Archive for September, 2012

The Vegetarian Butcher

Posted in Non-fiction with tags on September 14, 2012 by becciseaborne

At the beginning of this year I accidentally became a vegetarian. Well, I suppose you don’t accidentally stop eating meat and begin scouring restaurant menus for non-meat dishes that aren’t mushroom risotto. But it really wasn’t planned in the same way as, say, buying a car or choosing a holiday destination. And I am a pretty unlikely candidate; I worked in a butchers’ shop for 5 years and have basically been a card-carrying carnivore since the moment I was able to get a spoonful of pureed beef casserole down my neck. In fact it’s so uncharacteristic that just the other day – 9 months after making the switch – my sister cooked me sausages for breakfast. I had to politely decline and ask for scrambled egg on toast instead.

So, why such a dramatic decision? The truth is I’ve been thinking about it for years. It’s something I’d pondered for so long it had become one of those familiar, comforting conversations I could have with myself when the other voices in my head got too boring or stressful. So in some ways the simple answer is that I decided to stop just thinking about it, and get on and do it.

The real reason, though, is the one that got me thinking about it in the first place. That is down to a very simple equation involving the planet’s resources, the amount of food that it can produce and how many people’s lives can be sustained from that. For ages I’ve done the “right thing” and recycled all my rubbish and bought eco-friendly cleaning products, etc. blah. In other words I’ve done all the easy things that make you think you’re doing your bit – and they are all worthwhile, but I got to the point where it all felt a bit superficial. I just thought it wouldn’t kill me to do a bit more.

I am the sort of person that likes a bit of a challenge; I like to test myself. Whilst training for my first marathon a few years ago I developed a serious back problem and ended up on the chiropractor’s table three times a week. Nothing could have motivated me more to keep training. My chiropractor even ended up giving me about two-thirds of my treatment free, he was so impressed with my (foolhardiness?) commitment. So, as a card-carrying carnivore, what could be more of a challenge than going veggie? Well, going vegan clearly, but let’s not get too carried away.

Despite my meat-loving ways, I didn’t tend to cook with meat all that much at home due to the cost, so I thought I’d give vegetarianism a whirl. Why not? I did also hope it would challenge me in the cooking department. I’m a pretty good cook, thanks to an amazing mum who’s a fantastic cook and shared her love of food and cooking with us as we grew up. However, I wanted to make myself look at new ideas in the kitchen, and more importantly some healthier ones. A stupidly busy working life meant that I’d often get home knackered and end up with the all too easy meat-and-carb option, in various different forms. Part of what I wanted from going veggie was to pull me out of that culinary rut.

So, two questions I guess; has it been difficult and have I achieved a healthier diet? It’s been a great deal easier than I thought it would be. I don’t miss or crave meat – I never miss it at home, and only occasionally “notice” it when eating out. I don’t tend to get food envy when eating out with friends, although I am a bit of a voyeur; my contrary nature rearing its head there. I do have to confess a couple of occasions when I’ve been really conscious of my self-imposed meat ban…how can anyone resist the smell of a Greek barbecue?  Yes, I did end up eating fish from the grill whilst on holiday in Kefalonia, and I don’t regret it. It was local and line-caught, and if that sounds like a justification it probably is, but in terms of sustainability I reckon the planet can handle me eating fish once every two or three months.

And what about being healthier? Well that’s still a work in progress, and maybe something I’ll consider in more detail another time.

View from one of the many tavernas offering fine barbecue fare on Kefalonia