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Chicken stock + vegetable soup =/= "vegetarian"?

This thread about how Aida (of "Ask Aida") made a vegetarian dish using chicken stock, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6151... , got me thinking.

What does "vegetarian" mean to you?

Not talking about Vegan, per se.

Some folks in that thread above suggest that there's no way eating chicken would constitute "vegetarian". Well, that's probably true, but is chicken STOCK really eating chicken?

That's what Aida was using for her vegetarian soup -- chicken stock, not chunks of chicken meat.

Seriously, if vegetarians can stomach things like cheese and butter, what's wrong with chicken stock (or broth)? You're really not eating chicken when consuming stock, but rather only the essence, or flavor, of the chicken.


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  1. Vegetarian definitely does not include eating chicken stock, unless you have found a way to make it without killing the chicken.

    Lacto-ovo vegetarians at least the ones that are doing it for ethical reasons, still eat dairy and eggs because that does not require killing the animal.

    1. "Seriously, if vegetarians can stomach things like cheese and butter, what's wrong with chicken stock (or broth)? You're really not eating chicken when consuming stock, but rather only the essence, or flavor, of the chicken."
      cows (or goats, or sheep, or yaks...) may *produce* the milk used to make cheese and butter, but they're not killed in the process. that "essence, or flavor" of the chicken comes from a dead chicken that someone boiled in a pot. big difference.

      when i was a vegetarian, if i saw a vegetable/supposedly vegetarian soup on the menu, i ALWAYS asked if it was made with vegetarian broth or stock before i ordered it (or, more often, *didn't* order it because it usually turned out that it was, in fact, made with chicken or beef stock).

      19 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        "cows (or goats, or sheep, or yaks...) may *produce* the milk used to make cheese and butter, but they're not killed in the process. that "essence, or flavor" of the chicken comes from a dead chicken that someone boiled in a pot. big difference."


        You've got all different type of vegetarians. Some won't eat eggs, some won't eat cheese that's made with rennet, some won't eat cheese period, and there are those who happily eat cheese and eggs. And then you've got the vegans who definitely won't eat cheese, milk and eggs as well as other items like honey. But I've never met a vegetarian (and I'm totally excluding those self-proclaimed "vegetarians" who eat chicken and seafood but no red meat) who would consume chicken stock.

        If Aida just called it just a plain vegetable soup, I wouldn't have a problem with it. There are recipes in Hazan's book for "vegetable soups" that call for meat broth. But if she did in fact call it a vegetarian soup (and I haven't seen the show so I don't know what happened), she did commit a faux-pas.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          Re: vegetarians who eat cheese with rennet

          My experience has been that once you explain what rennet is, and that a baby animal has to be killed to obtain rennet, a lot of these vegetarians will seriously reconsider eating cheese. I think a lot of people don't really understand the cheese-making process, and they are horrified when you explain rennet to them.

          And yes, chicken broth: big no-no in the vegetarian world. Although I am imagining a chicken day spa where multiple chickens are lightly scalded in tepid water to extract a touch of that chicken-y goodness, then sent along their way. Not sure that this concept would be acceptable to a vegetarian though.

          1. re: moh

            " Although I am imagining a chicken day spa where multiple chickens are lightly scalded in tepid water to extract a touch of that chicken-y goodness, then sent along their way."


            LOL. Maybe just a few minutes in the sauna would do the trick ...

            1. re: moh

              A a near vegetarian, I eat laid eggs and dairy but haven't been able to give up the cheese. And I do know where it comes from (geez, I even gave up Guiness because of the islinglass). But I guess I'll only go so far for the animals, the planet, and my health - but do so in moderation.

              1. re: alwayscooking

                Yeah, giving up guinness was a sad day for me.... that and the smithwicks. Debra is a sad girl now.

                  1. re: alwayscooking

                    Oh. No. I'm sure I'm going to regret asking this, but can someone explain the Guiness/Smithwick's issue?

                    1. re: Cebca

                      The issue is isinglass, which is a substance derived from the swim bladders of fish, mainly sturgeon and cod. It's used to speed up the clarification process during the production of Guinness, Smithwick, and many other cask-finished ales (as well as some wines). Excessive detail can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isinglass

                      A purist vegetarian won't drink them because of that.

                    2. re: alwayscooking

                      Hey Alwayscooking! There's a reason I said "seriously reconsider eating cheese". Cheese is one of my favorite foods, and if I did go vegetarian, I would certainly have great difficulty giving up cheese. I must admit, I have not yet found a rennet-free cheese that matches the glory of some of my favorite traditional cheeses.

                      We have to do what we can. The point is you have at least thought about the issues, and are trying to do what you think is right, within moderation. All good!

                    3. re: moh

                      True. I don't think that some vegetarians realize how cheese is made. I'll bet that some think the process of turning milk into cheese is similar as to making butter when it's totally different.

                      About the chicken day spa -- ha ha. Wouldn't that be an ideal situation? We get the yummy chicken broth and the chickens get a day of pampering!

                      1. re: moh

                        "My experience has been that once you explain what rennet is, and that a baby animal has to be killed to obtain rennet, a lot of these vegetarians will seriously reconsider eating cheese. I think a lot of people don't really understand the cheese-making process, and they are horrified when you explain rennet to them."
                        well, vegetarians who still want to eat cheese have plenty of options that are made without rennet, or are made with vegetarian rennet substitutes...but the "good" stuff still isn't vegetarian-friendly ;)

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          most traditional, old-world cheese contains rennet from the stomachs of calves, harvested after the animal is killed.

                          however a whole lot of american-made cheeses have bacterial rennet instead--even artisan cheeses, and they are often labeled "suitable for vegetarians." a good cheesemonger can point you in the right direction. if it's an important issue for you, make a special request, because often cheese shops will order cheese based on pricing, and won't duplicate types of cheese unless they realize there is a customer niche/preference for vegetarian cheese. many certified organic, nationally distributed cheeses are truly vegetarian (example organic valley). i can get a lot of excellent vegetarian versions of european cheeses, made with grass-fed cow's, goat's, and sheep's milk, here in the midwest/dairyland, but i'm not sure how these products are distributed nationally or what the demand for them is.

                          oh, and calling any product that contains chicken stock "vegetarian" has been cringe-worthy for what-- 50, 60, 70 years? there is no excuse.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            while wikipedia may not always be the best source of information, apparently more than 80% (as much as 90%) of US cheeses are made with synthetic rennet. Probably not the "finer" cheeses.

                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I believe that the majority of British cheeses, such as Cotswold, Cheddars, Stilton, are now produced using rennet derived from thistles. More cheesemakers all over the EU are following this practice as well.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              There are many amazing cheeses made without animal rennet. Here's one among many sites for cheeses in general:


                              And those interested may want to visit:


                              1. re: Richard 16

                                But most add back the casein to make it melt...

                            2. re: moh

                              Re: the "chicken day spa where multiple chickens are lightly scalded in tepid water to extract a touch of that chicken-y goodness":

                              As someone who grew up raising chickens for meat and eggs, I can tell you unequivocally that there's nothing good about the water that's left after lightly scalding a chicken. It's a step that's useful in removing the feathers, and makes a smell you never forget.

                              As to the question of the distinction between stock on the one hand and dairy on the other, I like the traditional Hindu explanation: the milk is a gift from the cow. So it is appropriate to consume dairy products as long as they are accepted in the proper spirit.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                Vegetarian Thai dishes pose a similar problem as most include fish paste in the sauces.

                        2. I didn't catch the show, but was it possible that the stock was made with the chickenless bouillion options that are out there ? That's what I use for my soup bases. I also have vegetarian oyster sauce, so there are "fish" sauces out there.

                          I agree that some restaurants have an odd idea of what "vegetarian" means...such as the soups you've referenced, bacon bits (just cuz they're little doesn't make them meat-free)..I usually ask, or avoid.

                          Then again, i'm the kind of vegetarian who, for the sake of one or two fantastic meals i've had in the past couple of years, did not query the kitchen as to what kind of broth was in the soup. And I don't wanna know now ! ;)

                          Kind of like those credit card bills that i'm sometimes afraid to open...."what the eyes don't see, the heart don't feel!" ;D

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: im_nomad

                            actually, bac-o's are vegan!!! weirder things. . . :)

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              i don't mean bac-o's and their like....I mean asking a server or what not whether the bacon on thesalads etc on the menu, real bacon or soy, and being told, oh they're "bacon bits", not meat. Actually had a server argue up and down that what was on my salad was not meat, when it was greasy, and stringy, and yes, very much meat.

                          2. Unless chicken has been reclassified as a vegetable, it should not be in a vegetarian dish, just as fish should not.

                            Bottom line: if it's made with meat ingredients, it ain't vegetarian. Period.

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: The Professor

                              "Bottom line: if it's made with meat ingredients, it ain't vegetarian. Period."


                              Does that include dairy products like ice cream? Or baked goods with butter?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Cream and butter are not meat. Flesh and bone are meat.

                                Are you just playing Devil's advocate, or do you really not see the difference between killing an animal and not killing?

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  Neither. I'm just trying to ferret out what people mean,e xactly, when they say vegetarian.

                                  I take it from your response that your definition of vegetarian has an ethical side to it -- i.e., "don't eat meat because it is wrong to kill animals".

                                  That's fine.

                                  But I also think that there are those whose definition of "vegetarian" is not so ethically inclined. For those people, being a vegetarian simply means not eating meat -- regardless of whether it is right or wrong to kill an animal.

                                  In this camp would be people who are vegetarians for health reasons, for example, and simply don't want to eat meat because of the saturated fats or the cholesterol, but would have no qualms eating something made with milk, butter, cheese, or chicken stock.

                                  Not making any value judgments, just saying that there are different, and maybe even divergent, views on what being a vegetarian means.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    But someone who eats chicken stock ISN'T a vegetarian.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      You know that is an interesting line of thought. Is it humane and ethical by vegetarian standards to rob a chicken of her potentials? To continually subject a cow or goat to mechanical milking? Isn;t there some objection to the treatment of those animals? Would that fall under the category of not eaating something for ethical reasons.

                                      Would those people only eat soy cheese and milk?

                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                        I suppose that's where vegans come in.

                                        Suffice to say, I think everyone has their own definition of "vegetarian" -- and no one is necessarily more right or wrong than the other person calling themselves "vegetarian".

                                        With that in mind, I don't think we should be so quick to judge Aida a doofus for using chicken stock in a "vegetarian soup".

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          A chicken has to die to be made into chicken stock. The killing of animals to be consumed by humans is everything vegetarianism is NOT.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            But someone who says they are a vegetarian and knowingly eats chicken or chicken stock, ISN'T a vegetarian. Just because they say they are doesn't make it true. And a vegetarian soup, by definition, can't have chicken stock in it.

                                            1. re: Sooeygun

                                              True. Saying "I don't eat meat" is not the same as saying "I'm a vegetarian." Not eating meat is a dietary decision; being a vegetarian is a ideology, or at the very least, an identity. Food can be "meatless" without being vegetarian (as in the chicken stock example).

                                              1. re: Sooeygun

                                                Sooeygun -
                                                I have to agree with you. Vegetarian starts with not eating meat, then can only get more strict. It may be convenient for some people to make their own definition to explain their particular diet, but I don't think that changes the meaning of the word. Clearly, it causes a lot of confusion.

                                                You can be vegetarian for moral, health, environmental, or any other reasons, but chicken is still not a vegetable. Unless you know the specific peculiarities of the person you are cooking for, it is presumptuous and misinformed to put chicken stock in a 'vegetarian' soup.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                "With that in mind, I don't think we should be so quick to judge Aida a doofus for using chicken stock in a "vegetarian soup"."

                                                I must admit I am less kind than you, Ipsedixit. I do judge her to be a doofus. Her job is to give appropriate reliable information. People are, after all, "asking" her. Although there are certainly vegetarians who would be ok with eating chicken stock, there are many others who would be upset to be served chicken broth in their meal, because an animal was killed to make that product. For her to call it a vegetarian soup, and then to include chicken broth strikes me as misinformed and irresponsible. I am not a vegetarian, but have friends who are varying degrees of vegetarian. I would never dream of serving them something with chicken broth unless I knew they were ok with it. I have this horrible image of some poor mother looking for recipes for their newly vegetarian child thinking "ok, vegetarian soup - this looks good..."

                                                I am also reminded of the line from "My big fat greek wedding":
                                                "She's vegetarian"
                                                "Ok, I make lamb"

                                                1. re: moh

                                                  I am also reminded of the line from "My big fat greek wedding":
                                                  "She's vegetarian"
                                                  "Ok, I make lamb"



                                                  1. re: moh

                                                    the dude in that movie was the veg.

                                                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                      You are completely right! Been a while since I saw that movie. What does it say that I can't remember the plot, but can remember the food jokes???? And I'm even from WInnipeg!!!

                                                    2. re: moh

                                                      That actually happened to me. Many years ago (1975, to be precise) I was in the toy business in a small way in Germany, and my partners and I went to the annual toy fair in Nuremburg. In the booth next to ours was a genuine white-bearded Black Forest woodcarver and his dumpling of a wife, showing his wares. We got talking, and they invited us to dinner at their nearby home. We were delighted to accept, but mentioned several times that two of our number were vegetarian.

                                                      When we got there, in honor of the vegetarians they cooked a big omelet - loaded with sliced weisswurst! That was as vegetarian as they were capable of comprehending. My veggie friends thanked them and carefully ate around the meat.

                                                    3. re: ipsedixit

                                                      respectfully disagree with you here, ipse.

                                                      << I don't think we should be so quick to judge Aida a doofus for using chicken stock in a "vegetarian soup".>>

                                                      anyone who calls a soup made with chicken stock "vegetarian" is either a doofus, or a douchebag, or or a flat out liar, or all three, imho.

                                              3. re: ipsedixit

                                                My father once got into pretty hot water for serving ice cream to children from his religious order because it had eggs in it. My argument has always been that the whites of unfertilized eggs should be treated like milk, since there is no possible way it can become a chicken. But, no cakes that contain eggs or cheese with rennet. Fresh pasta or noodles are forbidden and yogurt with any kind of gelatin. Butter isn't really an issue because milk is fine.

                                            2. and gelatin(e) is made from dead animals too, unless specifically suitable for vegetarians or the kosher kind in jello and puddings and many yoghurts too.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: smartie

                                                Actually, kosher does not imply vegetarian. Kosher gelatin can be made of fish or skin and bones of cattle. As long as no flesh (i.e. muscle tissue) is involved, it is still considered kosher, assuming of course the animal was slaughtered according to kosher butchering protocols.

                                              2. Rather than hijacking this thread, I started a new one about a specific issue: whether biodynamically-grown fruits and vegetables are vegetarian.


                                                1. Is there such a thing as a vegetarian who eats fish? My neighbor eats cheese, eggs and fish. She insists that is still vegetarian because she does not eat chicken, pig, cow or lamb - land animals.

                                                  I wonder if she would object to chicken stock. I do not think she avoids land meats for ethical reasons if that matters in the reasoning. Is there reasoning there?

                                                  24 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                    It's called pescetarianism, people who are vegetarian but eat fish, and it is a gray area. Most pescetarians will call themself vegetarian because it is a more known and accepted term and gets across to people the point that they don't eat (most kinds) of meat. I was a pescetarian for many years for health and environmental reasons, less because of animal ethics, so I cannot speak to the validity of that diet in the ethical arena. And yes, I know fishing and fish farming has huge environmental impacts, but I stick to the types that I know can be/are responsibly raised.

                                                    1. re: Cebca

                                                      Exactly. My sister used to be a pescatarian for much the same reasons you list, but it was usually easier for her to say she was a vegetarian than to explain that she ate fish but not birds or mammals.

                                                      I think these days "vegetarian" is assumed to mean lacto-ovovegetarian, because if someone means no animal products at all they'll use the more specific term "vegan."

                                                      1. re: Cebca

                                                        with regards to the ethical area of pescetarians... the most common ethical ideology there is that because fish lack nervous systems they do not feel pain. so as we are not causing them pain it is still ok to take their lives.

                                                        this all reminds me of the simpsons episode where lisa becomes a vegetarian... there are so many layers to it all as people adjust it to their own ethical/health/environmental/preferences/etc leanings that it can get pretty ridiculous. anyone a 7th level vegan? nothing that casts a shadow ;)

                                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                          I used to have a guy working for me who was an ethical vegetarian - not only no meat, but no leather shoes, belts, etc. He told me that when he first came to the conclusion that he had to live his life this way, in his teens, it struck him so powerfully that he seriously felt he had to find a way to live on sunlight and water alone. Fortunately for him he didn't stay that extreme for very long.

                                                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                            Are there really people who think that fish do not have a nervous system? Is this the state of science education? I'm so out of touch.

                                                            1. re: phofiend

                                                              this is what i've been told by a few fish eating vegetarians who stand by ethics/morals as their reasoning for their diet. the main idea being just that they won't eat anything that feels pain.

                                                              perhaps the correct physiology terms got lost down the line but that was the wording i heard. wiki, oh how one probably should not quote from it often, does seem to have mention of studies that show fish lack the neocortex (i believe) that would allow them to feel pain though they may appear react as such.

                                                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                Until fish can talk, I doubt we'll ever know if they feel pain.

                                                                That's just a lame excuse from fish eaters who think it's cool to have a label, but don't want to give up eating fish. If labels are so important to them, I've got one: omnivores, just like almost everybody else on the planet.

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                  It's pretty well settled that fish feel pain. See, eg, Sneddon, et al., Do fish have nociceptors? Evidence for the evolution of a vertebrate sensory system (2003) Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, Series B 270:1115-1121.

                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    Thanks for the link. I like sourced material and will keep this handy for the fish-eating "vegetarians" I know.

                                                                2. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                  I've caught my fair share of fish over time, both for food and as a part of scientific research. Based on their reaction to the process, I'm pretty sure they feel pain, or at least discomfort. It may not be pain in the way we think of it, but it is not a stress free experience for the fish. People who do not eat mammals/birds for ethical reasons but are ok eating fish because fish "don't feel pain" are kidding themselves.

                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                    I agree -- saying fish don't have nervous systems is stretching it.

                                                                    My ethical stance is that I have no qualms about eating something that would eat me, if it had the chance/capability. It's a creature eat creature world out there.

                                                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                                                      Self-delusion is extremely helpful for many omnivores. Steaks come on little plastic-wrapped Styrofoam trays that are as far removed as possible from the steer that was slaughtered to produce that steak.

                                                                      Being a conscientious omnivore is challenging. Self-delusion is far easier than thinking.

                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                        i know my meat comes from animals. and those animals feel pain. no delusion. just delicious steak.

                                                                      2. re: mpjmph

                                                                        i don't disagree. it's a poor excuse but it is the one that i've often heard to explain pescatarianism and hadn't been brought up in this thread yet.

                                                                        most people are particular about their eating because of selective pieces of information or cuteness quotient. some of those who abhor the treatment of calf for veal still mow down on burgers quite regularly though neither practices are very nice.

                                                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                          I've known people who say they are "vegetarian" and for them that means not eating anything with legs.

                                                                          So, in their minds, fish is ok, as are things like oysters, clams, etc. Crabs and shrimp (a close call, no doubt) are no-no's.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            In their minds they are vegetarian. In reality, they are not. They may be better described as mostly vegetarian but eat fish and shellfish.

                                                              2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                A Vegetarian, by definition, eats plants. An Ovovegetarian adds eggs to the plants. A Lactovegetarian eats plants and dairy. A Lacto-ovovegetarian add dairy to the eggs & plants. A pescovegetarian (or ovolactopescovegetarian!) adds fish/shellfish to the plants, eggs and dairy.

                                                                Maybe there's a pesco-polloovolactovegetarian who eats chicken, fish, eggs, dairy & plants, but it starts to get pretty silly to label someone with a wide-ranging diet who simply eschews red meat a vegetarian.

                                                                Pescopolloovolactohaagen-dazovegetarian --- now you've got something!

                                                                1. re: Sherri

                                                                  Thank you Cebca and Sherri for considerate and (Sherri) funny responses. That could be an SNL skit.

                                                                    1. re: smartie

                                                                      Great term for "vegetarians" that use meat stock (and fish...fish is meat too)

                                                                      1. re: The Professor

                                                                        another term in current use is "flexitarian"-- a person who eats a mostly or nearly total vegetarian diet, but occasionally indulges in fish or animal flesh, say 2-3 times a year or up to once a month.

                                                                        with regards to the discussion about "pescatarianism" above, many "flexitarians" may choose to eat wild caught fish and sea animals; and also wild caught game such as venison, rabbit or doves-- but they have chosen to personally opt out of the current agricultural systems of livestock management for ethical reasons. it's an interesting ethical position to take, i think.

                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                          I must be a "foodaterian".
                                                                          I only eat food.


                                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                    From the perspective of India where my historical knowledge of fish eating vegetarianism comes about (given that a large part of India is fully vegetarian), the idea of fish and seafood being considered vegetarian came about during a big drought that hit India while Indira Gandhi was PM. Thousands were dying of starvation, and in order to save the nation, she declared fish and all other sea-findings to be vegetarian. This was to save the masses, who could not grow any food and would not touch any land living animal for survival. I don't have the exact details at hand but most Indian historical fact books should have it documented

                                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                      your neighbor is a
                                                                      pescetarian who is masquerading as a vegetarian.

                                                                      i am a pescetarian too, but i don't lie about eating seafood

                                                                    2. Interesting. Here's my take, from an avowed omnivore:

                                                                      I'm Catholic, and so on Fridays during Lent I abstain from meat. For me, that includes anything made with meat or poultry broth -- risotto, a favorite dish of mine, for example, unless it's made with vegetable broth.

                                                                      Under the idea that something with chicken broth can be vegetarian, that would cover matzo ball soup. Which most definitely is NOT.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                        fwiw, most matzo ball soup mixes that come in a box are made with a non-poultry broth mix.

                                                                      2. This same topic comes up frequently, and I wonder why. The strict terms for vegetarianism and veganism are pretty clear. It's just that people bastardize words all the time. Just because many people misuse the word "ironic" doesn't make that definition correct either.

                                                                        A vegetarian doesn't eat anything that comes from killing animals.

                                                                        A vegan doesn't eat anything that is an animal by-product.

                                                                        1. and this, ladies and gentlemen, is why so many of us simply state "i don't eat meat" or "I have allergies".....because we have to explain ourselves against staunch defenders of the definition, and perhaps the small lapses we may have, or just, you know, not having to launch into our reasons why we eat veg or why we may be having cheese. It sucks the fun out of my meal.


                                                                          13 Replies
                                                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                                                            "I have allergies" is not acceptable. A food allergy is a serious thing, and people shouldn't trivialize it by falsely claiming one, thus making it harder for people who really do have allergies to be taken seriously.

                                                                            If you're incabable of explaining yourself without lying, then don't. Just shut up and eat what you can and leave the rest. It won't kill you.

                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                              I wasn't talking about complaining about what other people eat, and for the record, I do regularly "shut up and eat" if someone else has cooked for me. Nice, by the way.

                                                                              So, as someone who doesn't complain or get on my soapbox with others about what they should eat or call themselves, I don't feel I should be told off for saying i'm a vegetarian, if I eat cheese etc, or have my meal dissected and dicussed in front of me.

                                                                              1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                All I was responding to was your comment that "so many of us simply state "i don't eat meat" or "I have allergies".....because we have to explain ourselves"

                                                                                I agree: you don't owe anyone an explanation, and you shouldn't be lectured. But the fact that you feel you might be lectured to is not an excuse to lie about food allergies. Find some other way to handle the situation.

                                                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                As a former chef, waiter, and ovolacovegetarian I can tell you emphatically and without reservation that that only way to be reasonably certain (no absolutes here) that a proscribed food (for whatever reason) will not make it to your plate is to invoke the "allergy" tactic. I've seen *way* too many servers and chefs turn out food with the lame excuse that "it won't kill them".

                                                                                Your server and chefs will still be awfully cynical about it but will be far more likely to do what's requested if only because it *might* be true. No one wants a customer gasping for breath - it's bad for business, and there goes the tip...

                                                                                If you want someone to blame, blame the self-righteous waiters and chefs who take it upon themselves to make other peoples' food choices for them. They're the ones making it necessary. All the servers need do is tell the truth or go ask.

                                                                                Rant over.

                                                                                BTW - chicken stock is not vegetarian as shellfish broth is not kosher. Ever.

                                                                                1. re: Richard 16

                                                                                  huh? "i'm vegetarian," "i'm halal," "i'm kosher" are taken just as seriously in the kitchen as "i have a food allergy," ime.

                                                                                  in fact a statement from a customer like "i'm vegetarian" is taken much more seriously than "i'm allergic to everything from the ocean except lobster. please substitute lobster for tilapia in my main dish. . ." :-P

                                                                                  what are you saying-- that restaurant staff would ever serve a veg person a dish containing chx broth (or a kosher person a dish containing shellfish broth, in your example)? i have *never* seen that. ever.

                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                    Unfortunately, using meat or fish stock in a 'vegetarian' dish happens all too often in restaurants. This is true in many Asian (especially Thai and Vietnamese) places as well as in less urban restaurants when the vegetarian population is thin. A server once suggested the mashed and gravy when I said was vegetarian, another offered a soup that was delivered with bacon bits on top (at a fairly upscale and urban place), and too many other examples to name.

                                                                                    Over time, I've gotten much more probing in my questions when dining (although I hate this since it seems like I'm too finicky, want to deconstruct the meal, or just plan need the attention). But occationally I'm served something that has a meat by product (did someone think really think that just a touch of veal broth wouldn't hurt?) both intentional or not (geez even some orange juice has fish bladders in it now). And it does hurt (ouch!).

                                                                                    Guess that make me a flexitarian!


                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                      Most people, yes. In fact it's among the many types of unconscious "Oh great, another thing." which, in a nanosecond, is blended into the 10,000 being juggled.

                                                                                      But I've seen waiters and cooks pull the bacon, chicken, etc, out of a finished dish, seen waiters telling a patron a dish is vegetarian when they know a dish is made with chicken or beef broth and they know better... I even got in trouble with a chef when I caught him in the midst. Granted, we were in the weeds, but that's no excuse.

                                                                                      "No shellfish" was used because it is such a common allergy and for some reason religious-based choices are more respected than personal ones. Anthony Bourdain and his anti-vegetarian comments is a classic example of the latter. I only used it as a comparison to chicken stock not being vegetarian. I apologize for not realizing it might not be taken as intended.

                                                                                      I have mixed feelings about Robert Irvine, but he'll always have some respect from me for berating someone for using chicken stock in his vegetarian offering, and made the guy start all over.

                                                                                      1. re: Richard 16

                                                                                        re Richard & AlwaysCooking

                                                                                        yikes. i guess i could see (have seen) improper use of non-veg ingredients 20 years ago, or well outside urban centers. it's hard for me to wrap my head around in the here and now though! iirc there was a new thai place that opened locally that made the veg poo-list for listing menu items containing fish sauce as vegetarian-- but i think this is mercifully very rare nowadays. hopefully i'm not in some bubble-- in thinking that vegetarianism is nowadays quite mainstream, but every cook i know seems to grasp the basic concepts and wouldn't think of putting a chicken or fish (or any other animal) product in a vegetarian menu item. even the biggest meat loving chef i know orders 2 different worcestershire sauces, because he wants one of them to be vegan for use in vegetarian sauces. isn't every establishment like this? dang, you'd hope so-- but i guess it's another reason to be careful about where you eat. in any case, aida seems to need a better editor, as well as a better working knowledge her-own-self. it's such a shame that a gaffe like this even aired.

                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                          You're living in a bubble.

                                                                                          Most restaurants do not take the words "I am vegetarian" very seriously, if at all.

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            i dunno. . . the cantonese kitchen, the irish pub kitchen, the cuban place, the bbq place, the place that was run by former school lunch ladies, the all argentinian kitchen, the sleazy liquor bar kitchen. . . as well as the other, "nicer" places dh and i have worked. . . have all taken "vegetarian" seriously and accommodated dietary restrictions and were very professional in that regard. . . neither of us has ever seen non-veg items served to vegetarians. then again neither of us has seen restaurant personnel spit in people's food, and to hear many folks talk, this happens all the time. . . it's a nice urban myth.

                                                                                            i think most places realize they would be run out on a rail at worst, or lose professional credibility at best, if they were caught serving non-veg food to customers paying for veg menu items. i just don't think it happens in any good kitchen, or in the overwhelming majority of *bad* kitchens, for that matter. if there was a major language/cultural barrier, as other folks have pointed out, i could see it, but anyone who's run a restaurant in america for a couple of years, & certainly anyone who's ever dealt with the health department, and the special haacp rules for fish/seafood, knows about the american definition of "vegetarian."

                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                              The problems occur not with those that meet requests, but rather with those that don't. Ignorance plays a roll as well, but Aida should have known.

                                                                                          2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                            Some cultures do not consider fish as part of the animal kingdom. Important to ask if menu does not specifically say "does not contain fish sauce".

                                                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                          Actually, things are a little better now. But, when I was veg in the 80s & 90s, it was very common to have so called veg dishes made with chicken stock. Eating was like walking through a minefield. I have many vegetarian family members and friends --all with different thresholds. I am willing to accommodate most people as long as they don't mess with my cheese (rennet).

                                                                                  2. I am an omnivore, but have many vegetarian and some vegan friends. There is no confusion as to what they eat. Vegetarians eat plant-based foods, eggs, and dairy. Vegans do not eat any food product derived from animals, or that use animal products in processing, including honey and sugar. I would NEVER feed a vegetarian dinner guest a soup made with chicken stock. There is not ONE vegetarian cookbook that I've ever seen (many) that uses meat stock or any other meat product in its recipes.

                                                                                    29 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                      pikawicca, sorry for the stupid question, but I've never heard that animal products are used in making sugar, could you (or someone) expand on that a little? Thanks!

                                                                                      Whenever I'm hosting someone for a meal for someone, I try to remember to ask if he or she has any dietary considerations that should keep in mind. It's up to them to tell me "I don't eat meat" or "I hate olives" or "I'm on weight watchers" or "I'm allergic to shellfish" or "I've committed to an all-chocolate diet for the month of April because I'm writing about it for my blog"... I don't care why my guests have their requirements or preferences, I try to get clarity and accommodate the best as I can, including letting the person know what my menu is and giving him or her the option to clarify, "Oh, that Vietnamese tofu noodle salad sounds good, but can you leave out the fish sauce?"


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Bone char is used in the sugar refining process.

                                                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                            Just what it sounds like. Burned animal bones. It's a highly effective filter.

                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                              Dang. I work with a very strict vegetarian and she has a big sweet tooth, will eat just about any dessert that's brought in to the office. I bet she doesn't know about this.

                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                Just be kind and don't tell her: she's already giving up a lot.

                                                                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                  It's possible to purchase vegan sugar. In fact, seeing vegan sugar labeled for the first time is how I learned bone char could be used as a filter.

                                                                                                    1. re: dustchick

                                                                                                      I'm sure that's true, but she eats a lot of store-bought sweets at work - birthday cakes, retirement cakes, with all the various celebrations there are sweets in the workplace at least once a week and she always indulges, and I can guarantee you our chain grocery stores where most of this stuff is from doesn't use vegan sugar.

                                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                        Chain groceries tend to use beet sugar because it's cheaper. It's not marketed as vegan, but it is.

                                                                                                    2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                      Beet sugar is vegan. And as I recall you live in the upper Midwest, where it's used much more frequently than cane sugar. So the odds with any particular dish are that she's fine. But I wouldn't stir that pot...

                                                                                              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                Hi, TDQ,

                                                                                                Yours is not a stupid question: I didn't have a clue until my daughter started bringing vegan college friends home for the weekend.

                                                                                                Turns out that sugar is filtered though ground-up animal bones. Domino sells what it claims to be "organic," but when I queried them about the bone thing, they were evasive, to say the least.

                                                                                                I find it very disturbing that an ordinary person cannot tell where their food comes from. Maybe you don't care that your brownies are the result of pulverized cattle, but if you DO care, that information should be readily available, IMO.

                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                  I think the answer is that any white sugar (as in white in color like standard granulated sugar), or any product made from it (e.g., light and dark brown sugar) is presumably refined using bone char. There are evaporated cane juice products that specify that they are vegan, but I would not assume that about any product that does not say so.

                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                    That is my understanding as well. My husband worked for a number of years in a sugar mill in Florida, and I'll ask him more about this, and report back.

                                                                                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                    Whole foods also sells Vegan Cane Sugar. Not terribly more expensive, it's their 365 brand.

                                                                                                  3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    Some, but not all, refiners of cane sugar use bone char.

                                                                                                    Bone char is not used in the production of beet sugar.


                                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                      Thanks everyone. Woo hoo! Beet sugar is what we make in Minnesota. Lucked out on that one.

                                                                                                      But, I had no idea about the thing with cane sugar. It's kinda creepy sounding. MMRuth--I'll be curious to find out what your husband has to add.


                                                                                                  4. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                    while not to comment on your friends (not all vegetarians eat eggs) , there are also variations on Vegan. Some do not eat anything animal based whereby an animal would have to be harmed, or have food taken from it's young etc, some are on the other end, with honey and silk and the sugar reference, and I believe also yeast. This would include as well many of the products used in winemaking among others. (isinglass)

                                                                                                    There's a whole continuum really....and varying degrees on how we all like to make a difference.

                                                                                                    Also kudos to you TDQ...for not needing to know "why". I understand when people are curious...but some of us get a little tired of being the novelty or having to give our sometimes personal and wide-ranging reasons why we don't eat meat

                                                                                                    1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                                      All of the vegans I know are on the same page, as are vegan cookbooks.

                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                        I know vegans who eat honey and yeast without a second thought.

                                                                                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                          Someone who eats honey is NOT a vegan, no matter what they choose to call themselves. Have never read a vegan cookbook (and I own 17) that forbade yeast.

                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                            I don't know of any vegans that eat honey, either.

                                                                                                            On the other hand, I've never heard of a vegan not eating yeast. For one thing, yeast is not an "animal" -- it's a form of fungus. For another, it's impossible to avoid ingesting yeast -- it's in the air we breathe, etc. When it comes to micro-organisms, it's not possible to avoid them.

                                                                                                      2. re: im_nomad

                                                                                                        Well, I've had special dietary needs at various points in my life and the last thing I want to do is engage in a discussion regarding my personal choices or health matters. The worst is when someone feels they need to debate your choices (or your doctors recommendations) rather than simply respecting them. Most of my friends, of course, know the details, but not everyone who serves me a meal necessarily needs to know everything about these matters.


                                                                                                        1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                                          I agree. I'm vegan, but i eat honey and yeast. Many vegan cookbooks will have a small section discussing honey, as it is something many disagree on.

                                                                                                          1. re: marietinn

                                                                                                            My vegan cookbooks all call for either evaporated cane sure or agave nectar, rather than honey.

                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                              I know vegan's who eat honey and wear wool. I know vegan authors who also take Bee Pollen supplements because of health benefits. I don't really care how many cookbook's you own. And not all vegan's have access to proper sugar or agave nectar. Many of the cookbooks I own say that honey OR agave nectar is a proper substitution for sugar.

                                                                                                              1. re: marietinn

                                                                                                                By definition, vegans do not consume animal products. Honey is an animal product. "Health benefits" and "access" have nothing to do with it; it's all about what you put in your mouth.

                                                                                                            2. re: marietinn

                                                                                                              can you explain the difference, conceptually, between honey and milk?

                                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                                Milk you have to physically take from the cow; honey you just steal when they're not looking? Just guessing.

                                                                                                        2. I think the words we are looking for are "ultimate commitment"

                                                                                                          Chicken stock is an ultimate commitment. Milk is not. Unfertilized eggs are not.

                                                                                                          And yes, eating fish is an ultimate commitment.

                                                                                                          1. NO! Use veggie stock. That's a flexitarian (veg only when convenient).

                                                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: lgss

                                                                                                              exactly. I dated a very pretentious girl in college. She was usually a vegetarian when other people were watching, and then she gave me grief for enjoying my awesome steak.

                                                                                                              1. re: lgss

                                                                                                                "That's a flexitarian (veg only when convenient)."

                                                                                                                Um, isn't this just a regular old omnivore?

                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                  Yeah, but with the implication of less frequent meat-eating, more veggie-eating.

                                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                    Well, no. Say an omnivore and a flexitarian were standing at the same buffet table, which was covered with all manner of meat, cheese, vegetables, etc. The flexitarian would steer clear of the meat. The omnivore would not.

                                                                                                                    1. re: small h

                                                                                                                      Hang on a second - you're claiming to dictate what a "flexitarian" would or wouldn't do in a given situation? The very name implies that the person **doesn't** apply a rigid set of rules, but remains flexible as to what s/he eats.

                                                                                                                      So I think it would be more fair to say that the flexitarian might steer clear of the meat. Unless it looked really good, in which case s/he would eat it. In my book, that's an omnivore.

                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                        Good lord, I'm not "claiming to dictate" anything. Unbunch yourself. I don't think there are any hard & fast rules, but invinotheresverde & alanbarnes seem to be having trouble imagining what the difference might be between a flexitarian and an omnivore. So I laid out what I believe the difference is, because I don't think those words are synonyms.

                                                                                                                          1. re: small h

                                                                                                                            "The flexitarian would steer clear of the meat."

                                                                                                                            Your words, not mine. But maybe you can explain how making an authoritative statement about what somebody would do in a given situation is different than dictating (that is, making an authoritative statement) about what somebody would do in a given situation.

                                                                                                                            A flexitarian is an omnivore. Full stop. That's not to say the terms are identical; while all flexitarians are omnivores, not all omnivores are flexitarians. Same with omnivores who keep kosher, don't eat beef, avoid organ meats, etc. But to claim that a flexitarian is anything other than an omnivore is just silly.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                              i think that an important operative with the "flex" crowd is that their (mostly veg) eating habits are *strongly informed* by vegetarian principles, which may or may not include concepts like eating lower on the food chain, anti-processed foods/factory farms, ethics, etc, and that they consider themselves very informed on all of these issues, while not choosing to become fully veg themselves. given the choice at a banquet, between a vegan main, a fish main, and a steak, a flexitarian would probably choose the vegan main. s/he *may,* possibly, choose to eat the fish. it is very unlikely s/he would choose the steak.

                                                                                                                              example: "the dalai lama is a flexitarian, he eats natural meat occasionally, on his doctor's orders."

                                                                                                                        1. re: small h

                                                                                                                          Are you sure?

                                                                                                                          A flexitarian limits/reduces the amount of meat he/she eats. That's pretty much it, right? So why would the "flexitarian" choose not to opt for a meat item on a buffet?

                                                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                            My only familiarity with the term "flexitarian" is from Peter Berley's excellent book,
                                                                                                                            "The Flexitarian Table." This is a brilliant book that offers vegetarian and omnivore options for many recipes. To the surprise of many, his Tofu with Lemon, Soy, White Winne, and Butter Sauce knocks the socks off the same dish made with striped bass standing in for the tofu. Go figure.

                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                              I love that tofu dish from flex table!


                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                I find it unsurprising, actually, as the tofu version has flavorful ingredients not included in the fish version (soy sauce and ginger aren't in the fish version, IIRC). More appealing to me (an omnivore), as well as being loved by others I cook for, veg and omnivore both.

                                                                                                                      2. I'm learning so much! I am VERY allergic to chicken (not eggs...we think it is due to the steroids or antibiotics given the chickens) and so I INNOCENTLY believed that ordering "vegetarian" protected me from chicken stock (which, while not landing me in the hospital still costs me a day or two of work due to illness). It is good to know I am in the wrong so I know to ask, even though I get the DIRTIEST looks when asking if a vegetarian dish has "chicken" in it.

                                                                                                                        1. unfortunately that "baby animal has to be killed to obtain " is kind of misleading the animal was killed just to obtain rennet since its really more a by product of the market , and there are tons of cheeses made with vegetable rennet alternatives that vegetarians can eat. but yes I agree if you told most cheese eating vegetarians about animal rennet they would most definitely be horrified

                                                                                                                          1. "Seriously, if vegetarians can stomach things like cheese and butter, what's wrong with chicken stock (or broth)?" well if they eat cheese or eggs and butter it still would not have anything to do with their stomach or intestines being able to handle stock or broth. and if they truly have been vegetarian and not had it in years it can actually make one very, very sick.