The Meats I Miss

I’ve been a vegetarian for a year and a bit, now, and it’s not significantly easier than it was to begin with. There are lots of meats that I miss. And there are some meats that I expected to miss, that I don’t. Here’s my experience:

This is how my subconscious communicates with me, too. Click for the original comic.

The things I miss the most:

  • Fish finger sandwiches. I know they’re not to everybody’s taste, but these things are just delicious.
  • Chicken in convenient things. What do you mean, I can’t have the dupiaza unless it’s with chicken? You do other dishes with vegetables!
  • Minced beef. Chilli-non-carne and vegetable bolognese aren’t quite the same as their meaty counterparts, especially when I rarely get the opportunity to put mushrooms in instead.
  • Having a wide variety of choice. If I grab myself a lazy pre-made sandwich from the supermarket, my choices are – at best – limited to cheese-and-tomato or egg mayo. There are plenty of great veggie sandwich fillings: like falafel and hummus, roasted peppers, brie and pickle, curried tofu and lettuce, carrot and rocket, or even QuornTM. But I’ve had to get used to many supermarkets giving me a choice of one or two (and this is also the case in a shocking number of restaurants, too).
This is the fourth time I’ve used this photo on my blog, and it isn’t getting any easier. Man, that’s a tasty-looking sandwich.

And things I don’t miss as much as I expected to:

  • Bacon. I’ve had the ocassional craving for crispy, well-done bacon. This is odd, because as a meat-eater I generally preferred my bacon barely cooked at all. But I’ve not missed bacon as much as I’d feared, and that’s great, because JTA‘s still liable to cook it, and the smell might otherwise have been intolerable.
  • Steak. I occasionally feel like I’m missing out, but this is more-often because I’m stuck with a limited choice on a restaurant menu than that the steak in itself looked particularly tasty. I guess I wasn’t as attached to lumps of beef or mutton as I suspected!
  • Cooking with meat. I expected to have some difficulties here: I cook a variety of different things, some of them well. And of those, the vast majority had a meat component. Meat-substitutes aren’t always suitable (even where they are adequate), so I’ve had to discover a stack of new things that I can put together in the kitchen. But this turned out to be simpler than I thought… perhaps in part thanks to the number of vegetarians I’ve lived with or dated over the years.
The webcomic-o-sphere loves bacon. Click for the original comic.

So there we go. There are things I miss more than I thought, and there are things I’ve missed less. And there’s not a particularly strong pattern between them.

If you’ve restricted your diet (e.g. by choosing to be vegetarian), what do you miss? Or if you haven’t, what do you think you’d miss the most? I think we all know how Adam feels, at least…

20 replies to The Meats I Miss

  1. I tried the vegetarianism thing through 2010 – when I moved to Greenwich, I was living with two vegetarians, and out of respect for them (they owned the house) I tried not to bring meat into the house.

    For a while, I ate it out of the house, but when money got tight after I stopped working for ORG, I basically stopped eating out, which meant that if I had food out of the house, it was stuff I’d had the foresight to stuff in my bag as I left.

    I didn’t particularly find I missed specific foods; like you, I thought I’d miss bacon and steak – but cheap bacon is shit, and since that was all I could afford even before I went veggie, it wasn’t a big deal. Steaks I did miss more, but I found ways around it.

    And I discovered new foods that I wouldn’t have picked up before, which I’ve wound up developing recipes to make at home, in a much healthier way than the ready meals I was grabbing because they were cheap/quick/easy.

    The one thing I found that surprised me, sometime in January 2011 when I was out with friends for food and ended up choosing a steak restaurant, was that for a couple of days afterwards, I had massively more energy, and felt generally healthier.

    My GP later pointed out that what I probably missed most, through not eating meat, was iron :p

    • In a similar experience, I did discover a few unusual cravings shortly after I went veggie, which I quickly determined were relating to things that were now “missing” from my diet for which I hadn’t yet found substitutes. Not so seriously as yours, I suspect. I’ve always eaten plenty of pulses so I get enough iron and proteins, and during the short period that I experimented with dropping dairy products from my diet I supplemented my B-vitamin intake, just to be sure, and between those three that’s most of the things that vegetarians have to look out for!

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ironically, I am anaemic before I became a vegetarian, and a combination of eating healthier and being mroe aware of what I ate after becoming a vegetarian meant in the 11+ years I’ve been a vegetarian this hasn’t been a problem.

    What I don’t miss, like you, is bacon. I never have to be honest. I never really have, and over the years these things seem to get much easier, mainly because I started to forget whether I actually liked them in the first place!

    What I do miss, is choice when eating out. Granted I became vegetarian at 13/14 so I hadn’t ever eaten out *much* (for example, I’ve never even tried steak and many other meat dishes). However, I don’t know about Oxford, but in Leicester there are a couple (not many) of excellent vegetarian cafes/restaurants which I have come to love and become a loyal customer of.

    • Yeah: Oxford’s pretty veggie-friendly. We have at least a couple of completely-vegetarian eateries as well as a good number of others that are very vegetarian-friendly, but it’s still been a bit of a surprise to me to see, over the last year, quite how little choice is provided at some establishments.

      The other day, I ate at a pub where a lot of the IT support staff from around Oxford University gather for their Friday lunches. The menu was very short on meat-free foods, and always seems to be getting shorter: the options were soup (as a starter), a vegetable tart, and vegetable sausage and mash. I ordered the sausage and mash, only to be told, a little later on, that their order hadn’t come through. Now this could happen to anybody, with any meal, but in my case it cut my main-course options down by a shocking 50% (whereas has the guy ordering the fish and chips been told that it wasn’t available, his options would have only been reduced by about 3%). The mind boggles.

      Boggle, it goes.

      It’s certainly been a learning experience.

      • I went out for a meal for a friends birthday last week and was appalled at the ONE vegetarian choice (I’m pretty sure there is some kind of requirement in this country to have vegetarian options on every menu, but this was the worst place I had ever been!). All the meat eating people had options of elaborate things like venison, steaks, chicken pies, and there was me with my vegetable tart!

        Ruth – have you ever tried Linda McCartney sausage rolls? I love them. I used to love the one that Y Popty made when I was still in Aber too. As long as you don’t have issues with quorn kind of substances, then they are really nice. I like pastry yum.

        • I don’t think there’s any such requirement – I’ve been to places where there were no veggie options at all (most recently a pub in Norwich). It’s just that in this day and age, there are enough vegetarians around that you’re going to lose business if you don’t offer anything they can eat (because groups that include a vegetarian won’t visit).

          I’ve had linda mccartney sausage rolls. They’re pretty good, but not as good as the real thing imo. I used to have a mild addiction to the popty quorn cornish pasty – those things were so good! Might have to have one (or several) when I’m back in town for JTA’s graduation.

        • I’m not aware of any kind of legal requirement that a vegetarian option is made available: and in the end, that’s probably for the best for everybody!

          There’s just something about pork fat and the way it interacts with pastry that you just don’t get with meat-substitute sausage rolls, I’m afraid! But I’ll give Linda’s sausage rolls a go and see if they’re up to the challenge. Thanks for the tip!

  3. When I was a proper vegetarian, I used to miss sausage rolls. I missed them so badly that sometimes I would secretly eat them, which always left me feeling confused about why I was veggie to begin with.

    Honestly, though, I’ve found your vegetarianism more difficult to cope with than mine; as I mentioned to you recently, it sucks that there are things I know you really like that I can’t get for you. I miss being able to make you suprise bacon sandwiches or fetch you BLTs.

    As long as you don’t give up cake, though, I imagine we’ll get through it :)

    • The interaction layer between pork and pastry is particularly delicious, but it’s not something that I miss more than I expected: it’s something I miss exactly as much as I expected – that is; not insignificantly. Sausage rolls are fantastic!

      I’m aware that you’ve found it a little challenging for me to be veggie: not least because you can see that in my case I’ve been doing it despite enjoying the taste of virtually all of the meat I’ve come across. This, in fact, is another of the things that I’ve found “harder than I expected”: coping with the knock-on effects it has on other people! Ah well…

  4. I miss tucking into something and not worrying about it if I didn’t know exactly what it was, at buffets and the like. The pizza where they hide the meat under the cheese is particularly bad for that!

    When we were in Tokyo I was halfway down what I thought was a bowl of regular miso soup, when Andy discovered a fish skeleton at the bottom of his. And sure enough that’s when I saw the sign that said that today’s soup was ‘Bony Parts’. Bleurgh!

    Fish finger sandwiches on cheap white bread with lots of ketchup are the main thing I’ve missed! Has anyone tried the Quorn fish? I’ve not been brave enough yet.

        • Haven’t tried the Quorn fish yet. Will do on Saturday. I think it’ll be a success if they can get the flaky texture right.

          And Siàn, you do know regular miso soup has fish in it, right?

          • The miso soup I buy here is veggie. Although I know it mostly has fishy stuff in it. I was prepared to accept the fish stock in things when I was in Japan to be honest, just not the ‘bony parts’ so much!
            Let me know how the Quorn Fish turns out!

    • Quorn fish fingers? That’s just weird. In general, I like quorn stuff (apart from the ‘quorn roast’ – too dry and bland), but fish? I think that’d be strange.

      • The “Quorn roast” dryness problem can be solved with the addition of bacon.

        I am probably the only person in the world who has tried this.

  5. I pretty much agree with you Dan on the things I missed in the 11 months I flirted with vegetarianism for. I wish I had the willpower to be full time veggie but since most of the time I am cooking for a veggie, I don’t eat that much meat anyway.

    I have spent the last 10 years with someone who doesn’t eat meat OR cheese, now that makes life difficult! Almost all veggie alternatives seem to be cheese based when you eat out and a lot seem to forget that parmesan is rarely vegetarian. For a long time Lee wouldn’t eat egg either (in it’s eggy form that is) so he has spent a lot of time eating carrots and cake and carrot cake!

    Sian – I found vegetarian food quite difficult to come by in Japan. I went with Lee who won’t eat meat or cheese but is happy with fish/meat stocks, another friend who eats fish but not meat or gelatin and another friend who won’t eat any meat or fish/meat stocks or gelatin etc. Finding places that cater for ‘proper’ vegetarians was a nightmare! One ryokan we looked at stopping in, the owner point blank refused to cater for vegetarians because he felt it was offensive to his cooking not to include meat or fish! Our other two friends also have nut allergies…

    IMO quorn fish fingers aren’t that nice, stick with the quorn chicken if I were you. I hate Linda McCartney veggie food, tastes like cardboard.

    • Thanks for the fake fish review! I can’t say I’m particularly convinced by the idea of them, might give them a miss!

      Sounds like you had fun finding food in Japan bless you! I was prepared to accept hidden fish and meat stock, but still found it difficult to find much to eat. Filled up on plenty of Pocky and cute biscuits though!

  6. This post has been censored at the request of S******. See: all censored posts, all posts censored by request of S******.
    This is the first in a series of four blog posts which ought to have been published during January 2013, but ran late because I didn’t want to publish any of them before the first one.
    2012 was one of the hardest years of my life.
    My retweet of JTA’s sentiments, shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, pretty much covers my feeling of the year, too.
    It was a year of unceasing disasters and difficulties: every time some tragedy had befallen me, my friends, or family, some additional calamity was lined-up to follow in its wake. In an environment like this, even the not-quite-so-sad things – like the death of Puddles, our family dog, in May – were magnified, and the ongoing challenges of the year – like the neverending difficulties with my dad’s estate – became overwhelming.
    My sister Becky with Puddles, both younger and more-foolish than they eventually became. I don’t know why Puddles is wearing a t-shirt.
    The sudden and unexpected death of my dad while training for his Arctic trek, was clearly the event which had the most-significant impact on me. I’ve written about the experience at length, both here on my blog and elsewhere (for example, I made a self-post to Reddit on the day after the accident, urging readers to “call somebody you love today”).
    My dad, climbing Aladdin’s Mirror in the Cairngorms.
    In the week of his death, my sister Becky was suffering from an awful toothache which was stopping her from eating, sleeping, or generally functioning at all (I tried to help her out by offering some oil of cloves (which functions as a dental contact anesthetic), but she must have misunderstood my instruction about applying it to the tooth without swallowing it, because she spent most of that evening throwing up (seriously: don’t ever swallow clove oil).
    My dad’s clothes for his funeral. My sisters and I decided that he ought to be dressed as he would be for a one of his summer hikes, right down to the combination of sandals and socks (the funeral director needed reassurance that yes, he really did routinely wear both at the same time).
    Little did she know, worse was yet to come: when she finally went to the dentist, he botched her operation, leaving her with a jaw infection. The infection spread, causing septicæmia of her face and neck and requiring that she was hospitalised. On the day of our dad’s funeral, she needed to insist that the “stop gap” surgery that she was given was done under local, rather than general, anasthetic, so that she could make it – albeit in a wheelchair and unable to talk – to the funeral.
    Five weeks later, my dad finally reached the North Pole, his ashes carried by another member of his team. At about the same time, Ruth‘s grandmother passed away, swamping the already-emotional Earthlings with yet another sad period. That same month, my friend S****** suffered a serious injury, a traumatic and distressing experience in the middle of a long and difficult period of her life, and an event which caused significant ripples in the lives of her circle of friends.
    The notice of Ruth’s grandmother’s death, as it appeared in the online version of her local newspaper.
    Shortly afterwards, Paul moved out from Earth, in a situation that was anticipated (we’d said when we first moved in together that it would be only for a couple of years, while we all found our feet in Oxford and decided on what we’d be doing next, as far as our living situations were concerned), but still felt occasionally hostile: when Paul left town six months later, his last blog post stated that Oxford could “get lost”, and that he’d “hated hated 90% of the time” he’d lived here. Despite reassurances to the contrary, it was sometimes hard – especially in such a difficult year – to think that this message wasn’t directed at Oxford so much as at his friends there.

    [caption id="attachment_5401" align="aligncenter" width="192"] Learning to walk again.[/caption]

    As the summer came to an end, my workload on my various courses increased dramatically, stretching into my so-called “free time”: this, coupled with delays resulting from all of the illness, injury, and death that had happened already, threw back the release date of Milestone: Jethrik, the latest update to Three Rings. Coupled with the stress of the 10th Birthday Party Conference – which thankfully JTA handled most of – even the rare periods during which nobody was ill or dying were filled with sleepless nights and anxiety. And of course as soon as all of the preparation was out of the way and the conference was done, there were still plenty of long days ahead, catching up on everything that had been temporarily put on the back burner.
    My sister Sarah and I at the christening of a bus named after my dad. Click the picture for the full story.
    When I was first appointed executor of my dad’s estate, I said to myself that I could have the whole thing wrapped-up and resolved within six months… eight on the outside. But as things dragged on – it took almost six months until the investigation was finished and the coroner’s report filed, so we could get a death certificate, for example – they just got more and more bogged-down. Problems with my dad’s will made it harder than expected to get started (for example, I’m the executor and a beneficiary of the will, yet nowhere on it am I directly mentioned by name, address, or relationship… which means that I’ve had to prove that I am the person mentioned in the will every single time I present it, and that’s not always easy!), and further administrative hiccups have slowed down the process every step of the way.
    On the first anniversary of my dad’s death, I cycled up a hill to watch the sunset with a bottle of Guinness and a Mars bar. And sent this Tweet.
    You know what would have made the whole thing easier? A bacon sandwich. And black pudding for breakfast. And a nice big bit of freshly-battered cod. And some roast chicken. I found that 2012 was a harder year than 2011 in which to be a vegetarian. I guess that a nice steak would have taken the edge off: a little bit of a luxury, and some escapism. Instead, I probably drank a lot more than I ought to have. Perhaps we should encourage recovering alcoholic, when things are tough, to hit the sausage instead of the bottle.
    It’s been a while, old friend. A while since I used this delicious-looking photograph in my blog, I mean! This is the sixth time… can you find them all?
    Becky’s health problems weren’t done for the year, after she started getting incredibly intense and painful headaches. At first, I was worried that she was lined-up for a similar diagnosis to mine, of the other year (luckily, I’ve been symptom-free for a year and a quarter now, although medical science is at a loss to explain why), but as I heard more about her symptoms, I became convinced that this wasn’t the case. In any case, she found herself back in the operating room, for the second serious bit of surgery of the year (the operation was a success, thankfully).
    The “F” is for “Fuck me you’re going to put a scalpel WHERE?”
    I had my own surgery, of course, when I had a vasectomy; something I’d been planning for some time. That actually went quite well, at least as far as can be ascertained at this point (part three of that series of posts will be coming soon), but it allows me to segue into the topic of reproduction…
    Because while I’d been waiting to get snipped, Ruth and JTA had managed to conceive. We found this out right as we were running around sorting out the Three Rings Conference, and Ruth took to calling the fœtus “Jethrik”, after the Three Rings milestone. I was even more delighted still when I heard that the expected birth date would be 24th July: Samaritans‘ Annual Awareness Day (“24/7”).
    One of the many pregnancy tests Ruth took, “just to be sure” (in case the last few were false positives). Photo from Ruth’s blog.
    As potential prospective parents, they did everything right. Ruth stuck strictly to a perfectly balanced diet for her stage of pregnancy; they told only a minimum of people, because – as everybody knows – the first trimester’s the riskiest period. I remember when Ruth told her grandfather (who had become very unwell towards the end of 2012 and died early this year: another sad family tragedy) about the pregnancy, that it was only after careful consideration – balancing how nice it would be for him to know that the next generation of his family was on the way before his death – that she went ahead and did so. And as the end of the first trimester, and the end of the year, approached, I genuinely believed that the string of bad luck that had been 2012 was over.
    In Ruth’s blog post, she’s used kittens to make a sad story a little softer, and so I have too.
    But it wasn’t to be. Just as soon as we were looking forward to New Year, and planning to not so much “see in 2013” as to “kick out 2012”, Ruth had a little bleeding. Swiftly followed by abdominal cramps. She spent most of New Year’s Eve at the hospital, where they’d determined that she’d suffered a miscarriage, probably a few weeks earlier.
    Ruth’s written about it. JTA’s written about it, too. And I’d recommend they read their account rather than mine: they’ve both written more, and better, about the subject than I could. But I shan’t pretend that it wasn’t hard: in truth, it was heartbreaking. At the times that I could persuade myself that my grief was “acceptable” (and that I shouldn’t be, say, looking after Ruth), I cried a lot. For me, “Jethrik” represented a happy ending to a miserable year: some good news at last for the people I was closest to. Perhaps, then, I attached too much importance to it, but it seemed inconceivable to me – no pun intended – that for all of the effort they’d put in, that things wouldn’t just go perfectly. For me, it was all connected: Ruth wasn’t pregnant by me, but I still found myself wishing that my dad could have lived to have seen it, and when the pregnancy went wrong, it made me realise how much I’d been pinning on it.
    I don’t have a positive pick-me-up line to put here. But it feels like I should.
    A few days before the miscarriage became apparent, Ruth and her dad survey the back garden of the house he’s rebuilding.
    And so there we were, at the tail of 2012: the year that began awfully, ended awfully, and was pretty awful in the middle. I can’t say there weren’t good bits, but they were somewhat drowned out by all of the shit that happened. Fuck off, 2012.
    Here’s to 2013.
    Edit, 16th March 2013: By Becky’s request, removed an unflattering photo of her and some of the ickier details of her health problems this year.
    Edit, 11th July 2016: At her request, my friend S******’s personal details have been obfuscated in this post so that they are no longer readily available to search engines.
    Edit, 26th September 2016: At her request, my friend S******’s photo was removed from this post, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *