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Meat-loving Denmark doesn't cater well enough to vegetarians, writes Becky Steckhahn-Strohmer
Even though I have been in Denmark for more than five years, I still have trouble eating out or going to a friend’s house for dinner. It isn’t because I’m a social recluse, it is because I am vegetarian. When relating this information to a Dane, I normally get a shocked reaction which I translate to “how do you survive without eating meat?”.
Well, actually, in Denmark it isn’t that easy surviving without meat. If you want a quick slice of pizza after a long night out, sorry, you are out of luck, all prepared slices are made with a meaty topping of your choice. If you want a vegetarian pizza, you have to wait 30 minutes while they make your pizza.
The only quick food option that I have, especially late night, is falafel and I have actually had vendors ask me “you know that is vegetarian, right?”, ummm yes, that is why I ordered it. It was as if they were shocked that someone would willingly purchase a meal without animal flesh.
What about dining out at a restaurant you say? I have been at restaurants in Denmark where there was literally not ONE item on the menu that did not have meat in it… ok, I exaggerate, the drinks did not include meat. But yes, even the salads, ALL of the salads had a meaty topping. Therefore, forcing me to the be one going “off menu”, and we all know how much waiters love that.
One day, I decided to brave going to brunch with my wife and some friends, wrongfully assuming that brunch would be an easy meal to score for the veggie team. I guess you know what happens next, I have to go “off menu” and order my brunch bonanza plate sans meat.
The waitress looked at me like I was sprouting a third head that I was unaware of and tried to inform me that there was no way that I could be full without eating the bacon and sausage that was supposed to come with my meal. Sigh. I did get the point across eventually and, surprisingly, I was full after my meal.
Ok, if I need to rule out the majority of restaurants, at least I can be social and head over to a friend’s house for a meal. While I have some amazing friends that look up recipes and make them special when I am coming over, most of the time I can tell it is a struggle if I accept a dinner invitation. Sometimes I end up giving strong suggestions about what should be served, including a pre-emailed recipe or I offer to bring my own “non-meat” with me.
I normally do this at Christmas time because the Christmas menu is very traditional and I do like the sides that are served with the meat. I bring along my own fake meat substance and my wife makes me some veggie gravy so that I can enjoy a lovely Danish Christmas meal without any dead birds in my mouth.
Denmark is a meat-obsessed culture and with one of their top exports being pigs, I can understand the importance. However, I still hope that in the future there might be a few more vegetarian friendly options, I have noticed lately that to-go shops at gas stations / train stations have started to have at least one veggie friendly salad or sandwich… it’s a start!