One cannot be a French vegetarian. That would be Ze oxymoron par excellence! No, I happen to be French, and to be vegetarian. You see, for the French, there is only one way to cook, and it is… the French way. The culinary legacy-as rich and wonderful as it is- of the last centuries has stiffened the French attitude towards food and closed the frontier of their palates. Traumatised by the fast food globalization and the Americanisation of the diet and table etiquette, a large part of the French population has turned into gastronomic bigots, provenance obsessed shoppers, organic victims.
If you do not eat meat, what you feed yourself on is obviously UnFrench, ie Anti-French. You see, for my compatriots, I am not only a social pariah, I am a traitor! Better keep a low profile at restaurant tables, or some foodie extremist might decide to campaign for anti-patriotic elements like me to have their civil rights removed! Since there is no Vegetarian passport for people “like me”, I’d better hang on to French citizenship!
Oh, the things I hear! “So, what do you eat?” Well, pulses, nuts, rice, pasta, eggs, seeds, cheese… “But, what about proteins?” Well, pulses, nuts, rice, pasta, eggs, seeds, cheese… “But, what about variety?” Well, pulses, nuts, rice, pasta, eggs, seeds, cheese… “But,…” Hey, I hear all the time about people around me going to the doctor’s and being warned that they have, in their test results, too much sugar, cholesterol, gamma gts… never have I heard of anyone with a protein deficiency! I even know a few people with gout, yes, yes, yes, in this day and age! And now, yes, please do jump at my throat about vitamin B12, please do, make my day! Only vegans might have to be careful and still, a spoonful a day of Marmite would be more than sufficient to cover their Daily Recommended Intake. A bit of yeast a day, that is all that it takes: insignificant compared to this monstrosity: the danger run and the treatments required for the meat lovers who put themselves firmly into the high risk category for cancer, cardiovascular problems… Lives ruined! For what? An expensive, superfluous food. The human and social cost is indecent. I won’t even get into the environmental impact, and the “nobody would starve if we were all vegetarian” argument because I feel that stating the obvious yet once again is just too patronizing for words.
Things people have said to me? “Your children will have soft bones”, “We do not eat meat anymore. We eat ham and chicken”, “eat meat, you’ll have more energy” (what does it have to do with anything? I have energy aplenty, thank you!), “you vegetarians, it is not that you live longer, it is that your lives feel longer” (ok, this one is funny, I admit. But if life feels longer, it is a good thing, right? Also, studies show that the life expectancy of Vegetarians is indeed longer- a recent conservative study puts it at 3.6 years longer- I’ll take it, thank you very much!). And that should conclude the debate for all these cholesterol ridden people who are so concerned about my protein intake: the result of good health is a longer life… gee, I stated the obvious again!
If you ever get a chance to go to The French Riviera, go for a stroll in the picturesque “Vieux Nice”, and you will see these blackboards in front of Cuisine Nicoise restaurants: apparently, you do not even have to be a barbaric pervert to gorge yourself on this, it is normal food for normal people. If you get bored of sheep testicles, go to a Charcuterie, very appetizing too. I am sorry, I am sure that I am oversensitive, over sentimental, I have issues, blablabla… but if you see this adorable lamb, and you think to yourself: yum, I feel the urge to slaughter it, skin it and eat it, I’m sorry, just go and have your head examined!