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What is a Vegetarian: Definition and Types

Updated on May 5, 2012

Vegetarian Defined

Vegetarian - n., a person who abstains from animal food, especially that from slaughtered animals, though often not eggs and dairy products.

-The Oxford Dictionary

Vegetarian Cookbook Collection

Am I a Vegetarian Fraud?

I have proudly lived the last 17 years as a vegetarian, or so I thought. In 1994, I stopped eating beef, pork and poultry. That makes me a vegetarian, right? Well, it appears I did not read the fine print. I do consume eggs and dairy (that‘s allowed), but also seafood, specifically fish, shrimp and crab. It now appears I may be a fake, only a pseudo-vegetarian. There is actually a word for folks like me - pescetarian - but who has ever heard of that? My spell check does not even recognize the term.

I was alerted to my false status when I recently joined an online vegetarian message board. As I doctored up my profile and reviewed all the rules and regulations, I came across a line that really caught my eye. It said that if I ate fish and poultry, I wasn’t really a vegetarian and shouldn’t be on this site unless I was trying to repent - I’m paraphrasing a little here. Well, I certainly don’t eat the birds, but what about the fish? Hmmm....the fish.

My Dock

Can Vegetarians Eat Seafood?

Now, the guys over at the Vegetable Forum will really black-ball me for this one. I live on the coast and have a dock on a deep-water creek in my backyard. I catch, kill and clean blue crabs in the summer. I cook them up with Old Bay seasoning, pick the meat and eat them, often with warm butter. I admit that I do feel the stab of hypocrisy when I kill the crustaceans with an ice pick. I also throw the cast net into the salty water for shrimp, pop the heads off with my fingers, and keep the remains on ice. Okay, now I’m a mass murderer. I haven’t fished since I was a child, but I do occasionally enjoy a nicely prepared tuna or grouper out at one of Charleston’s fine restaurants.

I have enjoyed my life as a “vegetarian” and it has become part of who I am and how others see me. Each year for Christmas, I get at least one new vegetarian cookbook. I always order the Vegetarian Letter B meal at Mexican restaurants. (Everyone else gets a numbered meal.) My numerous relatives serve special meatless entrees at holiday gatherings just for me. My kids accept me and understand why I won’t taste their chicken nuggets.

Living as a Vegetarian

Living as a vegetarian also comes with a price, a price I have paid - for close to two decades. I have often gone hungry at dinner parties or receptions. And then restaurant menus can be so limiting to the protein-challenged. I often fix three meals for supper - meatless for me, meat and potatoes for Dad and Sissy, and kid-friendly for the picky eater. (Now he’s another story.) I put up with the random not-so-polite inquiries about my food aversions. And it is such a challenge to get the protein in my diet - well, there is always the fish, right?

So, why don’t I just take the plunge and cut out the sea-fare? (Spell check again- seafare must not be a real word. Add hyphen - that always works.) There are several reasons. First of all, I love seafood. It is just part of living where I do - shrimp and grits are a staple in Charleston, South Carolina. I am also lazy. It is very time-consuming to read all the labels and add up the protein to make sure it’s enough. I would probably commit to a vegan diet if someone prepared all my meals for me. There, I said it - I would give up fish for a personal chef in a quick minute.

I am currently unclear of my status as a vegetarian. I am unsure of my status on the vegetarian forum I just joined. Maybe a member in good standing will read this article and report me. My feelings are a little hurt that I just don’t quite fit in. I really don’t want to be considered a wannabe or groupie. But, I also don’t hear myself saying, “No, I’m actually a pescetarian, not a vegetarian.” It seems like splitting hairs. Isn’t vegetarianism like a big umbrella for all of us meat-avoiding people? For now, when questioned, I may just have to say, “Yes, I am a vegetarian, most of the time.”

Special Thanks

A special thanks to my new Hub friend and fellow pescetarian, Marlena, for helping me stumble onto this topic.

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