Sunday, 19 February 2012

Catering for a Vegetarian - The Devil's in the Detail

Like most people, vegetarians like to eat out, and to have a meal cooked for them. But the reason why we might avoid restaurants, or hesitate if invited to someone's home, is because of the unrecognised ingredients which are of animal origin. I'm not preaching here, but 'just saying'.

Here's a quiz: 10 questions about foodstuffs which raise concern. If you try it, a comment about how you got on (and whether you're vegetarian) would be great. If there are enough comments, I'll report back (anonymously) on the results.
     I admit I was surprised, researching, how many E numbers may not be suitable. It's because most previously animal-derived flavour enhancers, stabilisers and so on are now produced synthetically - not for ethical reasons but because it's cheaper. Very hard to be sure, unless the Vegetarian Society has confirmed OK with their logo.
Anyway, here's the quiz (followed by the answers):
From our greenhouse:
a vegetable that can spell!

1  The old chestnut: is Parmesan suitable for vegetarians?
        (a) sometimes
        (b) never
        (c) always.
 2  If a product contains egg, to be definitely suitable for vegetarians the egg should be:
        (a) free range and organic
        (b) within it's sell-by date
        (c) hen's egg only.
 3  Is E631 disodium inositate (flavour enhancer) in food OK?
        (a) almost never
        (b) can't be sure
        (c) always.
 4  E12 cochineal is derived from:
        (a) plants
        (b) synthetic chemicals
        (c) insects.
 5  Is pesto vegetarian?
        (a) not unless it says so on the label
        (b) yes - made from basil and pine nuts
        (c) never.
 6  Worcestershire sauce is suitable?
        (a) always
        (b) only if marked suitable
        (c) never.
 7  In pubs, draught bitter is OK:
        (a) yes - hops, water, yeast, sugar
        (b) usually
        (c) very rarely.
 8  Are Marks & Spencer chewy gums available in a vegetarian version?
        (a) no
        (b) yes.
 9  E441 gelatine?
        (a) always OK
        (b) depends on source
        (c) never.
10  Prawn crackers contain at least a trace of prawns:
        (a) yes
        (b) some do
        (c) no.

Here are the answers. 
 1 b - but there are veg versions available (& cheaper), e.g. Sainsbury's Italian Hard Cheese.
 2 a - 'free range' is a veg 'rule', but organic should ensure the hens aren't fed animal-derived
          food or chemicals.
 3 a - it's prepared commercially from meat or fish.
 4 c - insects are crushed to obtain it.
 5 a - the usual pesto ingredients include Parmesan, but nowadays some products don't.
 6 b - traditional Worcester sauce is flavoured with anchovies, though there are veg versions too.
 7 c - most draught bitter is fined (cleared of visible sediment) using animal products. Adnams
          and Ringwood have confirmed this. Bottled bitter may be OK (some are marked veg).
 8 b - Yay! The version where the pigs have one green ear are suitable, and have to say - lovely.
 9 c - gelatine is made from animal skin and hooves. (And used to be used in the gum on stamps
          and envelopes.)
10 a - if they're called that, then by law there has to be a trace. 

Thanks for visiting. Next time a couple of easy main-meal recipes from my archive.


  1. Yay, I reached full marks! Maybe something to do with me being a vege too!

    1. Great stuff, Gina! I didn't know about E361. Maybe you could do a guest blog sometime - whadya think?

  2. Sorry, I've only just checked back. I must admit the E361 was a guess. Sometimes I find I read something and it gets stored until it's prompted out of the memory "box". I'd love to a guest blog sometime.

    Here's some links to blogs which have included pictures of my food (the first is under the guise of the MC from my novel): A birthday cake blog , a cupcake one (can you guess I like cakes!)

    I'll DM you my email address on Twitter.

  3. Ps: If you want to see the links, highlight them, right click and go to.. I think that should work!