Published on Flavour First 2014
Each month Juliet Kinsman chews over whys and hows of different diets…
One whisper of other people’s new year’s resolutions makes me want to take up smoking again and knock back a double whisky. But once we’d waved farewell to the festive season and an all-eating all-drinking holiday in the States, my other half and I had agreed to one abstention which we’d been meaning to try for ages: moving meat off our menus.
What’s my beef with beef? Have you seen Food Inc? If not, you should: a whole movement was inspired by award-winning film by Robert Kenner. His 2008 documentary lifts the lid on America’s food industry, exposing the fact profit is put well before health, farmers, animals and the environment… Oh no! Your eyes are starting to glaze over. Okay, I’ll get off my organic veg delivery box and skip to the meat of this column, or rather lack of it, why we had a go at being veggies for a month, and how it panned out.
First off: making sure we’d be getting enough nutrition in these unforgiving winter months. Cue lots of Googling ‘best foods for vegetarians’. This elicited a fairly predictable roll call of proteins and the usual iron-rich suspects: pulses, tofu, dark green leafy things, grains and B12-brandishing bananas. Sexy, hey? Anyway, hit list made, and I was resolved to make like Ottolenghi, and sex up those veg.
Next up: the online supermarket shop. Without my fail-safe child-friendly favourites to click on (Duchy Originals pork chipolatas, free-range chicken breasts, organic mince for cottage pies…) what ingredients to order for family mealtimes? Step forward wild salmon, Quorn meat free chicken pieces and a lot of kale. Overall: loads of food bought for less money than my usual weekly shop. Banal, I know, but bear with me…
Finally: recipes. That part of the plan didn’t really happen. Relying on my old faithful catering-sized tub of umami-inducing Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon I muddled through with a general everything-with-stock approach. Fast forward past some decent lentil stews, smugness-prompting steamed fish and veg, and one suicide-inspiring Quorn cottage pie ready meal, and how were we doing? My child preferred the non-chicken chicken; my digestion seemed a lot healthier thanks to intestines that felt distinctly less burdened: my waist was maybe marginally trimmer. And I was definitely spending less cash by not eating things (other than fishies) that once had a face. The only hitch? I was going to bed feeling ravenous. Yes, smartypants, so I upped my intake of snacks such as almonds and dried apricots. But even without hunger there was still a constant distant yearning…
So I started treating myself to more chocolate biscuits. And extra-caffeinated coffees. And bicurious encounters with strangers on public transport. Er, not true – that’s the lack of animal protein messing with my mind. There was that nagging dissatisfied feeling like when you’ve ordered a Sunday Roast in the pub and they’ve run out of Yorkshires. The meal’s not ruined, but you go home feeling a bit cheated, even after gorging on that massive sticky-toffee number.
Still, a few weeks at playing semi-veggie meant I spent more time thinking about what we should be eating, I planned meals more sensibly, cooked from scratch more at home rather than impulsively eating out. Which is definitely all for the better. Then I was invited to review a new Korean-themed menu at the Dock Kitchen in West London… Without even thinking I tucked into TO COME TO COME. And you know what? It was delicious.
Before you pelt me with Linda McCartney mini sausage rolls, let me defend myself. There’s a term for it! Flexitarianism. I said STOP PELTING. At least it sounds less pretentious than pescetarianism. No? And surely by eating only the occasional judiciously selected ethical meaty morsel is better for the environment than when I was a full-time carnivore?
Next time: eating the alkaline way