Veges only, by stealth takes her fam­ily on a meat­less jour­ney, in se­cret.

THE PRESS, Christchurch Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 12, 2011 Liz Bres­lin

The Press - Zest - - Food -

My at­ti­tude to veg­e­tar­i­an­ism has mostly been akin to the def­i­ni­tion found on T-shirts and roof beams on the West Coast. ‘‘Veg­e­tar­ian – an old In­dian word for piss poor hunter.’’ I did spend a few vego stu­dent years but that was be­cause of a hag­gis-eat­ing bet that went hor­ri­bly wrong.

Still, I don’t know quite what got into me when I sug­gested a vego week at home. Per­haps I’ve con­sumed one too many ar­ti­cles about how veg­e­tar­i­ans are health­ier, have clearer con­sciences and far su­pe­rior sex lives.

My daugh­ter, a self-styled legu­mophile (our home­grown phrase for veg­etablepref­erer), was happy to go with the idea. More veges and fewer chewy lumps? Sure. The boys, both big and small, were hor­ri­fied. Out­raged. In­censed. Are you try­ing to poi­son us or what? I mean, if we weren’t sup­posed to eat an­i­mals, why would they be made of meat? That last ques­tion is one of their favourite say­ings. It’s by that fa­mous sage, Anony­mous.

I took a dif­fer­ent tac­tic. See­ing as I am ac­tu­ally the one who makes packed lunches and cooks din­ners, I de­cided to do it on the sly. If they don’t know they’re do­ing it, let’s just see if they miss it?

It was a dou­ble bur­den. Not only did I have the strain of se­crecy, but the chal­lenge of how to feed the fam­ily pro­tein when it didn’t come in one easy piece. I re­jected the idea of fake-meat sub­sti­tutes. Vego ba­con and sausages are just an in­sult to the real thing. Veg­gie lasagne was OK. Frit­tata fea­tured nicely, and no­body moaned about the lack of chorizo. Na­chos mi­nus the meat drew sus­pi­cion, even smoth­ered with lay­ers of beans, av­o­cado, salsa, sour cream and cheese. Tomato sauce on pasta seemed some­what in­sub­stan­tially bland.

It made me ap­pre­ci­ate the French at­ti­tude. When work­ing as a tour leader there, I’d phone in ad­vance to warn restau­rants how many veg­e­tar­i­ans were in the group. They would in­vari­ably be served, with suit­able dis­dain, a plate of salad or veg­eta­bles. Com­plete, of course, with lar­dons be­cause those smart French chefs know the se­cret that every­thing tastes bet­ter with ba­con.

Meat gives a depth to the palate that I missed af­ter just four days. A friend of ours sub­scribes to the feast or famine view of eat­ing meat. Eat it all up while it’s fresh from the kill, then live on the re­serves till the next time. I’m not so sure.

By day five, I swear the red bits un­der my eyes had gone a ghostly white. I was anaemia per­son­i­fied, ey­ing up the chick­ens as I col­lected their eggs. I needed a juicy steak on top of a mound of sil­ver­beet with a deep, rich glass of red wine.

My sis­ter-in-law came to the res­cue. She’d just taken some veni­son and ba­con out of the freezer. Much too much for her lot. Would we like to come over for din­ner?

So I failed abysmally to make it to day six. But the funny thing is that the fam­ily still hadn’t no­ticed. So it gives me hope I could re­peat the ex­per­i­ment, per­haps in a less ex­treme fash­ion.

Two meat­less days a week? That puts me some­where be­tween Sir Robert Hutchin­son, who said, in an ad­dress to the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Coun­cil in 1930, ‘‘Veg­e­tar­i­an­ism is harm­less enough though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-right­eous­ness,’’ and Ein­stein, who reck­oned ‘‘Noth­ing will ben­e­fit hu­man health and in­crease chances for sur­vival of life on Earth as much as the evo­lu­tion to a veg­e­tar­ian diet.’’

Liz Bres­lin lives in Hawea Flat where she cooks and eats a varied diet in­clud­ing meat, eggs, beans,lentils and let­tuce.


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