Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

So we had a much-delayed team lunch during the week at a restaurant I had recommended largely because of the mouth-wateringly excellent burgers. But because it was delayed, suddenly it was November and I had taken a vow not to eat any meat for a month. So while my Allure colleagues enjoyed pulled pork burgers and duck ravioli, I ate pumpkin and beetroot skewers.

I like beetroot. I frequently add it to sandwiches. The only real downside — as I was reminded the day after I ate the skewers — is that the colour can pass right through your digestive system and come out the other end. But having to eat just beetroot and pumpkin while someone else consumes a burger is not good for the soul.

So far, this is the trickiest part of Veghacker: being reminded that my choices are restricted when I’m eating with others. I went to an even swankier work meal during the week, and there was a vegetarian option available for every course: It was all excellent: I had cauliflower custard with mushroom followed by charred pumpkin, black rice and broad beans. (Again with the pumpkin? Are there Halloween leftovers everywhere?)

This was much fancier food than I would ever cook for myself. But I didn’t get any choice about it. While my fellow diners could select between three courses, that was all I could select. And that’s undoubtedly part of the vegetarian experience. You’ll get an option, but in the mainstream dining world, you won’t get numerous options. For our work Melbourne Cup do, there was vegetarian sushi, but there was a lot more stuff with fish and meat in it.

Sometimes you don’t get an option at all. I went to a work breakfast and the same plate was offered to everyone. I could eat the yoghurt and the fruit sticks and the avocado (and I did), but all I could do with the scrambled eggs and salmon was scrape the food off the top so I could enjoy the toast.

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

When cooking for myself, I’m not so aware of the contrast. Here’s a non-exhaustive selection of some of the dishes I rustled up for myself during the week.

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

One option I was keen to revisit was Quorn, which is a meat substitute made from mycoprotein (no, me neither). The faux schnitzels were most enjoyable.

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

I was less taken with the faux mince used in a faux bolognaise — the texture isn’t quite right. I enjoyed the sauce of tomato and kidney beans I’d made earlier in the week more.

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

Simple pizza and salad is always a lazy option (and it appealed to my frugal side because the pizza was on sale). I also indulged in the world’s laziest soup (crushed tomatoes, cannellini beans and olives mixed together and heated in a microwave).

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

Dining in an airline lounge is also not a problem. Salad ahoy!

Veghacker: Dealing With The Jealousy

A final note: one week in, I weight the same as I did last week. Going vego doesn’t seem to be fattening me up, but the kilos aren’t dropping off either. I’m not doing this to lose weight, but so many people seem to think that’s an inevitable consequence. We’ll see. Either way, next week will bring a new complication: I’m on the road for the Note 4 Roadtrip, so I have to try and eat well without a kitchen and without breakfast bacon as an option.


  • I don’t have much trouble dealing with the jealousy (actually, Angus, I suspect you mean ‘envy’). I always just say, “hey, you could have ordered the vegetarian too” and my friends settle down.

    Seriously, been vegetarian for 24 years. It was a real problem for the first few, because my food choices were restricted and a lot of vege food was just bad. But in this country, and in North America and in most (not all) of Europe and most (not all) of Asia, I never feel I am missing out. Yes, there are fewer choices on the menu. But its not a benefit to be able to choose from 30 items: better to be able to choose from 5 (google “the paradox of choice”). And the food looks and smells at least as good as the non-vege options. Its just not a cost to me in any way – YMMV.

    • I know what envy you’re actually talking about.
      You can order a ‘salad roll’ in some places and get just some bog-standard lettuce/tomato/onion crap, but there are occasionally places that serve some stunning vegie stuff. The other day I saw a vegie-foccacia at a cafe that had sweet potato, roasted pumpkin, steamed spinach-leaves, the thinnest crisped potato slices, and some kind of relish that looked and smelled heavenly. There were probably more things in there I couldn’t even identify. I was surprised to see that it was just vegetarian, no meat.

      Of course, the beauty part of adding to meals instead of taking away is that if you see something vegetarian that looks stunningly mouth-watering, with a complementary assembly of rich, juicy, delicious vegetables… is you can always, always, always add bacon. And usually chicken. Probably cheese.
      (Just add bacon is a strong front-runner for life motto. Just add bacon. To anything. To everything.)

      Given that ‘just add bacon’ (or chicken, I guess) is so simple, I’m surprised we don’t see more crazy-tasty vegetarian options available, with ‘plus bacon’ options for an extra couple bucks.

  • I was married to a vegetarian and she got this a lot. Most of the time it was a veggie stack as the alternative at even classy restaurants. It was always a big surprise to find a chef who really thinks about the veg option and makes it an options that omnivores like me even think about taking up.
    I did start asking the wait staff if we could speak to the chef or if chef wanted to come up with something different – usually if we did this when booking when we got there we would get something a little more exciting. Maybe try that for the next eating out affair and see what you get – a lot of chefs (mates of mine etc) are pretty fed up with the “same old same old” and would be challenged and excited about an opportunity to make something different.
    Good luck with it.

  • OR just get the burger. Its not like you will be arrested by the vegan police for cheating once in a while.

  • I’ve been a vegetarian for six or seven years, and have encountered similar problems at some restaurants (not that many in Sydney, though). Food envy isn’t a problem because I’m not keen on meat anymore, but you really can’t compare a couple of bits of veg on a spear with a full meal. I sometimes ask staff for a burger that sounds awesome except for the meat factor, and substituted for avocado or extra grilled veggies. It won’t be the most satisfying meal you’ve ever had, but shouldn’t leave you hungry. I also look at menus in advance if I can, and call if nothing on the menu looks like it wouldn’t suck.

    Quorn is good, but you should definitely try Fry’s this month. The traditional burgers are pretty damned awesome, and the chicken strips in stir fries are amazing.

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