foods not containing animal ingredients to be served to anyone who professes to eschew the consumption of meat or dairy products.

But I would argue that the people who regularly follow veggie blogs and websites aren’t about to move one inch off their holier-than-thou stance on how not just their little community, but all the rest of us need to give up meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, fish and even ingredients like gelatin.

In my experience, their position is usually pretty straightforward: They’re right, and the other 95 percent of the world is dead wrong. As in, the death of creatures with a face who, if Earth were truly a paradise, would not be eaten by people but by wolves, bears, cougars and eventually vultures.

This would leave humanity free to concentrate on developing even tastier soy-and-salad smorgasbords with which to entertain the less enlightened among us.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

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AZ Rancher    
AZ  |  July, 18, 2014 at 10:09 AM

OFFS! Virtually NOBODY has to have meat at EVERY meal. Good manners on both sides of the host-guest equation solves this without ridiculing anybody. Guests should not demand or whine, hosts should try to accommodate. If your friends and acquaintances are such jerks, don't invite or decline invitations. Sheesh!

Iowa  |  July, 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM

WOW. Your anger toward non meat eaters is clouding your ability to see that gatherings with friends and family are about togetherness and community. I don't even know how you can taste your steak with the awful, bitter taste that has taken up residence in your mouth. Don't you know that YOUR holier-than-thou stance makes you just as unbearable as those you complain about? I would be thrilled to get a dinner invitation from a friend. When I RSVP I never say, "I'm might come ... what are you serving?" I say, "I would be delighted to spend time with you. What can I bring?" I am a lover of delicious meat but I can certainly depart from my culinary inclinations for one meal in order to break bread with someone I care for. And I'm always on the lookout for great recipes with ingredients I don't typically use. What better place to find them than at dinner with someone whose culinary viewpoint differs from mine? I suspect you're just not a tolerant person and that's the real fire behind your rant. Normally I enjoy your articles but this one was completely ridiculous and makes you look like a spoiled brat who didn't get his way.

arkansas  |  July, 18, 2014 at 12:55 PM

My father taught us kids to "eat what is put in front of you without comment unless good." We were not allowed the critique our mother's cooking. Or anybody else for that matter.

Nebraska  |  July, 18, 2014 at 03:45 PM

This is the policy that should be used by both sides. It won't kill a vegan to eat a little meat or something made with a milk ingredient one time and likewise, a meat consumer won't wither away if they don't get some meat for one meal. Either eat what is served or politely decline without fan fair and eat something when you get home.

July, 21, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Anyone who has convinced themselves they cannot eat meat or dairy or whatever else should stay home and munch their own precious rabbit food. Especially at a social gathering nobody wants to hear some pathetic hypochondriac whining and preaching about how they think the world should be. Just have the common courtesy to stay home until you and your therapist get you fit to go out in the real world among real people.

PA  |  July, 22, 2014 at 08:01 AM

Being a vegetarian of 22 years and having listened to both sides of the radical opinions of veggies vs meaties, I have to say this is prob one of the most ridiculous points of view I have ever read. Not to say that I'm a special case but i absolutely LOVE manning the grill for my meat-eating friends and appreciate the opportunities to try new crockpot or roast dish recipes whenever possible. I love sourcing good meat and challenging myself beyond my taste buds. Sitting around the table enjoying a meal of variety is a staple of life. And do my friends accomodate me when they host a party -- sure. If ever we go to a steakhouse or meat-focused restaurant, i've NEVER made a stink about what's on their plates, being consumed into their bodies. One of the reasons I subscribe to PorkNetwork is to understand what is going on in the industry -- what are concerns, what is happening -- so as to have a more well-rounded point of view. You see -- it's radical points of view like yours and the vegan blogger that fuels this debate. If everyone could just stop worrying about what everyone else is doing or not doing and why it's hurting You -- then we might just be able to break bread in peace around the table.

Dan Murphy    
Everett, Wash.  |  July, 24, 2014 at 02:23 PM

Well, MeatLover, I may be a brat, but unfortunately I haven't had the pleasure (yet) of being spoiled. Still waiting for that Lotto check to arrive, though, and when it does, I'll be the first guy on the block to roll out the deluxe vegan smorgasbord for all my vegetarian neighbors (both of them). (You did get that with sarcasm you're not being totally serious, right?)

Dan Murphy    
Everett, Wash.  |  July, 24, 2014 at 02:27 PM

Appreciates, you are the rare exception to the rule. Wish there were thousands more like you in the vegetarian community. We'd all get along much better. I've honestly never met someone who professes to be a dedicated vegetarian who DIDN'T make a stink about what's on their plate when it consists of food from an animal source. Maybe I need to get out more, but at least when you attend animal rights or vegetarian gatherings, nobody buy nobody is agnostic about meat-eating. Even your handle, AppreciatesMeat, wont fly. But by all means, don't go changing on us.

NY  |  August, 01, 2014 at 09:28 AM

This reads like the crotchety rantings of a frustrated old man. Ironically, you're far preachier than 99% of the vegans I know, and you're not even trying to do something nice for the world, you're just trying to make a buck. Grow up and find a better use of your time than ranting against vegetarianism on a pork industry trade journal.

Ontario  |  September, 09, 2014 at 02:00 PM

Asking vegans to respect one's decision to eat meat is equal to ask a feminist to respect a sexist, a homosexual to respect homophobes, or ask people of color to respect racists. Difference in opinion does not warrant mutual respect, particularly when the opposite side stands for everything you are against, and also appropriates suffering, defends oppression and encourages continuation of exploitation. "Felix Sampson"


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