I am still very much a newbie-vegetarian. But, I’m doing my research and learning a lot and doing my best to adhere to the values that led me to make this decision in the first place. So, I read blogs like No Meat Athlete and browse through a friend’s copies of Vegetarian Times. I thought I was doing pretty well. I have taken all meat out of my diet. I’ve been cooking healthy meals and Tim hasn’t even missed the meat. In fact, he recently went 8 days without eating any meat and said that it was no big deal at all. I’ve been making his sandwiches with Tofurky and he likes it. I never thought that he would be so supportive and I am thrilled!
So, imagine my dismay when I read No Meat Athlete’s post titled “How Many are You Eating? 8 Common Foods you Thought were Vegetarian.” Here I learn that cheese (my beloved cheese) isn’t vegetarian. 😦 And I’m not talking vegan. Vegans will avoid all animal products (milk, eggs, honey, etc.). I learned that cheese is made with an enzyme called rennet. NMA put it very well: “rennet, for the unenlightened, is a nice way of saying ‘enzymes from animals’ stomachs.’ And guess how they get those enzymes out?”
Well, this conflicts with my reasons for being a vegetarian. I was devastated to read this. I was about to cry over my string cheese, when my lovely (and veteran veggie) sis-in-law came to my rescue with a great website outlining a wide variety of vegetarian-friendly cheese makers. I’m thrilled to learn that there are even some local cheese factories making rennet-free cheese. So, I can have my cheese and support the local farmer, too!! This was the best news I could have hoped for.
The next product to burst my vegetarian bubble was Worcestershire Sauce. I didn’t know that it was made with anchovies. I was absolutely clueless. Annie’s Naturals makes a vegan worcestershire sauce. I think I’ll save my money on this one and just use soy sauce and balsamic vinaigrette instead.
Okay, this next one really got to me. Tortillas! Many are still made with lard (i.e. animal fat). Seriously?!? I didn’t think anything was made with lard anymore. How am I supposed to eat at a Mexican restaurant. Often times the only ‘safe’ vegetarian option is the veggie fajita. (I don’t like refried beans…and you can’t be sure that they don’t have animal products in them anyway.) Now I’m supposed to eat my veggie fajita without the tortilla!?! Crazy!
This last one is probably going to be the hardest. Gelatin.
Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen, a natural protein present in the tendons, ligaments, and tissues of mammals. It is produced by boiling the connective tissues, bones and skins of animals, usually cows and pigs.
Gelatin is in a ton of food items. Everything from powdered milk, marshmallows, jell-o, jelly. It is also used as a stabilizer, thickener, or texturizer in foods such as ice cream, jams, yogurt, cream cheese, and margarine. (source) I looked at my Greek yogurt and discovered that it is gelatin-free (yeah!!), but the margarine we use is not (boo!–time to switch brands).