Being a (new) #vegetarian in South Africa


A few months ago (the exact date eludes me), I decided to take the plunge and become a vegetarian. Truth be told I should probably have called myself a pescatarian (as I continued eating fish), however I have now stopped eating fish, bi-valves and shellfish etc. These have been the hardest for me as I struggle to see them as animals. But that is a topic for another day.

Anyway, so being a vegetarian has been an eye opening event for me. I see the world differently, and I now see how little people know about this lifestyle. I have met several vegetarians in my lifetime, but only one vegan (big ups to him!), but not nearly as much as one would expect. Sure South Africa is the biltong (dried meat) mecca, and here you hardly see a meal that is not 1 part meat and 1 part potatoes in one form or another. I think this has been one of my biggest struggles – to look at my plate and not see any meat, its just weird.

But my biggest struggle is the fact that I don’t enjoy many vegetables. I know right? How can I be a vegetarian and not like vegetables? Blame my Afrikaans heritage I say! But on a serious note, it is something I am working on. I am trying to eat more vegetables and trying to find ways that I would enjoy it without putting a mountain of cheese sauce over it! If you have any ideas, please share!


What do I eat then?
I eat tons of pasta with a blended vegetable mix and tomato puree sauce, lots of Quorn products, nuts and seed packets and veggie burgers. I am a repeat eater, so I can eat these things over and over! I recently got a new cook-book from Netgalley, Meatless All Day: Recipes for Inspired Vegetarian Meals, and I’m going to try and explore more dishes!

Something else I have noticed is the weird looks I get when I say, no thank you I’m a vegetarian, or something of the sort. People don’t understand the why, and it is just such a personal feeling and commitment that I cannot explain it properly. I normally respond with: ‘I’m doing it for the animals’, which is true, but I cannot convey the importance in such a short sentence. From here on the most common response is, but that *insert veg/fruit name* was also killed and you are eating it. How does one even respond to that? I just smile and nod. This sums it up pretty well tho:

Something else I have noticed is that some people have NO IDEA what being a vegetarian means. I went to a conference recently where they asked us to indicate vegetarian, halal and kosher. I of course indicated vegetarian. The first day, I could not find the vegetarian meals. The second day onwards they started putting out papers indicated the vegetarian platters. What I found was sandwiches with salami and things with mince in it. So I gave up. However, one of the days we got a packed lunch = the sandwich inside had thick slices of green, red and yellow pepper as the filling. I kid you not. And I think this is my point. People think if you are a vegetarian you will just eat anything that is not meat. This is not true in my case, I’m guessing other people’s as well. I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat that amount of peppers, and it doesn’t appeal to me on a sandwich!?
I have also been taking note of what restaurants in SA indicate with that little green V, as vegetarian. They often print it by the wrong thing (these often include chicken) or don’t indicate at all. If you ask if something has meat in it, people don’t actually know how to respond or offer you bacon… It is frustrating!


My one saving grace has been Woolworths (a supermarket), that indicates EVERYTHING on their labels. Vegetarian with milk, vegetarian with eggs, vegan, gluten free etc. And this is not the norm in other supermarkets, but I wish it could be!

So in summary my few months a vegetarian in South Africa has taught me:
– You will get weird stares and questions
– You will get dumb questions
– You will get meals that people have just not thought about
– You will have to guess and ask if something has meat in it
– Shop at Woolworths!
– Try more recipes
– Try vegetarian alternatives meals

I will stay with the vegetarian lifestyle and I can definitely say that it has been much easier than stopping smoking. It is worth it! I hope South Africa will slowly get there and understand what it means, as well as stock more vegetarian foodstuffs!