Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Insidious Anchovy, Or, When is Vegetarian not Vegetarian?

According to Merriam-Webster (located right here in Springfield, MA along with the Basketball Hall of Fame and the ghost of Dr. Seuss), an anchovy is:

: any of a family (Engraulidae) of small fishes resembling herrings that includes several (as Engraulis encrasicholus) that are important food fishes used especially in appetizers, as a garnish, and for making sauces and relishes

It doesn't actually look or sound right to say "anchovy" rather than "anchovies." The question appears to be: are anchovies vegetarian in any way? The answer, according to me, is no. If an anchovy is a part of a "family of small fishes," then it is not in any way vegetarian, which, according to MW, is a diet "consisting wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products." We run in to this question more often than not when dealing with people of an older generation or certain religious persuasion, who have been culturally programmed to feel that fish, and sometimes even chicken, is not meat. Possibly because of reasons like this? I don't know, it's a mystery to me, but it results in things like the "vegetarian" jello-chicken salad that my grandmother once made for me. The line is drawn in different places for a lot of vegetarians. For me, everything that once had eyes is out, except potatoes. I make exceptions for marshmallows (gelatin), eggs, and the grease that undoubtedly coats my diner-grilled french toast and grilled cheese. But this issue is actually seriously annoying. If something is labeled "vegetarian," it shouldn't have anchovies, or beef or chicken stock, or gelatin, or (shudder) rennet. We spend enough of our time asking these questions for things at restaurants that aren't labeled at all to worry if we're really safe NOT asking them about things that are labeled! If anyone who actually owns a restaurant or writes menus ever reads this: please err on the side of conservative vegetarianism! Thanks, I'm done for now.

Doing more research on the anchovies front, I was horrified to discover that Cheez Whiz is one of those products that contain anchovies. Gross. I mean, why? I guess it's not surprising that a product that deliberately misspells a word in its name would add a crazy ingredient. But really, that's unnecessary. I guess I'll also be staying away from Worcestershire Sauce, which was in my "vegetarian" beet soup the other night. Thanks for nothing, Butternuts!

Someone has a recipe for vegetarian anchovies, for those people that just can't live without them. Shockingly, I am not in that group. Even when I was not a vegetarian, I couldn't stand fish or any kind of seafood. Now I'm just glad that I don't have to fake some excuse for not eating them.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

In the kosher diet, fish is parve (hence not meat) although foul is firmly in the meat category. That said, Butternut needs to be more careful about their menu.