Are you a flexitarian?

Smoked Salmon

We like to stay current with food terminology, so the word "flexitarian" caught our eye. The Guardian has been concerned recently with defining vegetarianism and, in two recent articles, they do a good job of summing up the fluidity with which this term is being used.

In a moderately light-hearted article, Flexitarianism: Isn't it just vegetarianism with cheating? they note that "Flexitarians - also known as veggie-vores - eat mostly vegetarian meals but make time for a big, juicy steak or a smoked salmon bagel when they feel the urge." Or, as they more colorfully put it, this is "vegetarianism with benefits."

In a more comprehensive and serious subsequent article, What kind of vegetarian are you? they further discuss the ever-increasing blurring of the term "vegetarian." There are those who seem to carry the label very lightly; in fact, Time magazine recently reported that 37% of Americans who called themselves "vegetarian" admitted to eating meat within the last 24 hours. Then there are others who acknowledge other allowances: they also eat fish, or are lacto-ovo-pesce-pollo-vegetarians (AKA the "two legs good, four legs bad" school of nutrition).

Of course, on the other hand, you have the even more restrictive types of vegetarians. Ashton Kutcher's recent claim that, by following Steve Jobs' all-fruit diet ("fruitarian"), he ended up in the hospital recently did an excellent job of publicizing these types of diets (and his new movie, to boot).

So where does this leave us when we're trying to accomodate everyone, perhaps for a meal or in a political discussion? Even if you don't embrace the kill-no-animal argument, the Guardian does discuss two good reasons for being meat-conscious - health and environment.  So for those of us in the middle, here's a good accomodation term: embrace being a "meat reducer." Not a sexy term (in fact, to us it sounds like using MSG or a meat pounder on a steak), but it's honest, and kind, and flexible. Not bad qualities at all.



  • oddkitchen  on  2/1/2013 at 12:01 PM

    Chalk me up as one who really, really dislikes it when a person who eats meat -- including fish and chicken, because those are animals! -- identifies as "vegetarian". It makes me lose respect for that person, partly because they're asking me to participate in their strange denial of reality. Not eating meat every day or having guilty feelings about eating meat doesn't make one a vegetarian -- it makes one an omnivore. I think that being honest about one's own eating habits is the foundation for developing an ethical consciousness about food, period.

  • SugarFree_Vegan  on  2/1/2013 at 5:17 PM

    I get so annoyed by pseudo vegetarians as they ruin other people's understanding of what a vegetarian eats for us. I can't count how many times I have been offered fish because "you're a vegetarian aren't you", my reply - I don't eat anything with eyes and includes potatoes! I can only assume that they use the term because it makes them feel 'better' about their own denial so I am totally with oddkitchen on that one.

  • veronicafrance  on  2/3/2013 at 4:20 AM

    I'm not a vegetarian (any more) -- I'm probably a flexitarian by the Guardian's definition -- and I agree that it's unhelpful to call yourself a "vegetarian" if you eat chicken and/or fish. It's hard enough trying to explain vegetarianism in France, without having people thinking that chicken is OK because it's a vegetable! I do have a nice cookbook called The Flexitarian Table which is built around the idea of accommodating meat-eaters and vegetarians at the same meal, without fuss.

  • Christine  on  2/6/2013 at 12:04 PM

    I eat a lot of vegetarian meals, but since I am not truly a vegetarian, I would not call myself one. And to be honest, if I weren't also cooking for my husband, I probably could easily become vegetarian since that is the kind of food I prefer. (I have a great respect for vegans, but I don't think I personally could give up cheese or butter!) But I have no interest in confusing matters for the people who are true vegetarians by claiming to be something I'm not!

  • Harvestmoon  on  2/27/2013 at 2:32 PM

    I was a very strict vegetarian from 28 years ago to 20 years ago (8 years), in an age where I truly went hungry or ended up eating fries way too often since I was traveling for work all the time. I had a colleague who was also a vegetarian, then when we finally went somewhere together (this was in the airplane), I found our she was enjoying wonderful looking seafood or chicken, while I was suffering grimly for the cause with a hideous stuffed pepper of some sort, same meal served to me every time for 5 years and I never could manage more than a bite. Then I got married, got pregnant, and craved meat in the very worst way. Ignored it, and spent years pissing off my inlaws with my 'strange' diet (they were all from Lousiana)....and I was served nothing but white rice more often than not. So finally, after 2 kids, working full time, and my husband doing a lot of the cooking, yes, with meat, I caved in. Then more recently went all vegetarian again, with a lot of vegan and raw foods. Ended up with B and D deficiencies, severely. So now I just wish I never ate meat, but do at times if someone makes something with love and kindness and uses all natural, cage free chicken or wild caught salmon. In small quantities. So I used to say I was a backsliding vegetarian, but now I just call it Flexitarian, because that is how I eat- mostly vegetarian, but sometimes a stir fry or something with a bit of meat for flavor and to satisfy the husband.

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