Kitchen Staples

Food & Drink, Kitchen Staples

15 Things You’ve Always Wanted to Ask a Vegetarian (But Were Afraid to Ask)

things you always wanted to ask a vegetarian

Got a question you’ve wanted to ask a vegetarian but were afraid to ask? I’ve probably answered it here!

When you’re vegetarian people often ask you rather probing questions out of curiosity.  I’ve put together the 15 most common (and not so common) questions I’ve been asked in 9 years of vegetarian living. I really want to try and dispel some common vegetarian myths and misunderstandings.  

The 15 Things You’ve Always Wanted to Ask a Vegetarian

I haven’t added the “why don’t you eat meat?” question because it’s personal to everyone and can be answered in so many different ways. I’ve personally never been a big fan of meat, and I found it’s cheaper to eat vegetarian than eat meat, but everyone has their own personal reasons.

1.  Where do you get your protein from?

I’ve put this question first as it’s the one I get asked the most often!  Dairy products, nuts, quinoa, and high protein vegetables and pulses such as peas and beans are all great sources of protein.  We also occasionally eat meat replacement products that are high in protein too.  And this is a handy tip on how to eat more protein.

This webpage on Where Do Gorillas Get Their Protein is also really handy to point people to. I think people forget that gorillas don’t eat meat but are one of the biggest and strongest animals going!

2.  Where do you get your vitamin B12 from?

There’s a bit of a myth going around that you can only get vitamin B12 (important for the nervous system, eyes, and brain) from meat.  As a vegetarian, you can get all the vitamin B12 your body needs from dairy products, and even from marmite if you’re a fan (I’m not!).

3.  Do you take vitamins?

I don’t really take vitamins, apart from vitamin D in the autumn and winter months.  I personally think it’s better and cheaper to get the nutrients you need from the food you eat rather than through a synthetic pill. If you want to investigate vitamins, I’ve rounded up the best vegan vitamins, including vegan and vegetarian Omega-3 options.

4.  Do you get ill all the time?

No.  It’s a bit of a common misconception that vegetarians are pale and sickly.  I was ill at the end of last year with a chest infection that was doing the rounds. It affected meat-eaters and vegetarians with complete egalitarianism – but I wouldn’t say I get ill more than the meat-eaters I know.

5.  Aren’t you anaemic?

This is another myth that all vegetarians are anaemic.  I’m not anaemic.  I eat (mostly!) a balanced diet and get all the nutrients I need from the foods I eat.  Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and kale are rich in iron, as are various beans and pulses, brown rice and nuts, and iron-fortified breads and cereals.   

When I was pregnant I did develop pregnancy-related anaemia late on in my pregnancy. However, my doctor reassured me that anaemia is just as common in meat eaters as it is with vegetarians.  I took some iron supplements prescribed by my doctor and supplemented them with an iron-rich plant-based liquid called Floradix, which was recommended to me by my midwife.  My iron levels soon returned to normal, and once I gave birth my anaemia went away – never to return again.

vegetarian myths

6.  Aren’t you tired all the time?

I’m mum to a 3-year-old, so I’ve been tired all the time for the last three years!  What parent of a young child/children isn’t tired, meat-eater or not?!  In all seriousness, as well as being a mum, I work two jobs, write this blog, and find time for a social life and the hobbies I enjoy, such as photography, so how tired can I be?!

7.  Don’t you miss meat?

In short, no.  I wasn’t a big meat eater before I became a vegetarian, so it wasn’t hard to cut it out of my life completely.  Now the idea of meat is so alien to me that I can’t physically imagine chomping down on a big bit of steak – the idea makes me feel a little sick.

8.  What about the smell of bacon, doesn’t that make you hungry?

The smell of bacon doesn’t really do it for me to be honest!  Because I haven’t eaten meat for so long I don’t associate the smell of bacon with food.  The smell of bacon wasn’t something I found particularly hard to deal with at the start of becoming a vegetarian.

If you are finding it difficult there are even vegetarian bacon substitutes on the market – such as Quorn bacon (we call it ‘facon’ in our house!) if you really fancy a bacon sarnie.

9.  But you eat chicken, right?

This is such a surprisingly common question. But the thing is the clue is in the name – chicken isn’t a vegetable. Chickens are living animals that need to be killed for their meat.  I think that when people say that they’re vegetarians but that they eat chicken, then this gives vegetarians a bit of a bad name.  It’s also confusing to meat-eaters and perpetuates this question.  The bottom line is if you eat chicken you’re not a vegetarian!

10.  Ok, so not chicken, but you eat fish?

No, I don’t eat fish or shellfish.  Fish are still living animals that need to be caught and killed.  Again, if you don’t eat meat (including chicken) but still eat fish, you’re not a vegetarian – you’re a pescetarian.  Don’t confuse people by calling yourself a vegetarian that only eats fish.

11.  If you don’t eat meat, why do you eat meat replacement products, like Quorn?

Sometimes it’s nice to have the convenience factor of being able to just put something in the oven – like veggie sausages.  It’s also nice to have a bit of variation in our diet – texture and taste-wise – but without the need for an animal to have been killed.

12.  Do you judge meat-eaters?

Of course not.  Everyone’s entitled to eat what they want. In a restaurant, I can happily sit next to someone eating meat without casting judgement or criticism on their dietary choices.  Sitting next to someone tucking into a roast chicken doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and I’m not going to get into a rant about the meat industry to someone about to tuck into their dinner.  I might not eat meat but I’m not a dick!

13.  Is it difficult to eat out?

I live near Edinburgh and we’re lucky to have a plethora of really good vegetarian cafes and restaurants.  Other pubs and restaurants are also getting much better are catering for non-meat-eaters.

If you don’t live in a big city, then, in the UK at least, most cafes and restaurants cater to vegetarians to some degree. some better than others. If in doubt, I find Indian and other Asian restaurants are often really veggie-friendly.  

In some places, there might only be one vegetarian option on the menu. However, if it doesn’t suit then you can speak to the chef then they might be able to whip you up something else up.  If you’re in doubt call ahead to let them know your requirements.

If you’re out and about at lunchtime and need a quick sandwich then I hope you like cheese or egg mayonnaise because that’s generally the only vegetarian sandwich options you can find in most supermarkets/service stations/cafes.  It’s a bugbear of mine – I wish there was more choice.

14.  Don’t you feel awkward at dinner parties?

Most family and friends know we’re vegetarian so it’s not really a big deal. However, if people ask us to dinner we always let them know/remind them we’re vegetarian with plenty of advance notice.  I’ll always ask the hosts if they want us to bring a vegetarian dish to share – it’s the polite thing to do!

15.  What are your bowel movements like?

Normal and regular!  I’m sure that’s all you need to know!  ;)

I hope I’ve answered all the main questions – if I’ve missed any pop them in the comments below and I’ll answer them!

All the recipes on this site are vegetarian so do have a good poke around. These ones on vegetarian slow cooker recipes and vegetarian soup recipes are great ones to start on!

If that’s not enough I’ve also put together a Pinterest board full of vegetarian recipes, and this post on how to go vegetarian without alienating everyone by Sarah Von Bargen is SO good!

Food & Drink, Kitchen Staples

How to Sterilise Glass Jam Jars Four Ways

Today let me show you how to sterilise glass jam jars in four different ways – in the microwave, in the oven, in an aga, and in the dishwasher.

I love pickling and preserving fruit and vegetables, and making delicious jams and marmalade.  However, I find I frequently have to rummage through old recipes to remind myself of how to sterilise jam jars correctly.

So partly to help myself, and partly to help any readers also a bit stumped by sterilisation, I’ve put together this quick and easy guide.  It shows you exactly how to sterilise glass jam jars in the oven, microwave, dishwasher, and aga.  Something to suit all preferences, if you will!

Why Do You Need to Sterilise Jam Jars?

Sterilising jam jars is a really important part of the jam, preserve, and pickle-making process.  For a start, there is a risk of botulism if you don’t sterilise your jars correctly.  And secondly, your preserves will last longer. They’ll last up to a year, as sterilisation removes any bacteria, yeast, or other organisms from your jar. This means these organisms are less likely to grow and spoil your hard work before you have got a chance to eat your jam.  Therefore, don’t be tempted to skip over the sterilisation stage!

how to sterilise jars

How To Sterilise Jam Jars In Any Situation

Here are my failsafe four methods to sterilise jars, whatever your situation:

In the Oven

To sterilise your jam jars in the oven:

1.  Heat your oven to 140°C /  275°F / Gas Mark 1.

2.  Wash your jars and lids in warm soapy water.  Next, rinse well to ensure no traces of soap.  Do not dry your jars.

3.  Place a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and place your wet jars on it.  Ensure the jars aren’t touching each other.

4.  Place in the oven and heat for twenty minutes.

5.  Whilst the jars are in the oven, place your wet lids in a saucepan of water, and boil for twenty minutes.

6.  That’s you done!  If your jam/pickle/preserve hasn’t finished cooking once the twenty minutes are up, keep your jars in the oven with the door closed and keep the lids in the saucepan of water.  Cold jars will crack or shatter if you put hot food/liquid in them so you want to keep them warm.

Please note, to sterilise Kilner jars with rubber seals then it’s best to remove the rubber seal and boil that in water.  This is because rubber doesn’t tend to react well to being dried in hot air.  The jar (minus the rubber seal) can be placed in the oven with no problem.

How to Sterilise Jam Jars In the Microwave

This method of sterilising jars in the microwave is a good quick trick to have up your sleeve.  Particularly if you find that you’ve used up all of your jars that you sterilised in the oven and still have jam/pickle/preserve waiting to be jarred!  Just don’t put metal lids or jars with metal clasps in your microwave.  That would be very bad!

If you’re recycling old jars, make sure you’ve removed any labels that might have had any kind of metallic paint/ink on them too. Here’s my guide to removing labels from glass jars in case any are particularly stubborn.

Now that we’ve gotten the safety stuff out of the way, the quickest way to sterilise jars in the microwave is just to wash your jar in hot soapy water, and rinse as before.  Then place your wet jar in the microwave on full power for about 45 seconds (or until bone dry).  Once it’s done in the microwave, make sure fill you fill the jar whilst it is still hot.

If you’re in a proverbial pickle and need to sterilise metal lids quickly, don’t worry.  Even just washing them in warm soapy water and then placing them in a bowl of boiling water while you microwave your jars quickly is probably sufficient.

In the Dishwasher

To sterilise jam jars in your dishwasher just put your dishwasher on at its maximum temperature.  My dishwasher has a top heat of 70°C. Then allow it to run through a full wash and dry cycle so that the jars and lids are bone dry and still hot when you take them out.  Here’s my guide to plastic-free dishwasher detergent in case it’s of interest!

Sterilising jars in a dishwasher does take a bit of planning though, so be warned!  Bearing in mind that the jars have to be warm and bone dry when you jar up your preserve, you have to know exactly how long it takes for your dishwasher to complete a whole wash and dry cycle. I personally prefer the oven method, as it takes less planning.

In an Aga

I don’t have an Aga.  However, I have it on good authority that to sterilise jars in an Aga simply wash your jars in the same manner as above.  Then place the jars in the simmering oven of your Aga for twenty minutes, again in the same manner as you would the oven.  Again, make sure you fill your jars whilst they are still hot.

Other Things to Bear In Mind

There are a few other pointers to bear in mind when sterilising jars.

  • Firstly, check your jam jars for any cracks or nicks before you start.  If you find any put them in your glass recycling.  The high temperatures involved in sterilisation could cause them to smash or shatter.
  • Sterilisation liquid or tabs are fine for sterilising jars intended for pickles or chutneys, or anything else strongly flavoured.  However, I would avoid them if you’re making delicately flavoured jams.
  • Any lids that are a bit rusty-looking should be put in your recycling.

I hope you’ve found this sterilisation guide useful!  If there are any hints or tips I’ve missed out on, or if you do things differently then do share in the comments below!

ps: here are some preserve recipes you might like: easy organic marmalade, blackberry and vanilla jam, and quick pickled cucumber with fennel flowers.  I’ve also pinned this delicious-sounding recipe for the plum season this year. You might like it too!