I live in Durban, the leading port city in Africa and South Africa’s holiday capital. It’s a fun and exciting city to live in, but not so much if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Sometimes it is quite frustrating to find a good vegetarian restaurant, with many restaurants paying only lip service to their vegetarian clientele. Fortunately vegetarian and vegan restaurants are springing up all around Durban and surrounding areas. Vegetarian living in South Africa just got easier.
Eating at one of the city’s many restaurants is quite expensive, so I get a tad irritated when I am served limp salads, boring pizzas and cold pastas. To add insult to injury, I have to watch patrons eating their way through the food chain, as they stuff their faces with gut-rotting meat. My food often tasted funny, as if it was fried in oil used to fry meat. After I got tired of complaining about the bad service, I decided to search online for vegetarian restaurants in Durban. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of eateries to choose from.
Now that many vegan and vegetarian restaurants have opened in the Durban area, I didn’t have to eat sub-standard food or suffer the sight of people eating meat anymore. Many of the restaurants are within a 10 km area and are easily accessible, which makes life a bit easier for me. I can now enjoy the company of my fellow vegetarians and vegans while eating tasty yet ethical food. South Africans love their barbecues. It is a time for friends and families to meet. When I tell people I am a vegetarian, they look shocked and puzzled. After briefly explaining why I don’t eat meat, we are all back to joking and having fun. Also, the food served is much better than restaurant food.
People drink alcohol heavily at these occasions and tend to say stupid things. Most folks, who know me, know I don’t eat meat. But there are a few people who need a crash course in vegetarianism and freedom of choice.
I was at a barbecue when a fellow asked me how I survived on eating only grass. After I resisted the urge to punch his lights out, I told him that my digestive system was better than his.
His girlfriend waved at me from the far side of the yard. ‘Everything else functions better when you don’t eat meat,’ I said to him, as I waved back.
Some times even long time friends can say really bewildering things, when they should know better.
I was at a friend’s house recently. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, so we chatted as we drank coffee.
‘I was a vegetarian for a few years,’ said Ursula.
‘That’s great,’ I said. ‘Why did you stop?’
‘I stopped because I started to feel weak after a while,’ she said. ‘But I ate chicken and fish while I was vegetarian.’
I gave her an incredulous look.
‘I guess, I’m not a vegetarian if I am eating chicken and fish,’ said Mary, looking embarrassed.
All I could do was grin. People are really daft sometimes.
Meat eaters don’t understand that if you eat fish and chicken but don’t eat red meat, you are not a vegetarian. It’s very heartening to see vegetarianism and veganism growing fast in South Africa. Things could have been worse - I could have lived in France.
France actually targets people who don’t eat meat. The French regime forbids the serving of vegetarian and vegan meals in public and in private schools. The locals are just as hostile. Order a cheese toast in a restaurant in France, and the chef will fry your sandwich in lard. They will probably add ham to your cheese sandwich. If you order a meatless salad in France, the waiter will serve you fish. I suppose the French don’t think of fish as meat.
Vegetarian living in South Africa is relatively easy compared to the rest of Africa. Chain stores stock tasty meat substitutes, and many specialty stores stock Indian and other Asian foods. Hopefully, South Africa will become a predominantly vegetarian and vegan nation in the future. Now that’s a dream worth having!
Photo of Durban City Hall: Public Domain Image