Here’s what I’ve been reading/listening to in the veggie world this past week and a bit:
First the good news! Vegetarians cut their heart risk by 32%. It’s great to see it’s a big study (44,561 participants) and published in a proper peer reviewed journal (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). There’s so much pseudo-science knocking around nutrition that a bit of solid science like this is like gold-dust.
The BBC Radio 4 Food Programme devotes a whole programme to Food in the Life of Sir Paul McCartney”. It’s a good interview, but I was a bit disappointed they had to have asides from free-range, rare-breed animal farmers though. There aren’t so many programmes devoted to vegetarian issues that we need ‘balance’ in them.
From The Guardian – What Kind of Vegetarian Are You?. I’m not someone who thinks that people should live their lives to fit in with a dictionary definition, but I do with that ‘vegetarians’ who eat chicken, or seafood or whatever kind of animal didn’t call themselves vegetarian because it makes it more likely that a strict veggie (like myself) unwittingly ends up eating a meat product because other ‘vegetarians’ didn’t mind.
Discussions about the Quinoa issue have been rumbling on in The Guardian:
Tim Philpott in the Environment Section has a measured response looking at the issue that occur when a locally-grown food hit the global market.
Eating quinoa may harm Bolivian farmers, but eating meat harms us all is a lot more fun. The original ‘vegans are just as immoral as any meat-eater (I may have paraphrased that) article had a comments section that gave cautious support to the veggies. But suggest that omnivores may not be right in eating meat and watch the fur fly!
I had noticed a few more vegetarian articles in the news websites recently there was even a spread in the Metro. It was that article with Mary McCartney that gave the game away for me. Linda McCartney foods have a new chilled food range out and the clan are out promoting it. See above interview on Radio4. Oh well, at least we’re getting vegetarianism in the news.
The Independent has a list of the 10 best vegetarian cookbooks. Check out the comment section for more recommendations as well.
So I might have spent several years ripping the piss out of friends and colleagues for being unable to tuck into their meals in restaurants without taking a photo of it first. Me, I don’t hang about letting my food get cold …
Until I start blogging about food, that is, and I get all fussy about photographing what’s on my plate so that I can review the restaurant later. And my partner-in-crime Anth, who has a super-duper nutter turbo bastard camera that makes tea and toast and takes the stones out of boy scouts’ hooves, instructs me on how best to showcase food I’ve cooked.
I may have to submit my first effort – a pic of a pasta dish that looks like it was taken from behind a theatre safety curtain – to the BBC site after today’s neat little feature on photographing food, complete with tips from professional photographer Paul Winch-Furness.
And I think we’ll gloss over the fact it took me three visits to review Pie and Vinyl in Southsea – those around me were most amused by my anguished shriek halfway through my plate of pie, mash and mushy peas: “Arrrgh! I’ve forgotten to photograph my dinner!”
Show me a vegetarian who hasn’t had someone suggest that they pick the meat off a pizza and I’ll roll my eyes and ask them how long since they came over to the dark side. It reminds me of university halls of residence 30 years ago when serving staff couldn’t seem to grasp that veggie and Jewish students really didn’t want the ham removed in front of them …
Sp Danny Mitzman’s recent account on the BBC site of the trials and tribulations of being a vegetarian in Italy ring true for many of us – not only abroad, but also closer to home. And as you read today’s follow-up piece – 20 of your tales of vegetarian woe – I bet you’ll be twitching in sympathy.
They remind me of my trip to Russia 20 years ago when I spent a fortnight living on bread, cucumber and tomatoes. The hotel’s answer to there being meat in the borsch was to suggest I had the first portion skimmed off the top, as the dead bits would have sunk to the bottom … The long-suffering tour guide explained to me and my best mate that vegetarianism didn’t exist in the country, and the only reason people would decline to eat meat was if the doctor had advised it.
At least it was ignorance rather than downright contrariness in the US where the hairy-chested cowboys of America’s mid-West clearly think vegetarians are wusses. A restaurant in Casper, Wyoming, refused to let me order a selection of side dishes in lieu of a main course. The fact there was no vegetarian option on the menu didn’t matter.
There has been a lot of food news with a veggie spin this week.
First of all there was the news that some supermarket beef burgers have been found to contain horsemeat! Now I’m sure all vegetarians were shocked and appalled by this and didn’t laugh at all, or at least not when the meat-eaters were around.
One item that didn’t hit the headlines particularly is that there has been a study to show that crabs and crustaceans do feel pain. To be honest, I’d never doubted this. I didn’t think that crabs (for example) think and plan the way a mammals do, but of course they had to feel pain or else how would they survive? It’s common sense. But I say that knowing that common sense doesn’t always hold up to scientific reality.
Less happy from the veggie point of view is this article in The Guardian which says that vegans and vegetarians are responsible for Bolivians not being able to afford quinoa as it’s all being sold to us. We’re also responsible (according to the writer) for rainforest being felled for soya production and scarce water being allocated to grow asparagus in Peru as well. Who knew such a small proportion of the population could have such a big effect? (And here’s me thinking that it was my support for gay marriage that was bringing about the downfall of civilisation!)
Seriously, this is one of the laziest bits of food journalism I’ve seen in a long time. For a start quinoa is not just eaten by veg*ns (vegetarians and vegans), it’s a fashionable ingredient at the moment, one that started in the veg*n world, but has transitioned to the mainstream. A quick Google would have shown her that the majority of soya production goes towards animal feed and biofuel rather than tofu and soymilk. . And as for asparagus from Peru and other imported out of season vegetables, does the author really think that only veg*ns buy and eat them? There is a discussion to be had over the impact our food buying habits have on a global scale, but that doesn’t need to be limited to veg*ns, that’s for everyone. I don’t know what Blythman’s problem with veg*ns is, but I get she is taking the opportunity to kick the moral highground out from under us. I’m sorry going veg*n is still one of the best things you can do for the environment quinoa and peasant Bolivians notwithstanding.
One of my biggest gripes has always been restaurants and/or celebrity chefs who are perfectly happy to take your money, but don’t wish to make much of an effort for anyone who doesn’t eat meat or fish. Any vegan or vegetarian can regale you with stories about how they’ve been ripped off in the past.
I am flatly refusing to go to Cafe Parisien in Portsmouth for anything more than coffee and cake after two years of disappointing Christmas meals. The meat eaters got the full works where there was so much food they couldn’t finish it. The vegetarians got risotto. Perfectly nice risotto, but not the most generous of portions (nouvelle cuisine sprang to mind) and with nothing to accompany it. Sod that for a game of soldiers …
And it must be even more frustrating – and potentially dangerous – if you have a food allergy or intolerance. I’m not a particular fan of Heston Blumenthal (yes, I did give his pretentious new cauliflower macaroni cheese for Waitrose a kicking here a few weeks ago). But kudos to him and the Fat Duck for providing an unforgettable eating experience for a customer who is both gluten and dairy intolerant. You’ll find Celia Pronto’s account of the meal here.
I wonder if they do the same for vegans and vegetarians …
Macaroni cheese is my ultimate comfort food. I never make it for myself, as I rarely have milk in the house – and my white sauces are lamentable. And nothing will ever measure up to my mother’s recipe, with a mustardy cheese sauce that you could stand a fork up in, and a thick covering of crunchy breadcrumbs.
So in the spirit of research for the blog, I thought I’d try Heston Blumenthal’s cauliflower truffle macaroni cheese which he’s developed for Waitrose. The celebrity chef has come up with a range of food for the supermarket, including lasagne and shepherd’s pie (both for carnivores), and some side dishes including carrots and mashed potatoes.
The packet said to cook it on the middle shelf for 30 minutes. After 35 minutes on blast furnace setting, it was barely cooked. I can only assume, in keeping with most of Blumenthal’s creations, that it needed to be reheated for 48 hours at gas mark 29, with a welding torch to finish it off …
When it finally slid onto a plate, I spotted two still-crunchy bits of cauliflower cowering in there. And it should be renamed truffle surprise, as I’d be bloody surprised if there was any truffle oil in it. The cheese sauce tasted vaguely of cheese, but was also very watery.
The lingering impression of it was overwhelming blandness – and certainly not worth the £4.89 and the bazillion Slimming World syns it will have cost me.