The term forking lurker may be new to you, but I would suggest learning it so that you can understand the pain us vegetarians go through on the daily.
We’re all about kindness, to both humans and the planet, here at Honeycombers. We love to volunteer in Hong Kong, donate our used goods and respect the environment by eliminating single-use plastic from our lives. Many of us are also committed to lessening our impact on the earth by following plant-based diets, and while we do love to share the goodies with our omnivorous friends, family and colleagues, it has to be said that there are a world of vegetarian problems, not least of which is when a meat eater ends up eating all your food. That’s right people, it’s time to check to see if you’re a forking lurker.
I got 99 vegetarian problems, and forking lurkers are a big one
First of all, let’s go back in time, to a year when the internet was still a magical thing that had not reached New Zealand. The year was 1995, and I had been sent to boarding school in Christchurch, about an hour away from my country town. My first move to assert my independence? Becoming vegetarian. The reason this came about at the tender age of 13 is multi-faceted, and I won’t bore you with it too much, except to say that it involved a cow named Derek and too many nights of silent crying on the way home from swimming practice.
Announcing I was vegetarian was difficult enough, especially coming from rural New Zealand where my mother had grown up on a farm, but in my new home in the big city (home to a whopping 350,000 inhabitants), the world was seemingly my vegetarian oyster.
Every night, the cooks would prepare me my own meal, and as time went by they really started going for it with the dishes (I think they just enjoyed getting to create things that weren’t going to be served from a bain marie.) However, it was in the dining room at high school that I first started encountering what I like to call the forking lurker.
Are you a forking lurker?
The first move of the forking lurker is not actually related to the tined-instrument at all, but rather starts with an eye movement: eyes look over at your food, eyes look down at their food, and more often than not, eyes will again lay upon your plate. It is then that you often get the lip bite, that moment of realisation that your food looks better than theirs. And then it comes, the fork teeters and flails, edging closer to your plate, lurking with the inevitable: “Oh, that looks good. Can I try it?”
What can you say? You’re a kind vegetarian who loves animals and humanity; you have to share, right?! So you push your plate over and they try it, and then the rest of the eight girls, who are half way through their chicken curry, all want to try your mini quiche too, and by the time they’ve finished, it’s merely a few strands of spinach and the memory of what once was.
It’s been over 20 years since I started this way of eating, and though my preferences have often changed from lacto-ovo to vegan to macrobiotic vegetarian to pescatarian, and while the vegan cheese may have changed, the forking lurker is one of the few things that has remained the same.
When I was 16, my brother had his 21st at home in our backyard. There was music and booze, and hay bales to sit on (I told you we were rural) and we did all the food on the BBQ, as per my brother’s wishes. Now, by that time, he’d also turned vegetarian, so we’d loaded up on veggie sausages, burgers, and portobello mushrooms for the occasion. Being a creative type, many of his friends were also veggie, so it made sense to cook all the plant-based options first before throwing the real deals on the barbie. But, not long after the first shroom had hit the grill, I could already see the eye movements from many of the guests, and I knew that there were forking lurkers amongst us. Before long, all the meat-eaters had swooped in to chow down on the vegetarian goodness, meaning all that was left for the vegetarians was salad, bread and an array of condiments with nothing to condiment. I was not amused.
When I moved to Wellington for university, I was in absolute heaven. A hippie paradise (with the faint odour of patchouli to match) the city meant even easier access to a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Unfortunately, on the home front though, I soon learned that forking lurkers spanned islands. One particular room mate during my uni years was the absolute worst, asking if I was going to eat all my dinner just as I was just sitting down to eat all my dinner, and the Catholic guilt made me save him a portion every night.
Forking lurkers are international
To escape evil forking lurkers and to allow myself to eat bibimbap every day, I headed to South Korea in 2003 with one of my friends who happens to be vegan. Now I’m not talking about plastic-surgery-loving, K-Pop-singing Korea, either. I moved to a small city of 1 million that was surrounded by green tea fields and farms. There were roughly 80 non-Koreans in the entire city and 99% of them were Canadians who always wanted to eat pizza.
Mastering the Korean language was difficult but necessary. I clearly remember going out for someone’s birthday once and getting quietly mocked by the other ten or so people there as we tried to explain that we wanted no cheese or meat on the pizza. Then, as soon as it came out – bam! “Can I just try a slice to see what it tastes like?” After everyone tried a slice, there was only one left for her and I to nibble on. I was super unamused.
I don’t mind sharing, just don’t take it all (please)
I realise that this makes me sound a little Joey Tribbiani, but I honestly don’t mind sharing my food with people, it’s just that some people don’t understand that being vegetarian can be quite limiting, especially when eating out at regular restaurants. What annoys me the most about this is not being able to sample other people’s food. Omnivores get to eat their food and my food, but I just get mine. What’s worse is when people take the mickey out of your food choices and then begin to devour everything off your plate!
So, the next time you’re dining with a vegetarian, wherever you are in the world, make sure to check yourself because nobody enjoys a forking lurker.