Has there ever been a time when people have been such fussy eaters? Vegetarians used to be the only difficult dinner guest at the table and their rule was relatively easy to obey. Any flesh of slaughtered creature should not be put on their plate. Now there is a diverse population of dietary health faddists liable to be picking selectively from your salad.
There are vegans who not only will not touch dead meat but while avoid any products of living things such as eggs or milk. But, as our Review feature sets out today, there are also variants in between, such as "lacto-vegetarians" who will eat dairy products but not eggs, and doubtless there are the converse: egg eaters who will not touch the cheese.
And we have not included the gluten intolerant that need different bread and cakes.
If it's tough hosting dinner parties, imagine running a restaurant. As if memorising each diner's order was not hard enough, today's table waiters are supposed to know the ingredients of practically everything on the menu. "Is there egg in this?" "Can you do it with soy milk?"
Fortunately, cafe owners Russell Blackstock interviewed sound as enthusiastic as health-conscious customers for the puritanism of foodies today. If a Roy Morgan poll is correct, there is plenty of business in catering to them. More than 1 in 10 polled said they are always or mostly vegetarian. That was up 27 per cent in a survey five years ago.
The profitability of meatless and vegan products is also apparent in supermarkets and even takeaway bars these days. There are vegan versions of sausages, burgers, cheese, milk, ice cream and chocolate. It has got to be good for you. And the pleasant surprise for inveterate carnivores when they are served a vegetarian meal is that it is rather tasty.
None of this is good news for New Zealand's pastoral farming. Farmers will not easily read that, "sales of vegan foods, produced without meat, dairy or eggs, are up an astonishing 1500 per cent in UK supermarkets over the past 12 months". What is the world coming to?
No consolation is available in the idea that health foods are a female thing and men will always want red meat. We report the bulk of the rise in vegetarian diets to be attributable to men changing their habits.
It must be tiring to constantly police the food that passes your lips but the vigilant seem to enjoy it. Good for them.