Eating out as a vegetarian one is often faced with a poor selection of meals which are mostly cheese or dairy based. On a typical menu of over twenty items, with each dish being a particular treatment and presentation of one animal or another, there would be maybe two menu items that are advertised as being suitable for vegetarians.
These two items would invariably be some kind of vegetable bake, pasta or a risotto; they would feature cheese or dairy as their main protein; and they would have a spurious assortment of vegetables inserted into the recipe as a replacement for their meat-based relatives in the chef’s menu book.
The chef knows that vegetarians like to eat vegetables and that if she can’t use meat at least she can use cheese. And as a nice way of topping off a meal, why not use slices of that ‘posh’ cheese – Parmesan?
Unfortunately nothing indicates that a chef knows nothing about vegetarians more than their use of Parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian. Parmesan cheese is protected by law and can only come from Italy and it has to be made in the traditional way – the traditional way being with the use of animal rennet. So, to repeat, Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian.
Now some cheeses are vegetarian, some cheeses are not. When eating out I assume that if a meal is labelled vegetarian then the chef knows his business and that the cheese used in it is vegetarian.
When I see a Vegetarian meal that has got Parmesan on it then I know the meal is not vegetarian and that the chef knows nothing about vegetarians …as I hope you appreciate, this can get frustrating.
[MP. March 2010.]