People usually laugh out loud when I tell them that I am a vegetarian! As a loud, pint drinking northerner I never did look like a stereotypical vegetarian but then who does?
Last month- January 2018 was known as ‘veganary’ as many people tried a Vegan diet. Possibly because of that vegetarianism seems to have cropped up (pun intended) in many recent conversations.
Years ago at a Weight Watchers meeting in Wigan my mum was told that in order to make a certain dish for vegetarians she just had to add chicken instead of red meat. Funny as it sounds there is still a lot of confusion around the terminology.
Basically. Vegetarians don’t eat any meat products including chicken, fish and sea food. But we do eat dairy and eggs. The technical term is Lacto-ovo- vegetarian. Vegans don’t eat any meat products as above but they also dont eat cheese, milk, butter, yoghurts or any dairy produce nor eggs .
Now inbetween these two definitions you have a lot of personal choice. You can eat eggs but not dairy and vice versa. Some people don’t eat red meat like steak but will have white meat like chicken. Some people won’t wear leather clothes and will check ingredients for animal by products like gelatine and rennit. The level people take this to is very personal and varied.
Thinking about writing this blog I wondered just how many people in the UK were vegetarian. I guessed about 10% but was shocked that the total was much less at just 2%
I became Vegetarian in February 1984 I was 12 years old and my friend Anne who was two years older and way cooler told me that she had become one and explained what it was.
My mum didn’t seem to mind when so announced my life change in fact I think she was relieved as I had never really liked meat. As I was only 12 she did take me to the doctor who was really positive and gave me some great advice 1) take a multi vitamin with Iron 2) watch your bowel movements (to check they were ok) 3) Eat a varied vegetarian diet. Plenty of Vegetables, a few portions of fruit and eggs, cheese and beans.
The problem was that as a typical 12 year old I actually didn’t like much fruit or veg! So my diet mainly consisted of cheese and bread in different forms! My mum told me that I would have to prepare my own food as she rightly, was not going to make a separate meal to everyone else. However as this was 1984 in Lancashire there weren’t exactly a lot of vegetarian options in the supermarket! There was however ‘sosmix’ and ‘burgermix’
However from the age of 14 I visited Italy regularly and found the variety and quality of meals I could eat was much wider only of course they didn’t call it ‘Vegetarian’ it was just ‘food’. In fact for many years I had to explain to many older Italians what a Vegetarian was. But the range and taste of the vegetables and fruit was amazing. There I tasted so many different pasta and vegetable dishes and living without meat was easy. Although there were a few problems particularly when I would ask many times if a dish contained meat, always to be told no but then I would sometimes find a chunk of meat in the dish and would be told not to eat it. It was only there to add flavour!
It was a huge problem to my husband when we first met. As a Sicilian, fish is a big part of his diet. He could understand me not eating red meat but no clams, mussels or white fish? Was I mad?
I have never been tempted to eat meat or fish and you may be surprised that even the smell of bacon doesn’t tempt me. You see to me it is about not wanting to eat flesh. I find eating animal parts as disgusting as someone cutting off their thumb and saying “this is gorgeous try this”!
Of course when I was young I was quite militant about my vegetarianism carrying around folders with ‘Meat is Murder’ on them but of course these fell on deaf ears. My friend’s were supportive although one friend’s mum used to give me ‘tomato sausages’ – I chose to believe her that they were vegetarian although they smelled tasted and looked like pork ones!
I am lucky that even through three pregnancies I have never been anaemic and have never needed Iron injections. I also dont ‘present’ as a stereotypical vegetarian . ‘Waif like’ would never be used to describe my physique!
Our children have never shown any interest in becoming vegetarian. I remember them chewing on a leg of chicken and asking me if this was once a real chicken. When I told them that it was and that it was just like one of own back yard chickens they shrugged their shoulders and carried on chewing. I have no problem cooking meat for my family but I wouldn’t like to carve a chicken or fillet a fish! I’m honest with the children about why I am a Vegetarian and I think that hopefully it will in the future help them to think carefully about the food they eat.
Cheese and bread still feature too high in my diet but I do try to eat as many vegetables and legumes as possible. I have to admit to being rubbish at eating fruit though. Well fruit here in England. With the exception of fruit grown on the allotment, most fruit I get here looks beautiful but tastes of nothing. I find it an expensive waste of time.
Having an allotment means we do eat a lot of Vegetables and they are organic, fresh and so tasty but no I don’t think that the plants scream in pain when I pick them!
I always get asked that if it was kill an animal or starve what would I do? Of course it’s a ridiculous question so the honest answer is that I don’t know.
Most of the meals I make are Italian. Indeed this is where I learned to cook. None of my immediate family is vegetarian so meals have to be flexible so that meat or fish can be added. I am very proud of the meals I make and so I will be sharing them on my blog and I hope you like them and try them yourselves! Please let me know what you think. I will be trying to use seasonal food where possible. I’m sure you don’t necessarily want to become a Vegetarian but I think the health benefits from eating some vegetarian or vegan meals regulary can not be ignored.
Here is a link to the vegetarian society website which has lots of information and some amazing recipes.