All About That Fish
By Mary Harris. Posted on January 27, 2017.
I am a pescetarian. Wondering what that is? Is it some kind of new independent political party, a freaky religious cult or a previously unknown zodiac sign? Nope. It's all about food choices. Pescetarians are vegetarians most of the time but allow fish and seafood into their diets on occasion, often including eggs and dairy products as well.
I consider myself to be sort of a fence sitter, unable to fully commit myself to a full time vegetarian lifestyle. Someone once told me that I am a “vegan with training wheels”, but I am fairly certain that those wheels will never come off. Why? Partly because fish and chips – yes, fish and chips – is my favorite dish in the whole world! It might be my British heritage, but oh man do I love my soft battered fish and golden chunky french fries! Somehow, I cannot see any well-crafted soy product coming close. Ever.
That is me. However, I suspect that most pescetarians include seafood in their diets because of deliberate choices they have made, unlike some wishy-washy dabbler like myself. They have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle but still eat the body of a once living creature, which seems somewhat contradictory. But there are as many reasons for living the veggie life as there are adherents. It could be that some people believe that the meat products from land animals are less healthy to consume, and that those animals also have a greater negative impact on the planet than sea creatures do. There are also religious beliefs that allow the eating of fish but not traditional meat.
If you're considering a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for the first time, you can either approach it whole hog (my apologies for the pork related term) or in baby steps, which relates back to those training wheels again. Where you end up, part time vegetarian or die hard vegan, is up to you and really does depend on why you are embarking on this journey of change in the first place.
For me, my first reason is that I don’t really like meat. Never did. My parents were plain eaters and not wealthy people. My mother, please forgive me for saying so, was not a great cook. Dinner often consisted of lovely treats like liver, kidney or tripe, or perhaps a cheap steak cooked on an electric frying pan with no seasoning. It was like eating a sandal.
Secondly, I am an animal lover. I cannot stand to think of the treatment of farm animals. What nice neat terms we give to them when they appear on our plates – beef, pork, veal, mutton. Why do we never say what we mean? Oh look – baby cow for dinner. At least the wild caught fish were swimming free in their natural environment when they were netted.
Lastly, I like the health benefits of fish as opposed to the meat of land animals. I get great levels of protein, omega-3s, iron and many other nutrients without the negative impact of fatty red meats on antibiotics and from other mystery additives to the livestock feed. I should also add that fish, as well as beans, soy, seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables, are waaaaaaay more affordable than the meats you find in your grocery store.
I also find that having this extra option is very handy when you find yourself looking at a restaurant menu or standing next to the buffet table at a family gathering. I am not a shout-it-from-the-rooftops vegetarian and prefer not to make a fuss about my choices, so most people don’t necessarily notice that I don’t eat what is considered “meat”. There are usually more options for me to choose from rather than if I was full on veggie.
I may give up fish one day too. Who knows? Maybe I am only one documentary away from being turned off of all seafood forever, but for now I am happy to eat crab cakes in Maryland, a fish fry in Scotland and smoked salmon jerky from the British Columbia coast, along with my chick pea salads and eggplant parmigiana.