Friday Rant: Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-Frees, and Lactose Intolerants

I know it's cliché, but there is a reason that it is.

I know it’s cliché, but there is a reason that it is.

Let me get this out of the way right out front: I really do not have a problem with vegetarians. In fact, if it we could just get the pig classified as a vegetable, I would probably be all-in. Heck, I would just settle for sausage and bacon. The others: Vegans, the Gluten-Free, and the Lactose Intolerant? I don’t really have a problem with them either, but let’s harbor no illusions, there is absolutely no chance I will ever go there. I come from a family of dairy farmers who loved their cheese, butter, and bread. And growing up in that environment, it was drilled into my head that dairy products (and meat) were the essence of life. I know there are some potential health issues here, but this is not what my rant is really about.

My rant? I have realized that I am crappy wine intolerant, and I am ranting to get some support for my disease.

What do I mean?

Allow me to explain.

There is no denying that vegetarians and vegans have now become mainstream. So much so that they can order special meals all over the place. Gluten-free and lactose intolerants are not far behind in achieving that same elevated status. Sure, there are some people who think that the last two are a bunch of hooey, but there is no doubt that they are gaining traction everywhere.

Today, at least in the U.S., people don’t think twice about having vegetarian (and, to a slightly lesser extent, all the others) options for the meal. Restaurants, weddings, airlines, heck, even McDonalds has vegetarian choices these days. It has become part of the culture.

In the past few months, I have traveled a bunch, been to some work events, a few weddings, and a bunch of restaurants. As a consequence, I have been to countless dinners away from home (and my cellar).

There were two common elements at all of these events: there were vegetarian options available and really crappy wine.

Well, I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that I can’t tolerate digesting crappy wines (which sounds better in French: Digestion Intolerée des Vins Affreux–D.I.V.A.). I admit it: I am crappy wine intolerant. There is so much good wine out there that is not expensive, there is no reason that I should have to drink crappy wine.

What happens when a vegetarian or vegan is presented with a meal that contains meat? They have essentially three choices: they can eat it (after all, by far most people who are vegetarian are that way by choice), they could go hungry, or they could harangue the serving party into making them feel so horrible that they end up getting something that they “can” eat.

Similar situation for the gluten-free/lactose intolerant crowd. They can eat it (and have some discomfort), go hungry, or go full-on indignant.

Why should that be any different for the D.I.V.A. crowd?

When you offer some vegetarians (or vegans) meat, they often treat you as if you killed the animals yourself and probably in some inhumane fashion; they might even lament that they had a pet cow when they were kids and they were devastated when it was slaughtered. (One thing I learned from my farming relatives: Rule #1 on the farm–Don’t name the animals.)

How would I be received if I took the same approach when you presented me some crappy wine? What if I were to refuse to drink your schlock and demanded that you serve me something that was both better tasting and better for the planet (when in doubt, assume the environmental moral high ground)? What if I state that by serving me this swill that you obviously support mass agriculture, genetically modified farming, and have no appreciation for products that have a sense of place?

I know what would happen. You would either laugh (assuming I was joking around) or call me an jack-“rabbit” or both.

My solution? Either take the time to find quality wines that fit your price point or offer some sort of secret menu to which the wine savvy can have access. I completely agree that good wine should not be wasted on the likes of the non-initiated masses (e.g., my farming relatives–they are perfectly content with either Miller Lite or White Zin [I think I once saw my cousin actually mix the two into some sort of perverse wine cooler–“Hey look Jimmy-Joe-Bob, Miller Lite Zin! Get-it? Yuk, yuk….”])

I have seen menus with an asterisk next to those dishes that are either vegetarian or can be prepared that way. That could easily be adopted for a wine list (click “Sample Menu”):

Sample Menu

No one would ever think giving a vegetarian the choice to either eat meat or go hungry. Why should I be presented with the choice of drinking crappy wine or go thirsty? Or far worse, be forced to confront a particularly offensive social event sober?

So what do you say? Are you crappy-wine intolerant like me? Are you ready to join the D.I.V.A. movement? Remember, admitting you have the “problem” is the first step….

[A last note on weddings: If you are a wine person and are about to get married (or know someone who is), let me proclaim that you must have a secret stash of “good wine” behind the bar for those of us who would appreciate it. My wife and I did it at our wedding–our wine friends appreciated it and cousin Jimmy-Joe-Bob was none the wiser.]

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Humor, Rant, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Friday Rant: Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-Frees, and Lactose Intolerants

  1. renenutet13 says:

    I’m a DIVA and proud! Great post – I think that you speak for a lot of us.

    Like

  2. seetinarun says:

    Love this whole post and especially the picture of the bacon. I promise if I ever invite you over, I will not serve Arbor Mist. 😛 The thing with wine is- you really don’t even need to spend a lot to have a good wine, so there’s really no excuse.

    Like

    • “If I ever invite you over…” Is there some sort of background check I need to go through? Just kidding. As for the wine, it is really not that hard! The Europeans seem to have figured it out–I have had some great wine on planes when flying from Europe, and when I was in Austria, the hotel had a great wine for 6€ for the bottle!

      Like

  3. joyofwine says:

    Amen brother! Love the Vin de Merde label. Made me Lol! I may have to borrow it.. slowly training my friends on buying and drinking better wine! It takes a long time though!

    Like

  4. Awesome! I was just thinking about this same topic. We are called wine snobs, which has a good degree of malice behind it. But we would get a helluva lot more sympathy if we were called Yellowtail Intolerant or we were living a Charles Shaw- free lifestyle. DIVA wil work, too.

    Like

    • Like Miller Lite, Yellowtail has ruined the palate of far too many consumers–they think that is what beer/wine is supposed to taste like, so when they try something actually interesting, they think it is horrible!

      Like

  5. susielindau says:

    I don’t consider myself a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. I still remember in horror, the night my friend got scolded by her husband when she poured her wine in his glass where a half ounce still remained. But I have twisted my face up in disgust over nasty wine that has sat out too long. Even I sent it back!

    Like

  6. Hilarious. My wife and I are in Mexico and were lamenting we’d rather drink crappy beer than crappy wine. I once had a wine that was so crappy, I sent it back and asked for a beer! Say it loud, I’m a D.I.V.A. and I’m proud!

    Like

  7. Hahaha, this is so funny. And I couldn’t agree more that certain social events should never be endured while sober, though when vin de merde is the only option it becomes a pretty tough choice 🙂

    Like

  8. Rant on! Just make sure there’s some good cheese with your whine. 🙂 I long ago decided that there are worthwhile indulgences. And I have little concern about researching, asking questions about and then choosing to pay premiums for quality food, wine and dark chocolate.

    Thanks for sharing this from the rooftop. 🙂

    Like

  9. I always enjoy your rants, and count me among your D.I.V.A. associates, but one must remember to include the periods, other wise the world may think that we are opera singers or maybe worse, out of control pop culture singers. If that wine is for real, I may have to get a bottle of it, as I always tell my barber that he should rename his salon “Casa de Merde.”

    Like

  10. heila2013 says:

    Le Vin de Merde – LOL!!
    Great post!
    Heila

    Like

  11. karengadient says:

    I’m vegan and I drink vegan wine… but hell yes, I’ll pay up for the good stuff. 😉

    Like

  12. cyardin says:

    Or you just get married on the grounds of a winery and receive your guests in the cask hall. Our guests knew that if things went to pot that they could always just go and secretly tap one of the barrels.

    Like

  13. Lignum Draco says:

    I’m a D.I.V.A. too.

    Like

  14. linnetmoss says:

    As a vegetarian, I can attest that we are not offered special meals everywhere we go. My pet peeve is “fine” restaurants that have one token meal in the menu, so my husband and I have to order the SAME exact thing. And they won’t even give us a plate of sides (or the side veggies are full of pork fat). Oh well, at least we get good wine… But how do you define “crappy” wine? Are all table wines “crappy”? (In that case must I blush for my Black Box chard?) Isn’t the problem that many people simply can’t tell the difference, or have palates too trained on Diet Coke to even care?

    Like

    • You raise some excellent points. First, I imagine that the vegetarian options are not always that varied. I get that, but at least you have some. Second, to me, “crappy” wine is frankly just not that good. I feel it is not all that difficult to get interesting wines at all price points with just the slightest bit of effort (I think Black box, for example, does a fine job and would be a great “house wine” for a restaurant). Third, I completely agree that many (most?) people can’t tell the difference (for whatever reason), but there are a few (I like to think I am one) that can tell the difference, but they are not given the choice….

      Like

      • linnetmoss says:

        But what does “just not that good” mean? I would certainly agree that wines with off flavors (like the sulfurous flavors of a Charles Shaw red) are easy to spot. They would definitely qualify as crappy. And maybe even a really flabby or overly acidic wine, where it clearly seems that either the grapes were bad or the winemaker exercised bad judgment. But “interesting” wine is a much more subjective thing. I might think that a little cat pee in the wine is an interesting nose, but others might find it “off.” To me, Black Box is more reliably tasty than interesting.

        Like

      • Oh, I certainly agree that “interesting” is subjective and your comment about Black Box is certainly true–it’s consistent. There are plenty of people out there that appreciate and value consistent (I am one of them). I guess what I mean when I say “interesting” is similar to the difference between craft beers and Miller Lite. While the former have character and personality, the latter really has neither.

        Like

  15. sagedoyle says:

    Great article. I gave up red meat when I was 18, then all meat and was vegetarian, then I was an omnivore again, then I was vegetarian, then vegan, then raw, then vegetarian, now I’ve just gone vegan again working towards raw. First it was for the animals, and continues to be, but now the extreme of raw for health reasons, because the three weeks I went raw in the past, I never felt better in my life, so we’ll see if it helps. I’ve never dictated my diet, and in fact have been attacked for it, mocked, and insulted, but I don’t get into those discussions. I don’t enjoy debating or arguing. Whenever I go somewhere and there’s no food options for me, like a party, I just don’t eat, I drink, and no one notices anyway because there are usually a lot of people, and I never complain. Most people know what my diet is, so it’s never usually a problem in smaller gatherings, though there have been occasions where there was nothing and so I didn’t eat, and didn’t complain, or I’d say it’s no problem, I’m not really hungry anyway. The thing is, at this point in my life, I’ve been so long without meat, that if I ate any, it would get me excruciatingly sick. My digestive track would go into shock. And the thought of eating it turns my stomach anyway. Sorry for such a long comment when this wasn’t really the premise of your post, it was just kind of interesting for me to outline this for myself lol. However, I love how you make the parallels with good wine vs. crappy wine. It makes total sense for a connoisseur to feel that way. I’m definitely no connoisseur and will drink cheap wine, but I have to say there are some really crappy wines out there that taste either bitter or metallic, or way too sweet, they’re crap that even I refuse to drink. Or in company, I’ll drink the first glass politely then say I’m done. Now when it comes to gluten free, I’ve known people with a anaphylactic shock type allergy to it, but I also have known people who went gluten free by choice. Supposedly there are great health benefits. I think raw qualifies as gluten free, but I could care less about paying attention to gluten. I’ve had gluten free stuff and it really sucks. The breads are like cardboard, and the desserts are like rubber. Hey, thanks for letting me write an article in response to your article!

    Like

    • I completely agree with the health benefits of vegetarian/vegan. Like I said in the post, I would probably be vegetarian if it were not for bacon. I understand that there are many people that choose to be vegetarian/vegan because of the animals, but I do not really “get” that–I come from a family of farmers, where these animals were raised as crops, essentially. I do agree that the animals should be treated “humanely” but beyond that….

      I dated a woman once who was a strict vegetarian, and had been for years. Once, she mistakenly ate something with meat in it, and was sick for a couple of days, so I hear what you are saying.

      I hope you did not see my post as a indictment against those who follow these diets, but rather poking a little fun at society that is quick to adapt these diets, but still looks down its nose at those of us who want a good (not necessarily expensive) glass of wine.

      Like

      • sagedoyle says:

        No I didn’t see it as poking fun and I wasn’t offended by it in the least. No worries. I really did enjoy the article and the parallels you drew. I never thought of wine in that way, maybe the connoisseurs are a greater minority than vegetarians. Also, I wonder about the expense of having such wines, and the price that many consumers might not be willing to pay in a restaurant for a glass or bottle. And if they only get a glass, what’s the life of a decent wine once the bottle has been opened? I have no idea, but would it last long enough for the next person who orders it would come in? So maybe you can blame it on the people like me who don’t know any better and go for the cheapest wine I’m comfortably familiar with, messing up the supply and demand for those like you who have finer taste. Oops, sorry :/ But I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m neither a restaurant manager nor a connoisseur so you can tell me to shut up anytime. And don’t ever worry about offending me, I love your blog and I think you’re a great guy, besides I don’t get offended very easily. I just hope I haven’t offended you.

        Like

      • Oh no! Not at all! I love your blog as well and it warms my heart to know that you read mine! As for my article, I really started it as a bit tongue-in-cheek, but as I continued writing it, I realized that I was more serious than I originally thought. Not many would question a vegetarian’s choice not to eat meat, and many places are now accommodating them (certainly there is considerable room for improvement, but still…). The same can’t be said for those who choose not to drink crummy wines, which for some reason makes us snobs.

        I thought that the parallels were interesting to think about–as a former teacher and current researcher, I am all about encouraging thought!

        Like

  16. talkavino says:

    not sure I can support your rant. I’ve eaten in vegetarian restaurants, as it was necessary for my traveling companion, and I had a lot of tasty food. Can’t comment on the weddings, don’t visit those too often, but when it comes to the restaurants, I practically always find a good wine to drink on the list. It also depends what restaurant you are going to and what do you expect. If I’m in the simple diner, ice tea would be my drink of choice…

    Like

    • Well, I was not talking about vegetarian restaurants (I have never been to one, but I have heard that, in general, they have fantastic wine lists). I agree that it depends on what restaurant you go to–I go to a lot of restaurants with very tasty and creative dishes.

      And completely crappy wines, particularly at the price point that I am willing to pay.

      Knowing the relative prices of wines, I know that these restaurants could get much more interesting wines for the same price, but they don’t for some inane reason (likely the owner knows next to nothing about wine, or does not want to be bothered by it).

      Like

      • talkavino says:

        Well, the wine lists at the restaurants I visited are literally non-existent, so tea is a drink of choice. However, if you paid attention to any of my posts, I had being lately to many restaurants with very exquisite and elaborate dishes, and pretty much always there is good bottle of wine one can drink at a reasonable price…

        Like

      • Sorry you did not like the post Anatoli–I wrote it slightly tongue-in-cheek. Sounds like you go to nicer restaurants than we do, I guess!

        Like

  17. Here is my request for enrollment in the D.I.V.A. circle… 🙂 Respecting all the food philosophies (at the moment to be Vegan is really cool in Italy, although I don’t like the way my friends try to frighten any single person they meet at lunch or the way they think that because I prepare pizza with fresh mozzarella I am a “cow killer”… I suppose the day in which somebody will believe salad has a soul, it will be their turn!), when I asked if Sassicaia was a vegan wine and they replied “no way, ma’am”, I thought that was my limit :)) (joking but not too much) Loved your post, you pictured perfectly my same feelings, and when you wrote about the fact you should never give a name to an animal, I saw the face of my auntie (she was a farmer) who explained to me, that although my Camilla was a peculiar duck, she cooked her and was delighted by her taste… Have a nice, charming day 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks so much for the comment! I stayed away from the Veganistas (Vegans who think anybody els who is not vegan is a horrible murderer of animals–it is very interesting to me how many vegans also smoke cigarettes, but that is of another rant) simply because that topic strayed a bit from my focus, but I agree with you! I wonder if vegans are against breastfeeding….

      Sorry to hear about your duck (but I am sure she was delicious!).)

      Like

  18. My husband works in IT Healthcare. You can imagine what a hoot those business dinners are. When faced with a conga line of penguins and kangaroos at the bar, that’s when I say, “I’ll have a gin & tonic.”

    And yes, never name the animals. But if you do, make sure you continue to use their names. This was an exchange between my husband and his 15-years younger sister, who must have been about 4 at the time. They raised pigs and had just sent one for processing. The previous year, my husband had enjoyed taunting his little sister about where Muffin went. She was having none of it this year. My husband: “Hey, J . . . where’s Smokey?” J: “Smokey’s in the freezer!”

    Salud!

    Like

  19. chef mimi says:

    DIVA proud here. Even at our local country club, there are about 6-7 wines, and I can hardly choke them down. The would probably have vin du merde on the list, thinking it was something French and fancy. Great post.

    Like

  20. annetbell says:

    Very interesting and informative !

    Like

  21. sagedoyle says:

    Your final reply to me above didn’t come through until now, but there’s a glitch and I can’t reply to it directly. Sometimes I get these strange glitches with wordpress, so sorry about the delay. Anyway… I agree, the parallels are intriguing and not anything I’d have thought of myself. I can definitely see you as a teacher and a researcher. And I’m honored that you enjoy my blog, thanks so much. I absolutely read yours, I just seldom comment on blogs, but I love when I’m compelled to comment and can’t help it. Again, great post. Take care!

    Like

  22. Dina says:

    Welcome to the club! Lovely and very enjoyable reading!
    Dina

    Like

  23. Fun post! Wine is a growth process and you need to be exposed to good wine. So many people limit themselves to what is on sale at the grocery store.

    Like

  24. dgourmac says:

    Right on, brother! As a mostly-vegan, I am in complete agreement with your philosophy on crappy wine.

    Like

  25. Well, now…I guess this makes me a DIVA – no sorry, I mean D.I.V.A. 🙂
    There are so many affordable delicious wines, especially here in France, so why wouldn’t anyone choose to be one!?

    Like

    • Yes, where you are there is absolutely no excuse. There are fabulous wines at 5€ or less. Over here, it is a bit more challenging, but there is no reason to drink crappy wine no matter what your price limitations.

      Like

  26. Corkmaster says:

    Dear drunken cyclist,
    Loved this post – whatever happened to the idea of “corkage”, or BYO? If a restaurant had a charge equal to the profit on a average bottle it’s no loss to them – and the customer is happy.

    Like

    • I agree that it is a bit out of control. The only problem is that here in Philly, restaurants often charge 3-4 times the retail price for a bottle of wine! There are a lot of reasons for that, but most restaurants across the country will typically mark-up their bottles 2.5-3 times what they pay for it. There is no way that anyone could justify that in my mind (other than people seem not to mind and are paying it).

      Like

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