A lot of the time when I reveal to my French friends that I am a vegetarian, a look of horror comes over their faces! ‘What do you eat?’ they ask me. ‘You must be so hungry!’ It has been fascinating, over my year abroad, to experience first-hand the cultural importance of food in different countries and regions. In the United Kingdom, vegetarianism and veganism are becoming very popular diets with around 3 million people in the UK currently vegetarian. The city in which I go to university, Glasgow, is known as the ‘vegan capital’ of the UK. However, here in France, I often struggle to find a meat- and fish-free option on a menu, which can make eating in restaurants a bit of a challenge.
People are often curious about my vegetarianism and I am regularly asked why I choose to restrict my diet in the way I do. There are many reasons why people may choose to not eat meat, fish or animal products (if they are a vegan). Many people give up meat or fish simply because they do not enjoy the taste or texture. On the other hand, others feel that killing animals or causing them distress is morally wrong. Furthermore, many people are vegetarians or vegans as a means of protesting against the wasteful attitude towards food of many Western countries. Others feel that cultivating livestock for meat has a negative impact on the environment or that it is bad for health. In addition, some religious beliefs forbid eating certain meats. Overall, vegetarians and vegans usually have a combination of reasons for choosing their lifestyle.
A common misconception about vegetarian food is that it is not as tasty, nutritious or filling as a meal which involves meat or fish. However, although sometimes vegetarian food requires a little more creativity it is very easy to enjoy a healthy and balanced diet as a vegetarian especially as meat substitutes such as Quorn are becoming so much more easily accessible. Meat-free Mondays is a campaign to encourage every household to eat just one main meal a week which does not contain meat or fish. The campaign aims to lower the carbon footprint of the planet (this is a measure of how much carbon dioxide the planet produces) as well as to improve health. This is a great challenge for anyone who would like to try out some vegetarian cooking and is a wonderful way to contribute to slowing down climate change. I hope you enjoy looking out some amazing vegetarian recipes!