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Picky Nicky’s grow­ing de­sire for a plant-based diet

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I have al­ways been some­thing of a picky eater, es­pe­cially when it comes to meat and poul­try. Like ev­ery­thing else, my rule is ‘less but bet­ter’, so no in­ten­sively reared fac­to­ry­farmed muck for me; in its place, I eat just a lit­tle of the good stuff. The same goes for fish – I won’t touch any­thing farmed.

Fol­low­ing a se­ries of back-to-back vis­its to Paris’ Maisie Café (where I dis­cov­ered an al­ter­na­tive to the usual Fash­ion Week fare of bread, but­ter, pas­tries, cheese and chips), cou­pled with a few lunches at Yeotown on Lon­don’s Chiltern Street, a daily in­take of ‘plant-based’ In­sta­gram posts by jour­nal­ist Cal­gary Avansino and, most im­por­tantly, watch­ing the new pro-ve­gan doc­u­men­tary What the Health on Net­flix, I beefed up the plant-based part of my diet and elim­i­nated a hefty num­ber of an­i­mal prod­ucts.

I started my new regime with a 12-day stint at the Mayr Clinic in Aus­tria, chew­ing my way through a ve­gan diet, and now I only eat meat, fish and dairy three or four times a week. It took a few chats with my doc­tor and my per­sonal trainer, plus some fresh school­ing in the kitchen, to get go­ing, but I soon dis­cov­ered, among other things, that it’s much eas­ier to make my own fresh al­mond milk than I thought, and that all pro­tein orig­i­nally comes from plants. Of course, this is just me ex­er­cis­ing my qual­ity ma­niac ten­den­cies and be­ing ob­ses­sive about good health. But if you eat less flesh, then the plea­sure on the palate is ac­tu­ally height­ened. I am happy to swap a T-bone steak or veal cut­let for a 17g serv­ing of beef sashimi at Tokyo restau­rant Yo­taro in Rop­pongi. The beef, which comes from Ya­m­a­gata pre­fec­ture, is served lightly torched and wrapped around some rice, and the plea­sure per gram is off the scale.

I am never go­ing to be­come a ‘meat is mur­der’ an­i­mal rights ac­tivist. When some ve­g­ans re­cently block­aded the meat and fish counter at my lo­cal su­per­mar­ket, I ac­tu­ally felt like buy­ing both just to spite them. I also love fur and leather, partly for their dura­bil­ity. (Yo­taro, in­ci­den­tally, has been us­ing the same sad­dle leather Mario Bellini ‘Cab’ chairs for 37 years.) But I am far from be­ing the only per­son now switch­ing to a more plant-based diet – it’s a ma­jor shift in con­sumer be­hav­iour. And al­though I eat out a lot, both for work and plea­sure, I have no in­ten­tion of drag­ging any­one in­vol­un­tar­ily to a ve­gan eatery. How­ever, the dining scene needs to move with the times. Pick up any break­fast menu and you will find it’s al­most en­tirely based on eggs and dairy, while most restau­rant menus are too heavy on the meat and fish. An of­fer­ing of salad is fine in the sum­mer at lunch, but side dishes are just not a sat­is­fac­tory op­tion. It’s time for the hospi­tal­ity sec­tor to step up to the plate.

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