Veges only, by stealth takes her family on a meatless journey, in secret.
THE PRESS, Christchurch Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Liz Breslin
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.