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To label is human, to shut up, divine. January 28, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I just read a blog post about “vaguetarians,” and of course it set me off. Maybe it’s because I had to work so hard and give up so much to become a vegetarian. But maybe it’s because I just don’t see the point.

We already have vegetarians, folks who don’t eat meat, fish, fertile eggs, gelatin, lard, caviar, etc. Then we have vegans, folks who don’t eat any of the above or any type of dairy product, egg, yeast bread, or honey. At the farthest extreme, there are fruitarians, who only eat fruits, berries, grains, rose hips, and other produce that would naturally fall off the plant, as opposed to killing plants in order to harvest them. (A fruitarian would eat squash or rice, but not lettuce or onions.) There are also locavores, folks who make a great effort to eat food produced locally, usually on small family-owned organic farms. (You can cross over here and be a vegetarian, vegan, or fruitarian locavore, if you enjoy amassing as many labels as possible.)

Then there are the folks who call themselves vegetarians but eat fish. Last time I checked, fish were in fact animals. Why these people would call themselves vegetarians is beyond me. I myself refer to them as “piscatarians” (as in Pisces).

But beyond the piscatarians, there’s a wide world of people screaming to be labeled. “I’m a vegetarian because I eat mostly vegetables.” (This is an actual quote.) “I’m a vegetarian; I only eat chicken and fish, no red meat or pork.” “I’m a vegetarian except when I eat hot dogs and hamburgers.” I’ve heard all these, many times over. This strikes me as akin to saying “I’m a teetotaler, except I drink beer and the occasional Scotch.” And now we have flexitarians, who’re vegetarians except when they’re not, and vaguetarians, who would sorta kinda like to be vegetarian, or at least have other people think of them in those terms, no matter what they’re eating.

By the time we reach this point, I have to ask, why?!! Why seek out a label for yourself when you basically eat anything and/or everything, just at graduated intervals? Why not skip the label and just eat?

Simply have to have that label? Not a problem, we already have one for you. It’s the oldest and most inherent label around, the eating style that enabled us (and monkeys, parrots, pigs, chickens, dogs, bears, and many others) to survive and thrive, wherever we found ourselves. It’s been raised to an art form by celebrity chefs, and celebrated in local cuisines the world over. So if you must have a label, wear it with pride. When someone asks, “Are you a vegetarian/vegan/locavore/whatever?”, smile and say, “No, I’m an omnivore. I enjoy it all.”

                  ‘Til next time,




1. Dr. Huma Ibrahim - January 28, 2010

I concur!

Our mania for labeling is just crazy!

2. mr_subjunctive - January 28, 2010

We’ve known since the Nirvana album Nevermind that “it’s okay to eat fish, ’cause they don’t have any feelings.” (“Something in the Way”)

And, if it can be eaten and it doesn’t have feelings, then it’s a plant. Ergo, vegetarians who eat fish. It’s all really very logical, once you get over that first (admittedly large) hurdle of accepting Kurt Cobain as an expert on ichthyological neuroscience.

Ha! That’s classic, Mr. S.! I’ll have to keep it in mind…

3. Becca - January 28, 2010

True, true, true. Folks always think James and I are vegetarians when the sad truth is that while we don’t really eat meat at home–we will certainly NOT turn it down if someone else is offering it to us! James labels us “freegans” in that sense. There’s another label for you. Or, we could be opportunistic omnivores. Yet another label. 🙂

LOVE “freegans,” Becca!!!

4. jodi (bloomingwriter) - January 28, 2010

Sigh. I’m a human. I eat food. All kinds, meats, dairy, grains, fish, vegetables, fruits. Preferably fresh, local where possibly. Preferably not too much. What is it with everyone wanting to be labelled? I think of Timothy Findley, the amazing author I wrote my MA thesis on, who said one time that it’s appalling to be labelled. He didn’t want to be known as a Canadian writer who was gay. He wanted to be known as a writer, period. He was proud of being Canadian and never hid his relationship with his partner of 40 years, but he was more interested in caring for all creatures than for labelling people. I still love him.

I couldn’t agree more, Jodi. Labelling separates us—“I’m this and you’re not,” “I’m this and you’re that,” or, worse still, “You’re that.” Far better to try to find our commonalities than crow about our differences!

5. Daphne - January 28, 2010

I’ve never heard of fruitarian before. And I like the name piscatarians. I have a friend who is one of those (when he called himself a vegetarian then ate fish I was quite confused at first). I find the labels are good when you have to cook for someone. Then you know just what you can make them and still feed them well. I go on a group camping trip every year with a large group of friends (about 30). The list of what people can and can’t eat is astounding (we keep a separate web page for people to update over the years).

You missed one label that I know of though. Kosher. Now I’ve only got semi-Kosher friends so they can eat at my house (they don’t require separate dishes for meat and milk, but otherwise they follow the rules).

Mercy, Daphne, I guess 30 people does provide plenty of play for food specialization, especially when you add in food allergies! You’re quite right about Kosher, and I didn’t really delve into organic-only, either. Then there are folks like me who are texture-sensitive and simply can’t bear the texture of specific foods (in my case, avocadoes, calves’ liver, scrambled eggs, and garden peas come to mind, but there are many others), not to mention people who can’t stand foods that are bitter or foods that are sour. And let’s not even start on salty and hot! The list is endless. I guess it’s a miracle we can eat together at all!

6. Dave@TheHomeGarden - January 28, 2010

I definitely fall into the omnivores but to each his (or her) own. I don’t really label myself in any way regarding food but I do take pride in growing what I can. I think that’s why people label themselves, they like to define what makes them different because that makes them special and unique.

I’m sorry you don’t like avocados! They have to be one of my favorite foods! I love guacamole!

I know, Dave (re: avocadoes)! People are always horrified that a vegetarian wouldn’t love such a perfect food. But I just can’t. I tell you, I’m just grateful that I finally was able to learn to enjoy hard-fried eggs, omelettes, and sliced hard-boiled eggs on salads. (I’ve always had a fondness for devilled eggs.) Otherwise, I’d be missing out on the two perfect vegetarian foods!!! (Still can’t deal with scrambled or runny eggs, eeewww.) Check out the checkout aisle or a nearby bookstore (Davis Kidd?!) and see if you can find this Mexican cooking magazine issue, Dave, it has some really great guacamole recipes (plus lots of other great recipes for all kinds of Mexican food)!

Becca - January 29, 2010

Oh my, that is sad that you don’t like avocados. We eat them right out of their “shell” here. I adore everything about them: their butteriness, their soft green flesh, their high fat content…mmm

It’s pitiful, Becca, but I couldn’t even tell you what an avocado tastes like. That slippery-slimy texture just does me in. My loss, I know—but hey, more avocadoes for everyone else!

Becca - January 29, 2010

You have to think of it as “buttery”–and I’m pretty sure you’re a butter-loving gal! If I thought of it as slippery-slimy I wouldn’t be able to touch it either! 🙂

Yup, butter and salt is what I’m all about! But somehow I can’t transfer the thought of butter to an avocado. Butter, after all, is neither slippery nor slimy. Oh, dear, for some reason now I’m thinking about popcorn…

7. Elephant's Eye - January 30, 2010

I’ll eat eggs, so long as they don’t TASTE of egg. Dry scrambled, hard boiled, or combined with something so my husband no longer recognises his beloved eggs! And I admit, we used to be vegetarians who ate fish. Sometimes. Until in Switzerland I saw restaurants with tanks, and swimming trout – as in – I’ll have That One for lunch. No more fish for us, thank you.

I know just what you mean, Diana! I can’t bear to go into restaurants with live lobsters in tanks. “Kill that one for me, please!” Um, no.

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