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. This can get annoying as you can read in the customer feedback I filled out recently after visiting a very nice pub in the Heart of the Midlands.

Customer Feedback. 01/03/10

Please describe what we could do to improve the menu:

The provision for vegetarians was abysmal, only two vegetarian meals were offered – one of which was not vegetarian …Parmesan cheese, by European law, is made using the stomach juices of a cow.
Why would a vegetarian eat here? …why do people eat? …to get a good combination of Proteins and Minerals. Where is the protein in pasta? Where is the protein in butternut squash? (who the hell would want to EAT butternut squash?!?!)
Everyone else in the party had good food. Just don’t come here if you are a vegetarian.

To help us fully understand the issue, please describe the problem with your food in more detail:

Only two meals were suitable for me. OK, I am a vegetarian, so I expect a restricted choice, but: 1, who wants to eat butternut squash?!? (here’s a clue, vegetarians are not vegetarians because they love to eat vegetables, so the answer is: NO ONE!); and 2, if a dish has “Parmesan Cheese” in it then it is NOT vegetarian. Some cheeses are, some cheeses are not, vegetarian, but Parmesan is the one cheese that by law CAN NOT BE VEGETARIAN!!!.
So what was I left with? A tomato and mushroom sauced pasta with no protein. …Yum!

Why not use meat substitutes – you can get mince, meatballs, chicken style pieces, beef style pieces, Tofu even: silken tofu, deep fried, hard smoked tofu chunks, marinated tofu. Well Ok then – the chef can’t get to a supermarket and buy the readily available tofu or meat substitutes – so how about mexican bean enchiladas or chilli; how about a nut roast? How about anything that doesn’t rely on cheese, cheese, cheese!

Please tell us why you felt the team members were not knowledgeable about the menu and/or drinks:

I had to ask the waitress if the “vegetarian” options were actually vegetarian .(Note: they weren’t actually indicated as being vegetarian, you just had to guess). I told the waitress that the inclusion of Parmesan cheese in a meal meant that that meal was not vegetarian. She must have conferred with the chef as the chef then appeared and apologised for the fact that the Parmesan was not vegetarian.

If you have any general comments or suggestions for this pub, please let us know:

Do I have to bang on about the Vegetarian issue? I’m not a sandel wearing bearded hippy – I’m just someone who doesn’t want to eat dead animals. Maybe I should go somewhere else.

[MP. March 2010.]

7 Responses to “Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian”

  1. veggieopolis Says:

    Thanks for your comment Connor.
    This post was about the limited choice of menu items offered to vegetarians:- menu items that are advertised, labeled or indicated to be “Suitable for Vegetarians” – and how the use of Parmesan cheese means that these items are NOT Suitable for Vegetarians as so offered, advertised, labeled or indicated.
    I have edited the post in italics to make this a bit more clear.
    Peace Out.

  2. connor rennie Says:

    To be honest I find your opinion to be frankly quite disgusting. It is not up to anyone other than you to ensure that you are eating vegetarian foods. This is a life choice you have made and restaurants should have no obligation to cater to your particular requirements. You have a right to be a vegetarian but remember that doesn’t mean everyone else should have to pander to your needs.

  3. Andy Says:

    I understand the frustration but there’s no need to be rude. You just make the rest of us vegetarians look bad.

  4. Andy Says:

    A simple substitute for Parmesan is Old Winchester. It is cheaper and equally as delicious as Parmesan, plus it is vegetarian!

  5. veggieopolis Says:

    Hi Peaches, Thanks for the comment.

    In the UK and Europe ‘Parmesan’ is a protected name and can’t be used by any other ‘parmesan type cheese’. Part of its Protected Designation of Origin status means that Parmesan must be made with the traditional ingredients associated with it – which, in this case, include non-vegetarian calf rennet: therefore Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian.

    This issue was reported on recently in The Guardian where Ali Schofield wrote in her article:
    No parmesan please, we’re vegetarian about the confusion of chefs and restauranters about Parmesan and vegetarian cheeses.


  6. Peaches White Says:

    Only Parmesan that is made in Italy under the regulations of that government needs to contain rennet. The stuff made elsewhere which is called parmesan doesn’t need to contain rennet, since it isn’t regulated by those laws. Therefore there are a few brands of the parmesan type cheese in the US that are vegetarian.

  7. Helen Says:

    I’m with you 100% I am sick and tired of having the ‘Parmesan’ conversation with people, thankfully Ive not had the ‘but you eat fish don’t you’ conversation. There is a pub near me in Wetherby (sub of Leeds) that does think fish is vegetarian, we saw V next to fish on the menu,we didnt go in!

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