64 - Being Vegetarian in Reunion

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I still remember coming home from school one day when I was about twelve, having learned from a friend that eating meat could be a choice and not necessarily an obligation.  I proudly announced to my mum and dad at the dinner table that night that I had become a vegetarian.  Instead of the shocked response that I had expected, I just remember my parents looking at each other before replying “Okay”.  They later told me that it came as no surprise and that they had been expecting that day to arrive.

Growing up it was always a battle getting me to eat the meat that was on my plate, I would find interesting ways to hide it or to spit it in the toilet on one of my many bathroom breaks during a meal.  I didn’t like the idea of eating something that had been living and was now dead and sitting on my plate. As I got older the reasons became more political, but it always remained an ethical choice above all.  I would rather see a fish swimming free, or a cow grazing in a field than on my dinner plate.  I began to research more into the treatment of the animals that were being used to feed us, and was horrified with my discoveries, and that’s not even mentioning the environmental problems that are created when we support industrial farming

Anyway, I am sure everyone has heard these arguments before, and we are all free to make our own decisions, I made mine nineteen years ago, and have never looked back.  Being a vegetarian in Canada was simple, it is a popular lifestyle choice and there are veggie options at pretty much every restaurant. It wasn’t until I started travelling that I began to discover the difficulties in being a vegetarian.  I spent a few years after university living and teaching in Japan, and although it was an amazing experience, it was not easy being a vegetarian.  First of all, every time I mentioned that I didn’t eat meat, I would be asked a million questions “do you eat fish? Do you eat chicken? Do you eat pork?” and the list went on.  But even after responding to all of these questions with a big “NO”, I would often be served a dish with fish flakes all over it, after all if the dish is 95% vegetarian that's good enough right? 

I will never forget the time that I discovered the “vegetarian tofu burger” at Starbucks in Japan, I was so excited to eat it, but the whole time I was eating it there was something about the taste that just wasn’t right.  After eating it a few times, I finally asked for the list of ingredients and sure enough it was 90% tofu and 10% pork... Great.  Needless to say, the easiest way not to have surprise meat in my dish was to stick to cooking for myself.

Now I am living in Reunion and although it is not nearly as difficult as Japan to be a vegetarian, I find myself faced with similar situations.  For example, the look of shock/disappointment when I announce to someone that I don’t eat meat, which is most commonly answered with the question “Then...what do you eat?".  Also eating at a restaurant I am often left with the side dishes as my only option, even finding a salad without meat can be a challenge.  However, I do think that things in Reunion are starting to change, and there are even a couple of restaurants that serve only vegetarian/vegan food! My hope is that all restaurants will start to modify their menus by adding at least two or three meat/fish/seafood free options, so that everyone, not just the vegetarians, can incorporate a meat-free meal every now and then into their lives.

Vocabulary

necessarily - nécessairement
proudly - fièrement
spit - cracher
grazing - pâturage
industrial farms - fermes industrielles


although - bien que
disappointment - déception
side dish - accompagnement
however - néanmoins

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