I recently went to dinner with my parents. We would not be seeing each other for some time, so this was some form of doing something together. There were plans to have more of the family there, yet these did not come to be (for some of the reasons, albeit with different basis, I go into here). Aside from the issues implicit in a veg*n eating out with carni’s, there was more to this dinner.
My father is a meat and two veg type: he will not try anything, especially if it is vegetarian (unless he doesn’t know). My mother was vegetarian for a while, yet found it difficult as the ‘women’ to cook different meals… What gets more to the crux of the issue, as thinking on this has elucidated, is their generalised experience of eating out and/or trying new things. Where they grew up, and also the suburbia where they brought me up, and the implicit (if not explicit) racism that directs behaviour, the only non-Australian (whatever Australian means in this context) meals that they would have – alongside almost everyone (white) else was the bastardised food served in pubs.
These ‘restaurants’ still exists as I was to find out, and I have many memories of them from my youth. The local pub would serve food under the banner of Australian and Chinese meals – and the only way I can describe these is as a bastardised form of Chinese. Much of the food is bland – this is in no way a reflection on Chinese cooking, rather reflecting the meat and two veg lifestyle so common amongst aussie ‘blokes’.
So of all the places we could go to eat (and where my parents live has its share of restaurants, albeit not being overly veg*n friendly) we ended up going to a recently renovated and re-opened pub. I preferred not too, yet given my fathers limit to (bastardised) Chinese food, and this being for them, I agreed. Could you imagine my surprise to find not one veg option on menu! I cannot recall the last place I walked into that matched this – and I have walked into many places I would not eat at…
Upon going to the ‘chef’ (and I do use this term loosely) and inquiring, they asked what I wanted – with seemingly little idea. I thought it best to ask what they offered. l the choices: veggies on rice with either a curry or satay sauce. I mistakenly (? – I am not going to find out) chose the curry. This turned out to be a off-the-shelf aussie tradition curry powder, cornflour and water mix sauce.
Whist I stuck it out and ate this, it gave me new insight into carni responses to people who are veg*n (i.e. what do you eat?). Given peoples limited exposure – and in Australia from experience (especially in lower/working class areas) – to more than the bland food they consume, they really have no idea. I know myself, becoming a vegetarian was an amazing journey. I was forced to learn how to cook. I recently read an article someone (misanthropy) posted to a forum (vegan freaks) I frequent detailing someone’s experiences trying to be veg/vegan for a week. One specific comment tends to reinforce my perspectives (albeit on the margins) and those of my parents (and many others I assume). The basis gist of it being that it was not meat that the writer enjoyed it was the vegetables and how the dish was prepared.
It seems to me that many a carni has no idea what veg*n’s eat as both they have never tried anything beyond the basic bland dishes they were exposed (and limited) to as they grew up, and that they will not venture beyond this. For some, it is a class issue in that they cannot afford to eat out and therefore not be exposed to difference (and many more things here).
How do we, as veg*n’s respond to this? It is something I will rethink and ponder on…