Vegetarians Don’t Use Knives

Well, at least not very often.  Let me elaborate.

Today I wrote an email, to people who had signed up on a list, to let them know that today was the last day to get the best deal on Marathon Roadmap.  I was explaining how the big, sleazy internet marketing gurus tell you to “twist the knife” on the last day of a sale, so that people are encouraged to buy, for fear of feeling bad later on if they don’t.

Obviously, that’d be pretty creepy.  I’m sure that doing that would not only hurt sales; it would totally clash with the message I try to send here — that “vegetarian” should be friendly, non-pushy, and non-preachy.  (And, at least the way I see it, that’s the way offering stuff up for sale should be, too.)

So I made a little joke that I wouldn’t be twisting any knife, since vegetarians don’t really use knives anyway.  And then that image struck me as a pretty neat little metaphor for what this lifestyle is about.

What do you mean, vegetarians don’t use knives?

Vegetarians use knives sometimes.  Any vegetarian who I know cooks way more than is typical, and cooking usually requires knives.  Obviously.  Eating, though, is a different story.

So after I wrote that, I tried to think about the last time I ate with a knife.  And, being completely honest here, I can’t remember it.  Most of what my family eats nowadays are one-pot, one-dish meals (like “a grain, a green, and a bean“).  You know: pasta dishes, soups, stews, casserole-type things, etc.

And even when it’s not that, almost nothing we eat is tough enough to require a knife.  Seems like maybe raw vegetables would be an exception, but even those are usually chopped pretty small during preparation.

Why does this matter?

Speaking literally, it doesn’t.  Who cares what cutlery you use to eat.  (Trust me, I’m not such a tree-hugger that I think it’s wrong to cut your food.)

But figuratively, it’s a pretty cool symbol for what we stand for, isn’t it?

I’ve learned not to make No Meat Athlete about ethical arguments or to stir up controversy, or even to try to do too much in the way of pointing out the horrible things that still happen to animals.  I’m glad there are people out there who do promote vegetarianism (or more often, veganism) this way, but I know that my particular brand of spreading the message is about giving people proof that a plant-based diet can work with doing things that lots of people consider impossible for themselves on any diet, and providing them with the tools to try it out and (hopefully) succeed.

But one thing that really isn’t controversial, I don’t think, is that when you start to eat this way, you do begin to feel just a little bit more compassionate towards animals.  I once read that as a parent, the main reason you feel love for your children is simply because they depend on you.  And to me, that’s sort of how choosing not to eat animals makes you care more about them.

Shocker: Being friendly feels good

In a particularly unabashed, mildly naive new-vegetarian moment about a year ago, I wrote a post called “75 Ways Going Vegetarian Has Made My Life Better.”  Recently someone left a halfway negative comment on it:

This is a great list and everything, but I don’t really see what stopping for a stray dog has to do with being vegetarian. I’m kind of in shock that you didn’t do that before. Perhaps you’re implying that being vegetarian makes you more compassionate towards animals, but it upsets me that this is what it took for you to care about animals. I guess it’s good that this change took place, but even when I ate meat years and years ago I would never even think of blowing on by a stray animal. :(

Yes, I’m a little ashamed that a few years back, I probably wouldn’t have felt compelled to stop and pick up a stray dog, if it would have caused me to be late for school or work or whatever I was doing at the time that I thought couldn’t wait.

But to me, the fact that now I wouldn’t dream of passing by a lost, helpless animal is a pretty good example of the power of a behavior change to shift how you think and how you feel, and for the better.

Sure, one could point out that perhaps compassion was the reason for my change in diet, and not the other way around.  I know that’s not the whole story, but they’d probably be unconvinced.

But again, convincing isn’t what it’s about.  Be an example of what’s possible; do your part to change the perceptions that vegetarians and vegans are weak. You’ll inspire far more people than you realize.



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  1. I thought this was going to be a review of Forks over Knives. 🙂 Interesting post.

  2. “And then that image struck me as a pretty neat little metaphor for what this lifestyle is about.” Love it. Actually laughed when I thought about the last time I put knives on the table when setting it. I think the only time I use a knife now is when I spread Earth Balance or nut butter on bread 🙂

  3. I’m forever hacking open watermelons and pineapples, so knives feature, but never when eating!

    My husband and I have both noticed that we are less aggressive when we don’t eat meat. For us this is definitely the way to go.

  4. I was easy for me to go veg b/c I’m essentially lazy… if it requires excessive chewing or cutting, I don’t want to eat it! 😀

  5. But what about sporks? That is the real question. 😉

    • Jon Weisblatt says:

      I love sporks! Who didn’t use these little suckers for school lunches!? They bring me back to a simpler time in life was all about school, recess, and playing with my friends. Oh the Mighty Spork!!

      • Sporks are the best hands down. The practicality is matched by none!

        Jon… are you talking about the recess where you used the spork as a slingshot for playground gravel? 🙂

  6. Just to play the devils advocate… you can cut meat up into bite sized pieces during preparation as well 😉

  7. Asparagus though

  8. I completely agree Matt. I’ve always been a huge animal lover (I’m the crazy person always finding strays) my whole life, but since recently becoming vegan I feel like my heart is so much more open to animals. I really can’t describe it better.

  9. I never thought of that before. But you’re right, I’ve been veggie for almost 1 year now and I don’t remember the last time I ate with a knife!

  10. That would be a great idea for a t-shirt. Maybe a hemp/organic cotton blend?

    Love your website. My wife and I have been vegan for 2 years. Total life transformation!

  11. Just found your blog and it looks quite interesting so I think I’ll have a snoop around. I’m a vegetarian wannabe. Starting off slowly by eliminating beef and pork and we’ll see where I go from here.

  12. this is great. The only grey area I can come up with is pancakes. I use the side of my fork, but sometimes my wife and stepson use a knife to cut their pancakes up. Then again, sometimes my stepson just scoots his to the edge of his plate and eats the parts hanging over.

    I’ll have to think more on this.

  13. Wow people can find a reason to say something negative to ANYTHING can’t they… I say focus on the future not the past – what’s the point? I love the paragraph about loving what depends on you…

  14. Really interesting post!

    I think the statement “”vegetarian” should be friendly, non-pushy, and non-preachy” is very, very true. I went to a university ‘society’ fair yesterday, and the ‘vegetarian society’ dragged me over to their desk and started rambling on about how I was killing the world and baby animals and humanity by eating meat (for the record, I’ve been vegetarian for 15 years). Afterwards, all I could think about was how those people on the desk were not going to ‘convert’ anyone with their ‘in your face’ approach. If anything, they’re just offending meat eaters and putting them on the defence.

    “Trust me, I’m not such a tree-hugger that I think it’s wrong to cut your food.” Brilliant. 😀

  15. Matt, congratulations on producing such a great book! It’s a really easy read. I hope that my review captures the spirit that you were aiming for.

    “friendly, non-pushy, and non-preachy.”

    Best of luck with the launch!

  16. So interesting to read that you’ve become more compassionate and caring as the years have passed and your diet has changed..that’s wonderful! 🙂

  17. I grew up in a veg house and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that a lot of people regularly eat with a knife!

  18. Have you seen the trailer for Forks over Knives? It is exciting that people are finally taking notice of how our awful diets are affecting our lives…

    Love your blog!

  19. I am a new reader and have to say that I already love your site 🙂 I recently made the switch to a vegan diet and am hoping to run my first full marathon this year. I think I’ll be able to find a lot of great information on your blog.

  20. ha. i read the title and went, “i use knives all the time. how on earth would i chop garlic without one?” and then i thought about it and realized. i can’t remember the last time i used a knife when eating something… i only use them to prep food.

  21. Sounds so familiar. One of the big advantages of being a vegetarian is being able to read while eating, because you have one hand free to flip pages and hold your book open at the current page. So much better than the meat-eater’s alternative: tv dinners. Yikes!

  22. I have to say this person’s comment “even when I ate meat years and years ago I would never even think of blowing on by a stray animal” is one of my biggest pet peeve’s… so they care about stray dogs or cat’s or what have you, but had no quam’s about eating a cow or a chicken that was raised and killed under horrible conditions? It UPSETS ME that people who eat animals would claim that they care about animals. All animals are equal and this whole “save the whales but kill the cows” mindset needs to go.

  23. Sparrow says:

    I use a knife when I eat, but that’s because I often eat fruit without doing prepwork first. So I might dine on several mangoes or grapefruit, cutting them up as I go, and there’s no way my fingernails are tough enough to do that without a knife.

    I guess if I were the type to throw dinner parties or even eat in a chair at a table, it might be different. I cut pineapple in the kitchen but if I’m going to eat a few pounds of tomatoes, I just prep them as I go.

    How savage of me. 🙂

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