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To Beef or Not To Beef: What Is Wrong With Vegetarians?

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On the House is Eater's column that goes behind the scenes of the restaurant business, written by the owners, operators, chefs and industry insiders who make our favorite establishments tick. Today, one of Vancouver's top bartenders and self-confessed 'meat-pusher' JS Dupuis wades in on the topic of 'Trendy Vegetarians' in meat-centric restaurants and confesses to masquerading as a vegetarian in his university days to hook up with steak-shunning hotties.

2008_02_onethehouseA.jpgI have spent many years behind the wood at various restaurants and bars; always ready to make a cocktail, pour a beer, recommend a wine, take a food order and never listening to your conversation but always hearing it because I am two feet away. I have had to oblige on every single possible request, some valid and some absolutely ludicrous in order to please the guests of the establishment that was employing me at the time.

It seems that lately everybody is a foodie - just for the record, eating out four times a week does not make you a foodie; it simply makes you someone that eats out a lot, but my favourite diner type? "The Vegetarians". These soy-eating, iron-deficient kale-gatherers that come to restaurants and demand vegetarian dishes that are not on the menu, complain that we make our soups and sauces with meat stocks and grill the chef on "why can't he just use vegetable or mushroom stock?" The answer is very simple, people: "Because it tastes better!" When I go eat at a vegetarian restaurant and they won't cook me a steak, you don't hear me bleating "meat discrimination!"

Let me clarify for one moment; there are many types of vegetarians, good ones and bad ones, and then, of course, there are Vegans. Now Vegans get a pass with me, I have a tremendous amount of respect for committed Vegans as their diet is complicated and requires more dedication and thought then any other diet. They're cool. 
There are also the true Vegetarians; those are people that chose this diet as a lifestyle preference, are aware of its limitations and embrace it fully. They're also cool.

Then we have the "Trendy Vegetarians"; that's where I start cringing; they demand, they announce and they show off - almost in a condescending way - that they're better than you because of what they eat.
How can you tell if a "Trendy Vegetarian" is in the room? Don't worry, they'll let you know. They seem to be torn between the desire to visit trendy places and dining out where they can actually eat. So, they will take it upon themselves to let you know what you could do to improve your establishment in order to satisfy what they can or cannot eat (according to something they read somewhere that you never heard of).  

But let's backtrack here and tell you a little bit more about my "foodie" journey and bar adventures. I started working behind the bar over 15 years ago at a University bar. They were simple times, it was a simple job. I went to Agricultural and Environmental University; it was a beautiful blend of farmers and hippies and most of the girls on campus were vegetarians; what a better way to get to know one better than to open with the line: "Oh, you're vegetarian, so am I". It worked! I am now convinced that most vegetarian men became vegetarian or become vegetarian to get the girl; because it works. 

Living on the west coast where meat is not only served but celebrated, I have become a meat pusher; looking down on vegetarians with condescension almost as much as the trendy ones look down on meat eaters. I now realize that I was no better than them. Do I feel bad about telling a few annoying people that the dish they ordered with mushroom stock was actually made with veal stock? Not at all. It's all about reading your customer. I would never do such a thing to a True Vegetarian or a Vegan; it would be wrong and they would know because they REALLY don't eat meat. I'll do it to the 'vegetarians' that do not eat meat but that will try all of their friends meat-based appetizers, "just to taste". And then they have a bacon-infused Caesar (as long as they don't see the bacon). You can't feel bad about pulling a fast one on those people because deep down inside, if they knew they would thank you.
 
There are so many great vegetarian restaurants in Vancouver, why do they keep coming to the non vegetarian ones; I honestly think that they suffer from a common disorder amongst trendy vegetarians called: Meat Envy. Vegans and true vegetarian are immune to this disorder, as they do not crave meat. To those people I say, eat it if you crave it! 

There is a general misconception; I know it's ironic as I have made a huge generalization myself throughout this text, that if you eat meat, you have to eat it all the time. I used to, I don't anymore. The kicker of this story is that my wife is now vegetarian. What a shocker. I actually thought of becoming one myself, after all these years of making fun of vegetarians and pushing meat, my own wife turned on me and meat, some people might call it poetic justice. Turns out, she only turned on meat not on me, and since I already got the girl, I don't need to do it. I did a little experiment where I tried to be totally vegetarian and see how long I would last; it lasted seven days. That's not much you say but to those who know me, that's six and a half more days that I expected, and I have to say; it wasn't easy but it also wasn't that hard either, it just wasn't for me. 
I do most of the cooking at home so now I cook vegetarian. We had some veggie hot dogs the other day and as my wife and I gazed into each others eyes and laughed at the fact that we were eating a veggie-dog, we realized that the only thing reminiscent of a hot dog in what we were eating was actually the shape of it, it did not taste like a hot-dog at all, that's not the point, it tasted like a veggie-dog and by the way, it was delicious.

So the moral of the story to me is this; eat whatever you want but enjoy whatever you eat, be true to yourself. I will no longer taunt vegetarians because they're vegetarians. At least not as much. Consider me reformed, but if you see me rambling about the virtues of vegetarianism, please shove a burger in my mouth, I'm probably lacking protein.
· Two Rivers Meats [Butcher of
Choice]
· @drinkwithJS [Twitter]
[Photo via Shutterstock]