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Gratitude for modern day vegetarianism

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As a vegetarian, each time I go food shopping or visit a restaurant, I expect to be totally briefed on what is suitable for vegetarians and what isn't, whether that is by way of conversation or via visible symbols on packaging.

I enjoy having that confidence of knowing where I stand. On the social front, my (non-veggie) friends are quite versed how to cater for me from knowing that meat/fish/seafood and even animal by-products are a no-no and they beam with pride when confirming that they have used different utensils to make my meal with, for which I am always grateful.

This is 2015 and with an assortment of dietary buzzwords floating around our culinary vocabulary (and not just the word 'vegetarianism'), it's all becoming second nature to us.

Watching the BBC2 documentary 'Back In Time For Dinner' earlier this year made me realise just how far acknowledgement of dietary requirements has come and a stern reminder for me not to take our status quo for granted.

The documentary saw a modern day family returning back to the 1950's/60's/70's/80's/90's, emulating the living conditions and eating habits of each decade using guidance from the contents of the National Food Surveys which Brits completed Census style.

Overall, the programme had me nostalgically skipping down memory lane but reminiscence to one side, watching the 1950's unfold, I began thinking about vegetarianism in those times. General food rationing was still in existence, so everything was used up without any waste. Even the most common of breakfast elements – toast, was covered in meat extract dripping and other by-products were utlitised otherwise too with no alternatives. How would I have coped? The answer is: not very well.

Not necessarily vegetarian

Bohemian lifestyles of the 1960's may have seen a rise in vegetarianism, but the notion of eating meat-free was still far from being understood. Back then, I might have been pacified with being given egg & chips, but again, no doubt they would've been fried in lard, so us veggies would have lost out again.

Fast-forward to the present day where there has been a big shift towards accommodating the vegetarian demographic and those with other dietary tolerances, preferences or allergies. Labels now all clearly denote suitability, supermarkets ranges are vast and the 1950's fatty-gelatinous accompaniments have been replaced with Mediterranean niceties such as olive oil and houmous.

As much as my vegetarian shopping needs are met with clarity and I am well catered for by my family/friends, I still think there is a long way to go to making everyone understand the principles of vegetarianism, especially when you still hear of places peeling off pepperoni from pizzas to make them meat-free or classing fish as a vegetarian option. The veggie etiquette rules are yet to reach all corners of the kitchen, we've come a long way yes, but the journey continues for many.

But as the mission for universal vegetarian awareness carries on, for now, I'll stay grateful for being able to lead a sustainable meat-free lifestyle in this era, with beef dripping nicely out of the way, banished to yesteryear's pantry shelf.

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