Vegetarians fall into different categories.
The strictest is the vegan movement. Partly political, partly dietary and partly a moral system, this food philosophy forbids the consumption of any animal products, animal by-products and food processed with animal products (the use of fish bladders or egg whites in the fining of wine, for instance). A true vegan extends this into other areas of life such as the wearing of leather or the avoidance of things like soap, perfumes and other products that might either utilize animal products or are a by-product of animal testing.
As strict as this sounds, there are still shades of veganism. While honey is an animal by-product, some vegans accept its use. Some vegans absolutely have to be sure that there are no animal by-products in anything that they consume or use – others don’t necessarily have to examine every point in the production of a food item because there are some food products that have incidental contact with an animal by-product and sometimes it’s just impossible to assure that no such by-products have been used. There is a sub-set of the vegan movement that promotes the exclusive consumption of only raw foods.
Some vegans are very militant – others are more into it simply as a healthy lifestyle choice.
All vegans are vegetarians, but not everyone who calls themselves “vegetarians” are vegetarians. However, many “true vegetarians” don’t consider themselves vegans, which is as much a political movement as it is a lifestyle choice. They simply avoid any animal product or by-product.
A “true vegetarian” doesn’t eat meat in any form. However, a “true vegetarian” might consume honey. It gets a little trickier when it comes to poultry “by-products” like dairy and eggs. There are lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat both dairy and eggs. there are lacto-vegetarians who eat dairy but eschew eggs (because, let’s face it, eggs are “meat”, right?) Obviously, an ovo-vegetarian will eat eggs but not dairy.
Then you have “pescetarians”. They aren’t true vegetarians for obvious reasons. Fish is meat. However, many of them consider themselves vegetarians who “happen to eat fish”.
There are “vegetarians” who don’t eat red meat but will eat chicken or pork. It is fairly rare for these folks to actually call themselves vegetarians, but I’ve actually seen it on the rare occasion.
These various ideas about what makes one a vegetarian can make things tricky for the waiter.
In the next post, we’ll talk about what you should do as a waiter to try to accomodate vegetarians of all stripes in your restaurant.