For most South Africans meat is the centre of any meal, although many others prefer plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. I have always considered eliminating meat and other foods of animal origin completely from my diet.
It turns out this is quite difficult. My research into what I should and shouldn’t eat brought about many surprises. I have come across a few edibles which could easily fool you into thinking that it’s vegetarian when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are some of the items I naively thought could be classified as vegetarian:
Potato chips (not all of them):
This is weird, because we have potato chips at big parties, at a braai and fancy dishes at wedding receptions. What affects this all-time favourite’s vegetarian credit, however, is the fact that some potato chips are baked in animal fat. This is done as a way to add flavour. The most common fats that are used is beef and chicken fat, which no longer makes it safe for vegetarians.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Some people like to enjoy a green salad (for real!) while others may prefer yogurt with muesli as a vegetarian option. Well, at least it sounds vegetarian. Yogurt, especially the one with the label that says fat-free, contains traces of an animal protein called gelatine. When fat is extracted from the yogurt, gelatine helps it keep its texture.
Beware, especially of the red coloured sodas, which are far from innocent. Where does that perfect red colour come from? It may just come from cochineal bugs, labelled as carmine on the products’ nutrition fact sheets. The bugs contain a bright red fluid which is often used as a natural colorant in food, sweets, soft drinks and chewing gum.
Believe it or not, bird feathers (specifically duck or chicken) are used in the process of making these delicacies. Bagel bakers are not much interested in the feathers themselves, but rather the amino acid L. Cysteine that the feathers contain.
Even jelly babies aren’t safe:
I like to snack on jelly babies. Having to give up these gummies to go vegetarian would be a major sacrifice, one that I am not ready for. Yes, jelly babies also contain gelatine and this is probably where I decided that I am not yet ready for that leap to vegetarianism. Why? Because I love my babies way too much.