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National Vegetarian week





19th-25th May  2014


Even if you're not a vegetarian, you probably already eat more vegetarian dishes than you think: things like Rice stuffed peppers, cauliflower cheese, omelettes and frittatas, lots of pasta dishes, certain quiches and soufflés not to mention many MANY homemade cakes, breads and desserts. There are loads of vegetarian recipes you could try and you wouldn’t even miss the meat or fish.  But what is a vegetarian?

This may seem like a silly question, but it the answer may surprise you. I used to think a Vegetarian just didn't eat meat or fish - but that's not necessarily true.

According to the International Vegetarian Union (IVU), for membership purposes "vegetarianism includes veganism and is defined as the practice of not eating meat, poultry or fish or their by-products, with or without the use of dairy products or eggs. " Vegetarianism is often further broken down into OVO-LACTO- eats eggs and dairy products, and LACTO eats dairy products but no eggs. And then there's cheese - another mine field. They can be made with or without rennet which is derived from the stomach tissue of a slaughtered calf.  Ehe same goes for some wines and "real" ales which have been fined with isinglass (very fishy). Another "pitfall" ingredient is Worcestershire sauce - traditionally it contains anchovies, although there are now some which are made without.

Gelatine is also obtained from animal sources and although you may think it's easy to avoid, it's worth noting that it is contained in many pre-manufactured foods such as some low fat yoghurts, some tinned orange drinks (which, incidentally doesn't always appear on the ingredients list) and some margarines which can also contain fish oils.

So, what's the difference between vegetarians and vegans? As far as we are concerned, it's HUGE. Vegans exclude all animal flesh including meat, poultry, fish and seafood plus animal products such as eggs, dairy produce and even honey. They also avoid items which may have animal products used in the manufacture such as certain wines, beers and cereals. When making wines/beers they sometimes use Albumin (found in egg whites) or isinglass (obtained from the swim bladders of fish) to clarify or "fine" it. That's why you find Vegan wine on sale. As for cereals, some have Vitamin D3 added which apparently is of animal origin.

Whilst researching,  I came across some other terms used, a couple of which I'd never heard of and one which, I must admit, made me smile. Which one? I'll leave it to you to guess.

Pescetarian: Similar to a vegetarian, but also consumes fish.

Fruitarian: Same as Vegan, but only eats foods that don't kill the plant (apples can be picked without killing the plant - carrots can't). wow!

Herbivore: Mainly eats grass or plants. Not necessarily a Vegetarian.

Plant-Eater: Mainly eats plants. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

Pseudo-Vegetarian: Claims to be vegetarian, but isn't. Often used by vegetarians to describe semi-vegetarians, and Pescetarians.

Non meat-Eater: Does not eat meat. Most definitions do not consider fish, fowl or seafood to be meat. Animal fats and oils, bonemeal and skin are not considered meat.

The stuff above probably won't cause too many moral dilemmas with "non meat eaters", but for a true vegetarian they matter and according to statistics 5% of people living in the UK are vegetarians: that's about 3 million (source :Vegetarian Society UK),  so it's likely that you know at least one.


Be all that as it may, for the rest of us non-veggies, cooking vegetarian needn't be too taxing on the ingredient cupboard and can add a wonderful dimension to our diets. Have a'll probably be pleasantly surprised. 


There are 100's of vegetarian and vegan recipes on this site in the special categories e.g. Vegetarian Hors d'oeuvre, Soups and Main Courses and throughout the site, or you can use the search form  to find them.


Happy Cooking!


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