Vegetarian Meltdown

As a Brit, I am used to being around vegetarians. Both my sisters are veggies, as are my nieces, brother-in-law and countless friends. In Britain, nearly 12% of the population are either vegetarian or vegan. You would never invite someone to dinner without asking them if they were vegetarian, and every wedding menu includes a dish without dead animals. (And yes, fish are animals). Every restaurant provides vegetarian options, and being a veggie isn’t laughed at, frowned upon or ridiculed.

If only this were the case in Reunion! The reaction from people can be mind-blowing, from restaurant chefs to guesthouse owners. Check this out:

Last month I was in a beautiful river-side restaurant in the east, and we asked what vegetarian options there were. Now I won’t name and shame the establishment, but it has (or used to have in my book) an excellent reputation.

The waitress’s response was awful. Embarrassing and totally unprofessional. She said one word: “Rien.” Not even “Rien, Madame”. I insisted – couldn’t she just ask the chef to prepare something simple without meat? Her second response? “Ici, c’est Créole, on ne cuisine pas avec des legumes.” I translate: “This is a Creole restaurant sir, we don’t cook with vegetables”. Now please allow me to translate once again so you can understand what she really wanted to say: “We can’t be bothered to cook something different for you and couldn’t care less if you went away and never came back.”

Me being me, I insisted further: “Come on, the people in Mafate do this without batting an eyelid! And you can’t?” She eventually came out with a plate of rice, beans and palm heart salad, looking about as happy as a bulldog chewing a wasp. A bargain at twenty euros.

Of course, this experience was not a one-off: all over the island we are met with similar displays of incompetence. One chef refused, saying if “you want to buy a pareo, you don’t go to a couturier.” I wanted to reply: “well if it’s so simple, then why can’t you do it?” But I didn’t. I simply paused and slowly said: “But what if we didn’t eat meat for religious reasons?”Ah!” he said, “that’s different!!”

This made me furious! On one hand, a client who doesn’t eat dead animals just because it’s written down in a book is treated with respect, whereas the client who does this through choice and a conscientious empathy for other living animals is turned away and treated like an idiot…

But I am confident this will change. As the numbers of people who eat less meat and fish grows, these so-called professionals will have no choice but to adapt. It’s just a question of tolerance…


to be used to = être habitué à
brother-in-law = beau-frère
countless = innombrables
dish = plat
frowned upon = être jugé

mind-blowing = époustouflant
guesthouse owners = gîteurs
to name and shame = montrer du doigt
in my book = à mon sens
waitress = serveuse

awful = affreux
can’t be bothered = ne pas avoir le courage
couldn’t care less = s’en foutre royalement
without batting an eyelid = sans sourciller
a bulldog chewing a wasp = un chien mâchant une guêpe

a one-off = un cas unique
display = (ici) preuve
on one hand = d’une part
whereas = tandis que
to grow = croître

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2 réflexions au sujet de “Vegetarian Meltdown

  1. Hie James

    Your « Full text & vocabulary PDF » is linked with « Mi aime a ou or Not.. » text…
    Have a good day.

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