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Vegetarians Aren’t Mincing Their Words

, , , , | Right | November 10, 2021

I work in the kitchen of a summer camp. Most of our campers are in their early to mid-teens, mostly from affluent families. It is around the time where vegetarianism is beginning to be a fashion statement among Swedish teens. It is also around the time when mass-produced vegetarian alternatives are actually beginning to taste good. The new hot, heavily-marketed, and very expensive vegetarian thing is a fungus-based protein source that can be turned into mince, nuggets, faux-chicken fillets, etc.

I am a vegetarian myself at this point in my life, but as I have a very limited budget, I have taught myself to cook with the traditional vegetarian protein sources like beans, lentils, and other actual vegetables. I splurge for the “New Hot Vegetarian Thing” for myself sometimes on special occasions, but I can’t afford it often, and neither can the camp kitchen. A small bag of this vegetarian “mince” costs more than twice as much as the same amount of minced beef.

It’s taco night at a weekend camp. The head chef usually puts me in charge of the vegetarian alternative since she knows I can handle it, and I spend an hour putting together a lovely spicy lentil stew with fresh vegetables and real spices instead of the pre-fabricated spice mix the meat-eaters got. I am very proud of it. The head chef deems it delicious.

Then come the campers, hungry after a day of activities and looking forward to their taco night. The meat-eaters load up their plates. The vegetarians gather around the vegetarian alternative with a look of absolute horror on their faces. I walk past and ask what’s wrong.

Camper #1: “What’s this?

Me: “It’s a lentil stew with fresh tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, chili, cumin, and a little bit of cilantro.”

Camper #1: “But I’m a vegetarian!”

Me: “Yes, this is the vegetarian alternative. I’m a vegetarian, too, and I made it myself.”

Camper #2: “Where’s the [fake mince] we always get at home?”

Me: “Well, that’s a very expensive product and it’s difficult to get from our vendors, but I can assure you that this stew is vegetarian and none of you have reported any allergies to anything that’s in it. Why don’t you give it a try?”

Camper #1: “But we’re vegetarians. We should get [fake mince].”

Camper #2: “Screw this. They’re clearly too cheap to give us real vegetarian food. I guess we’ll just have to eat the beef, instead.”

And that is how we discovered that we had to cook extra portions of the meat alternative for these young “vegetarians” just in case they didn’t like the vegetarian option. If we didn’t, they called their parents, and the parents called us to complain.

The upside of the story is that I ate extremely well that weekend since I got the vegetarian leftovers!

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