Meatless in the metropolis

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By Josh Bailie

Let’s set the record straight: vegetarianism isn’t hard.

Its supposed difficulty is what turns off potential suitors, and provides grounds for self-congratulations from my herbivore brethren.

“I could never give meat up, it tastes too good,” is what I often hear from meat-eaters. Meanwhile, vegetarians never hesitate to tell you how they’ve mastered the art of protein intake.

But, truth be told, those ideas are old fashioned. The meat eater needn’t be intimidated by the lifestyle. The vegetarian can stop being pretentious.

I’ve been a veggie-eater for over two months now. A short time, but trust me, the nostalgia wears off quickly when you work at a European restaurant. I was also one of the least likely candidates to become a vegetarian; I worshipped meat. I did not have an easy time deciding to give it up.

But I’m already over it. When I went to the Canadian Food and Beverage Show, which ran from March 8 to 10 at the Direct Energy Centre (at Exhibition Place), I realized the vegetarian is no longer a charity case. The vegetarian is reaping the benefits of being part of a viable business market: almost every table had veggie products or meatless alternatives, and they were all delicious – I was full from the samples when I got home.

“It’s something we need to pay attention to,” said one of the chefs for Campbell’s Soup, after he told me their carrot soup was made with vegetable stock instead of chicken. “Almost ever soup I make now can be eaten by everyone.”

And that’s great news. Soup is part of a tricky list of foods that use meat products that may not be visible or in the name. Also see: Caesar Salad (anchovies), Jell-O (gelatin), marshmallows (gelatin again) and many dips (chicken stock).

Even at a seafood stand, I had an agressive  supplier read my name tag and say “Josh wants shrimp,” and when I replied “Josh is a vegetarian,” he happily put his company’s new dip on some coriander for me to ty.

“We have something for everybody,” he boasted, handing me the sample.

It happened again when I went to a nacho stand.

The dip had bacon in it, but the sales rep didn’t hesitate to present me with a cheesy alternative.

The attitude of the industry is marvelous, and the selection is rich enough to keep anyone excited. And these are the people who are supplying the restaurants and grocery stores of our city.

Of course, the popularity of meat is huge, and yeah, we all know it’s delicious. But veggie imitation products are getting to the point where they could compete with the real thing in a taste challenge.

It could be like those old Pepsi commercials from way back when, but with more of a “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” slogan aftertaste.

Not to mention, desserts rarely have meat in them. Hell, mince meat pie usually doesn’t have meat in it. Everyone wins!

I ate a sample veggie burger with a meat-loving co-worker, and he told me he wouldn’t know the difference.

He also told me that about five years ago, he would starve at an event like the one we were at.

Times are a changin’. Keep all this in mind if you’re thinking of changing with them.

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