Put the meat back in the fridge, it’s National Vegetarian week. Bring out the nut-loaf and lentils, as this is all you are going to get to eat for now. Ham sandwich? Don’t count on it. It’s sadness and salad from here on out.
At least that’s what we used to think. Hippies were vegetarian, strange artistic types with floppy hair and ruffled sleeves were vegetarians. Poetry lovers were vegetarians, vegetarians were weak, they ate the food our food ate. They were the butt of the jokes, a caricature, or annoying bother of a friend who wouldn’t shut up about animals. No Greg, pigs aren’t as smart as humans – now eat your bacon!
If you got sick and you were a vegetarian, well it was probably because you needed to eat some meat. You’re not getting enough protein, are you?
But the world is on the move. Vegetarianism is the less extreme version of veganism, even if being a vegetarian came first. And with vegans making a noise, proving that they can still function without half the food that we deemed necessary to our health, well, vegetarianism seemed less and less bizarre.
Nowadays vegetarianism is practically normal.
Almost a year and a half ago I made the move to this healthy eating trend. It was a shift that happened naturally as I re-located to London. It began on the flight over, when I requested the vegetarian option because meat on an aeroplane is often hit and miss. It grew from there, being cheaper for a start, with meat replacements turning out to be surprisingly delicious. I still maintain that Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages taste meatier than actual sausages.
At some point my philosophical motive started to form. It’s still at the gestation stage, but it’s getting there, growing as my last cravings for meat disappear. It’s largely environmental but a bit about animal welfare, too.
And now National Vegetarian week is here, inviting everyone else to join in the great vegetarian adventure. Sort of like Veganuary or dry-February, but requiring far less commitment. Oh, and allowing cheese, which is largely the reason I am vegetarian and not vegan. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese?
The week has been created by the UK’s Vegetarian Society, which hopes to encourage Brits and the rest of the world alike to a take a leap into the world of mushroom burgers and vegetable lasagne. Both I cannot recommend highly enough. A Portobello mushroom burger will change your life.
The event even boasts some celebrity supporters. And not just chefs either: Stephen Fry, actor, writer and professionally posh Englishman has joined our ranks for the week. Along with Joanna Lumley, actor, author, activist and (paid) professionally posh English woman.
But why should we actually go vegetarian? What is the point of joining the ranks of the meat-free for a week? Self-mastery for a start, finally making sure that you are eating enough vegetables. I still worry about that one and that’s my diet staple.
And these days, nobody denies that going vegetarian brings improvements to health, to animals, and to the environment. The Vegetarian Society claims that a vegetarian diet is responsible for 2.5 times less carbon emissions that a meat diet. This is a large selling point in a more and more environmentally conscious world.
So why not give it a go? Even if it’s just for the experience of trying new foods. That grilled Portobello mushroom burger is really one of the greatest burgers out there. Even before I was meat free, it was my go-to choice.
The world of vegetarianism isn’t all nut-loaf, but don’t shy away from said nut-loaf. In a desperately clichéd attempt to avoid clichés, I only tried my first nut loaf about a month ago. It was incredible. Mind-blowingly good, like the best Sunday roast stuffing you have ever tried. Nut-loaf does not get enough credit. Sure, we have to fight to remove its image from sad meals in 1970s kitchens, but it is worth battling for.
Viva la nut loaf ! Viva la Linda McCartney sausage ! And viva la cheese! Sorry vegans, but if there’s any strong selling point for vegetarianism, it’s cheese.