Meat, and Manitoba’s love of it*

June 12th, 2009 by Emma Durand-Wood

One thing that hasn’t changed much from my life in Vancouver is the amount of grief I get when I tell people I don’t eat red meat. Here’s a small sampling of the reactions I’ve had over the 7-odd years that I’ve been a non-red meat eater:

  • Are you serious?
  • But you’re from Alberta! (I got this when I lived in BC. As if being raised in Alberta means you are automatically a beeficionado!)
  • Oh, you must be vegetarian. (I get this one here, from people who know I lived in Vancouver. I’m not.)
  • So, you aren’t jealous of this blue rare steak I’m devouring before your eyes?
  • Wait – you don’t eat bacon? (Bacon’s a white meat. I could never give it up.)

To clarify, I don’t eat beef, lamb, emu, or bison.  (I don’t eat shellfish either – imagine how fun that was for me in BC!) I’m not an animal rights activist, I just don’t like it. And to be honest, I read Fast Food Nation a few years back, and after what I learned about the beef industry, I decided I never had to defend my decision not to eat beef again. The only other person I know who doesn’t eat red meat is Aaron, who’s been a vegetarian since college. He and I have been known to enjoy a “Don’t eat beef? Here, have some devoid-of-protein, carb-olicious pasta!”  dinner or two in our day! We’ve been accused of every name in the book: fussy eaters, demanding eaters, unadventurous eaters, bad Albertans… you name it. Not that I’m complaining. I’m fully aware that this is a choice, and when in Rome…well, don’t criticise what the Romans are eating.

One thing that all of us Wo’MHers have observed since moving here is that Manitobans have a profound love of their meat, and specifically, beef.  And I would hazard a guess that they love their meat more than most other provinces – maybe even the other prairie provinces.  I don’t really have any proof of that, it’s more of a sneaking suspicion. I once overheard a lady at the grocery store tell her friend she didn’t need to buy any meat because she’d just bought “a beef”. A beef?? Is that “a cow”?  (And could you also purchase “a pork”?) Also, I had never heard of a “meat draw” or “meat raffle” or “meat bingo” until I moved here, and now I see them advertised at Legions, community centres, and billboard galore (see Ian‘s hilarious comment on Laurel’s roadtrippin’ post). Apparently a meat draw is an event unto itself; perhaps something like a social – an all-night affair where the biggest prize is a cow, and the smallest prize is something along the lines of bacon and eggs.

Okay, apparently meat draws also exist in BC, so I must have been living under a rock out there.

All this has me thinking about what it’s like for non-meat-eaters in Manitoba. I have to admit, unless you set out to dine at a specifically vegetarian restaurant, the Manitoba pickins can be slim for someone who chooses, for whatever reason, not to eat meat. The West Coast was heaven for anyone with dietary preferences: no matter what your desire (organic meat, exotic meat, regular meat, no meat, soy substitutes) most menus had something suitable for you. In my travels throughout Canada and the US I’ve noticed that people are more accepting, and restaurants more accommodating, of meat preferences on the Pacific side.  West Coasters be warned: the veggie burger is not a standard option here in Manitoba.

Manitoba’s love of meat logically and obviously stems from its agricultural industry, and it reassures me to think that people here seem more likely to buy their meat from local farms where they may actually know the farmer and his practices.  Why is this? Winnipeg certainly seems to be more in tune with its rural neighbours than the average big city, where the line between city and country and their respective cultures seems to be more defined. And I have to admit, Manitoba also has a healthy love of fish, which I’m totally on board with.

So, fellow Manitobans old and new, please share your meat stories. Do you frequent meat bingo? Buy beef by the cow? Or on the flipside, are you vegetarian or non-beef-itarian and have trouble explaining this to meat enthusiasts? Where do you go when you’re jonesing for a good veggie meal? Can anyone vouch for the famous vegan po’ boy?

*I wanted to say “obsession with” instead of “love of” but thought that might be a bit judgmental 🙂

11 Responses to “Meat, and Manitoba’s love of it*”

  1. The sunburger at the Underground cafe is a veggie burger to die for. And I’m not vegetarian.

    And yes, I’m surprised by the people around me and their love of steak. I could probably give up red meat as well, except I occasionally crave a good cheeseburger.

  2. Aaron says:

    Emma – thank you for articulating what I haven’t been able to articulate! 🙂
    I’ve never been a beeficionado, and to be honest the last time I tasted beef it was a bite of BB’s minute steak…horrendous. This means even my most recent (7 years ago) impression of beef is completely negative.
    I love the enthusiasm Winnipeggers and Manitobans carry for their cultural traditions. I would even attend a meat draw-type event for the kitsch of it. I think it would be semi-voyeuristic, like the way you feel when you purposefully choose the trashiest looking bar in the scariest one-horse town to be your rest stop.
    *Please don’t hurt the vegetarian for saying that!* 🙂

  3. greg2point0 says:

    I’m a vegan living in Winnipeg and unless I’m forced to go to the big chain restaurants (ie Boston Pizza, Olive Garden) I don’t usually have a problem finding something to eat. That being said, when you are vegan you are used to going out of your way to finding places that accommodate your diet.
    It may be true that Manitobans love their meat, but there is also a large community of people who don’t, and there are quite a few restaurants and grocery stores that cater specifically to my kind. Winnipeg has a fine selection of vegan: cafes, chinese, vietnamese and thai restaurants.

    The least vegan/vegetarian friendly place I’ve lived is actually Northern Ontario. When I first moved there I was constantly being asked “What do you mean you don’t eat meat? Is something wrong with you?” “But, you do eat chicken right? How about Pork? Moose? Bear?”
    After living in Northern Ontario, Winnipeg is a vegan haven.

  4. I think it’s time for a Cafecito shout-out. La Fiesta Cafecito is a really great example of a good Winnipeg restaurant, in that it provides vegan and vegetarian choices. Of course, I’ve never bothered to order anything vegan style, but that’s because I can’t keep away from their Trio Burrito Platter (along with far too many pupusas).

    More info: http://www.lafiestacafecito.com/

  5. greg2point0 says:

    Thanks for pointing out La Fiesta Cafecito, Regan. I’ve yet to try their food as I am rarely in that part of Winnipeg, but I might have to make a special trip to try a vegan combo platter.

  6. averagecity says:

    I’m vegan and the least veggie friendly places are remote First Nations – and since my job has taken me to First Nations quite a lot, it’s difficult to manage. Otherwise, Winnipeg is above average for veggie friendly choices – better than Edmonton I would say, and on par with Calgary, which had a surprisingly good choice in veggie restaurants.

    I’ll second the Fiesta recommendation – great food. My favourite is Kokeb (used to be Yenat) on Ellice – they have a vegetarian lunch buffet Monday to Friday. Awesome Ethiopian without the three hour wait you get a Massawa in the Village.

  7. Ned says:

    Pork is actually red meat…just clever marketing has labeled it, the “other white meat”.

    Also, it’s common in my family to purchase a cow or a pig and divide it up between us. It’s a far better deal…something Manitobans love more than meat.

  8. Aaron says:

    That’s right Ned – Manitobans *love* a good deal, don’t they? I suppose that plays into the allure of possibly winning an entire animal, free!

    And if Ned and Wikipedia are anything to go by (and in this case, of course they are!) pork is indeed technically red meat. Clever marketers, tricking us into believing it’s white meat.

  9. Donovan says:

    Most vietnamese restaurants, such as Thanh Huong on Sargent; will have a fairly large vegetarian portion to their menu’s. Due to their Buddist beliefs they have to eat meatless on certain days.

  10. Marta says:

    Kokeb is particularly awesome because of its vegetarian lunch buffet, only $8.05 a person for a variety of 8 different DELISH veggie dishes!

    The Dragon Bowl at Mondragon is SENSATIONAL. Brown rice, marinated tofu, greens, shredded carrots and beets, all in a creamy dressing and ALL vegan all the time!

    The Tallest Poppy has an impressive 4 course Sunday brunch offering meat or meatless options, coming to $22 a person with bottomless coffee and a 15% tip included. Plus, once a month they do a completely vegan 4 course brunch, I think they might be doing one this Saturday!

    The Vietnamese Garden on McPhillips has about 3 pages of menu devoted to veggie choices. Their sweet and sour eggplant rocks my socks!

    Spring Roll Restaurant can be hit and miss (their fake shrimp taste WAY too much like real shrimp) but their selection, as far as veggie Chinese food, is IMPRESSIVE.

    Affinity is always a wonderful choice. Try their Crispy Black Mushrooms for a flavour sensation of crunchy, salty, cilantro tangy, and ginger spicy — the best best best!!!

    I’m beginning to wonder if I eat out a little bit too much….

  11. Koolkatz says:

    So, i became a non-beef-itarian about 2 years ago, and I’m only 12. People laugh at me when i tell them this because i collect cows. like little trinkets or cow buttons or cow stuffed animals, to name a few. i have this theory: i collect cows, but i dont eat them, and i dont eat them so i can have more of them.
    yeah, thats all.

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