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Vegetarian

In which we disbelieve vegan propaganda, and try food made of additives and nothing else


At the weekend: off we went to a vegetarian food event we’d seen advertised in The Spark, put on by vegan campaigning organisation Viva!. We were expecting it to be slightly biased, obviously, but even so the strength of the propaganda they gave was slightly surprising. They claim, according to a poster we saw there, that their “veggie roadshows” have saved the lives of 100 million animals so far,* which sounds like, well, a rather large number. They claim that one person converting to the veganist religion will save “around 11,047 animals”. I love that figure, and, particularly, the “around” part. Around. A rough estimate: it might only be 11,046-and-a-half animal lives, or you might do well and manage a whole 11,047-and-an-eighth! Going by these numbers, that means they think they’ve converted 9,052** people to veganism – or about 650 a year, on average, since they started out. How they count those 11,000 – sorry, roughly 11,047 – animals, I’m not entirely sure. Do animals who will now not be born count as lives saved? Will all those 11,047 (roughly) animals live out their natural lives in some happy, predator-free elysium? Forever cute, as their propaganda posters show? Who knows?

Anyway, we did have a poke round the stalls giving out samples of vegan food from various suppliers,*** and even tried a couple.**** K sampled some vegan “milk” chocolate – “ok, but like that cheap shit you get in advent calenders,” she said. Which is seasonal, at least. Moreover, we both tried “Sheese”, a vegan cheese substitute made on Bute. The one we tried was “Creamy Sheese”, a rather sweet gloop made from water, vegetable oil, soya concentrate, salt, lactic acid, sugar, “flavouring”, and carrageenan gum.***** In other words, not very much. It tasted rather like sweetened processed cheese spread. Looking at the ingredients, that’s not too surprising, because it has a lot of the sort of thickener and flavouring that you get in cheap processed cheese spread. It explains, too, why the non-dairy “milk” chocolate tasted like cheap confectionery milk chocolate: because we recognise the additive taste.

We try to eat healthily, so we thought the Viva event might be interesting to us. Frankly, though, they’re not about eating healthily, at all. They’re not too concerned about the environment either, or about fair trading;****** their main care is saving all the cute fluffy animals. It’s easy: just take out all the meat, milk, and eggs from your diet, and replace it with Brazilian soya and additive-enhanced, flavouring-enhanced artificial food. Personally, I’d rather eat real food, genuinely additive-free food, simple local ingredients grown in ways that respect the land. That’s the way to eat healthily, and that’s the way to help the environment. We don’t eat much meat; but we do try to stick to organic meat. It might have looked cute before it was killed and butchered, but I’d rather eat a pig from five miles away, or cheese similarly, than soya that was grown on the site of a tropical jungle and flown over to a British factory to be turned into something resembling food.

* I know it sounds like a preposterously large figure, but I’m sure that’s what it said. I can’t find the same claim on their website anywhere, though.

** or 9052.2314 to be precise. Don’t forget that .2314 of somebody!

*** and Lush cosmetics, who you’d think were well-enough known already. Some of their stuff does look almost like you could eat it, I guess.

**** not that it was the best place to try food samples, what with the smell of the Lush stall overpowering everything else in the building. Although, K does say, that was probably a good thing.

***** The ingredients list is copied from their website, which stresses that the water is filtered and the lactic acid from non-dairy sources, but doesn’t give any more detail than “flavouring” for the artificial flavourings. It has slightly less energy and fat than genuine cream cheese, but is roughly comparable. By comparison, the Sainsburys organic cream cheese in our fridge doesn’t actually have an ingredients list, apart from “Contains cow’s milk”.

****** to be fair, the stall with the vegan chocolate products did have a lot of organic, fair-trade produce; but it didn’t seem to be a major concern for any of the other stands. And we did pick up two useful things: a list of local healthy food suppliers, and a menu for the oriental restaurant in the Tobacco Factory building!

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An experiment

In which we cook a fritatta


Back in the days when I was a student, ten years or so ago,* I would be quite experimental in the kitchen. I’d try things out, new recipes, experimental recipes. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, but it made things nice and varied.

I haven’t done that for a long time. My diet’s got a bit boring. So, I’ve been spurred on to try more things, try new things, try messing about in the kitchen just to see what happens.

The other week, we were in a rather nice cafe in York, near the Minster. I was rather enjoying my lunch, and I thought: it really can’t be that hard to cook this, can it? So, at home, I tried knocking a few things together. It turns out: no, it really isn’t that hard. So here’s my rough and ready recipe for: potato and mushroom fritatta.

You need:
5-6 baby new potatoes
7-8 closed cup mushrooms, ordinary button ones or chestnut according to taste
1 shallot
Garlic, if you like
4 very large eggs
A handful of mild grated cheese
Dried rosemary
Salt and pepper

What you do: chop the potatoes into halves or thirds, or smaller, and boil them for about 10 minutes or so. Finely chop the shallot, and any garlic that you’re using. Fry the shallot and garlic, with a little oil, in a non-stick omelette pan. When the shallot starts to soften, add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have browned and shrunk a little, add the cooked potato.

Break the eggs into a bowl, whisk them, and add a dash of water, the rosemary, and the cheese. Pour the mixture onto the cooking vegetables, and stir slightly to make sure everything is evenly covered. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the fritatta is mostly firm, before putting it all under a medium grill for another five minutes to get the top done nicely. If your pan’s truly non-stick, then when it’s cooked it will slide out smoothly onto a plate. Ta-daa!

* is it really that long?

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Heroics. And cheese.

In which we witness a crime


I am not a hero. I had always suspected as much, but now I know it’s true.

I popped round to the corner shop,* just to pick up a few things, and noticed some dodgy-looking men hanging around outside. Nothing surprising there, really. I tried not to pay them any attention. You don’t, do you.

As I was pottering around at the back of the shop one of them comes in. Late 20s but looks older, scraggly beard, dirty jacket. Looks like he should be dragging a dog on a string behind him. Purposefully, he strides to the back of the shop, and starts grabbing packets of cheese off the shelf. Two at a time, stuffing them into a Lidl carrier he’d brought with him. One of his friends followed, jacket over his arm; he plucked something off a shelf and slipped it under his jacket.

Should I do something? Should I say anything? The cheese man eyed me up, as I put a yoghurt in my basket. As he looked sideways, he didn’t stop grabbing cheese and dropping it into his bag.

I did nothing. Nothing at all. “He might have had a knife,” I rationalised to myself. “He might have punched me.” Or he might just have ran. As it was, they walked out of the shop, as quickly as they’d came, with about £20 of cheese in the carrier bag. Is there a market now for black-market dairy produce? Has someone worked out how to get a legal high from mild cheddar? My logical mind says: it was the far corner of the shop, furthest from the tills, furthest from any of the staff and in a straight line to the door. The rest of me says: maybe he just liked a lot of cheese?

* a formerly-Jacksons now-Sainsbury’s, if you’re interested.

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Experimental breakfasts

In which The Mother tries to prepare something healthy


Ever since I moved back in with The Parents, The Mother has been insistant that I have a Proper Breakfast. Unfortunately for me, her idea of a Proper Breakfast was always a bowl of corn flakes. I’ve never been a fan of breakfast cereal,* and tried to explain to her that there’s not that much justification for eating it. It was originally invented by an enema-obsessed nutritionist who was very concerned about bowel movements, and believed that masturbation was evil. His brother added salt and sugar to make it more palatable. If you think it doesn’t taste very good now, bear in mind that the current Managing Director of Kelloggs Europe has admitted that “if you take the salt out you might be better off eating the cardboard carton for taste”.

The stick approach doesn’t work with The Mother very easily, though. You can point out how unhealthy something is until you’re blue in the face – and I did, pointing her to articles such as the one that quote is taken from. It wasn’t until my dad told her that the Sunday Times was claiming that new research had worked out the healthiest breakfast of all. A “traditional German breakfast”, apparently, consisting of “cheese, ham, and rye bread”. So, the next day there was two slices of toast, a plate of sliced ham** and a selection of cheeses on the breakfast table at 6.30.

It was … well, different, at any rate. Better than cornflakes, certainly, and I told her so. The next day it was back onto the corn flakes; but today, a bacon baguette was waiting. Excellent!

I know how my mother’s mind works. She heard that German breakfasts are healthy. She prepared the nearest thing, in her mind, to “ham and rye bread” – a bacon roll. So now, she thinks not only that a bacon roll is a traditional German breakfast, but that they are intrinsically Good For You. This is definitely a good-looking development if you ask me.

* “Pencil shavings,” as at least one Roald Dahl character called it.

** pre-sliced supermarket sandwich ham, I think. Probably far higher in salt than corn flakes, but don’t tell the mother that.

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