What is a vegetarian?
A person who does not eat any meat products (beef, poultry, game, fish, or shellfish).

What are the different types of vegetarianism?
Within the "vegetarian" term, there are a few different types:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Eats no meat products, but still eats eggs and dairy.
  • Lacto vegetarian: Eats no meat products (including eggs), but still eats dairy.
  • Ovo vegetarian: Eats no meat or dairy products, but still eats eggs.
  • Vegan: Eats no animal products whatsoever, including eggs and dairy. Also does not wear leather, suede, or fur, or use any product that included the harming or slaughter of animals. (Note: If you EVER see a vegan wearing leather, call them out at once!)
  • "Pescetarian": People who like to call themselves "vegetarian," although they still eat fish and seafood. TRUE vegetarians do not eat fish! You cannot use our term! If you come across these people, call them out immediately as well.
More on veganism...
I truly respect vegans. I have yet to go down this path myself, as I can't quite give up my affinity for things like cheese and dining out. But they are a highly admirable group of folks, who commit their lives to health, diet, ethics, and animal welfare. For my vegan readers, I've tried to categorize the Vegan recipes on this site correctly. If I've erred or left anything out, please contact me at once and I will make any necessary changes.

What is tofu?
Tofu is the result of coagulated soy milk (from soybeans) curds. Sounds appetizing, right? In actuality, tofu doesn't taste much like anything at all; it's a big, cold, white block of nothing...which is what makes it great for cooking because it easily picks up the flavor of whatever it's cooked in. It can be eaten raw, sauteed, stir-fried, stuffed, or added to soups and stews. When frozen and pressed, it can even take on a similar texture to meat. It's low in calories and fat, but high in protein, iron, and calcium. Tofu is a great vegetarian staple, and hey, it's only about $1 per container! Meat can't beat that!

What is tempeh?
Tempeh is a "cake" of fermented soybeans. Another "appetizing" vegetarian treat. In some varieties, wheat or other grains are added. It has a completely different texture, taste, and form than tofu. Due to its fermentation process (yes, you're eating moldy soybeans), it takes on an "interesting" smell and taste on its own, which is why many recipes suggest steaming or braising it before actually using it in a dish. The taste is sort of sour, nutty, and mushroom-y...so again, a good marinade or sauce is important. Its texture is chewy (much harder than tofu), and is good for use as meat substitutes because of its durability and firmness. Tempeh is very high in protein and fiber. I'm not a huge fan of it myself (people either love it or hate it), but I have found it to work well in certain dishes.

What is seitan?
Seitan (pronounced say-TAHN), or wheat gluten, is simply a mixture of wheat flour and water. How it's made is what gives it its meat-like texture: basically, the flour and water are kneaded together long enough to form a very elastic dough, which is then cooked in any flavored liquid. It's typically not eaten raw (although I suppose one could), and is usually used as a meat subsitute for stews, sandwiches, and whatever else you can think of. It can be shredded, sliced, diced, baked, fried, stewed, sauteed, you name it. This is the stuff you find most mock meats on the market are made of, and especially in those "veg" Asian restaurants. Personally, I love this stuff. It's as close to meat as I can get (as far as texture, mainly) without actually eating it!