Day of the vegans – The Observer, Sunday 23rd March

I tell you I almost felt normal.

Nigel Slater tells readers that a vegan coming to dinner is no reason to panic (that’s a bit of a backhander), and then proceeds to knock up old faithful thai curry by another name (but my standards are so low I’m still brimming with gratitude).

Jay Rayner, vegan baiter and my personal bête noire, did a plausibly enthusiastic review of an eco-friendly restaurant in N1 called Waterman. His final sentence is worth quoting because this is exactly what vegans hope for, usually in vain, as we try to negotiate our meals in common or garden restaurants:

To me it felt like a slash of post-feminist scarlet lipstick – an understanding that you can have principles and keep to them without having to sacrifice anything in the way of joy.

I sometimes wear scarlet lipstick when not in disguise, and I like – I love – good, rich food. It’s exciting when journalists come out in favour of food I can eat.

In the News section on p31 there’s a big and ominous spread on food and hurting the planet. As well as practical advice on when it’s good and when bad to buy food from abroad, Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network is quoted as saying:

‘There is only one way of being sure that you cut down on your carbon emissions when buying food: stop eating meat, mil, butter and cheese,’ said Garnett. ‘These come from ruminants – sheep and cattle – that produce a great deal of harmful methane. In other words, it is not the source of the food that matters but the kind of food you eat.

Reminded me that the nearest I’ve come to getting belted by my father-out-law was when I told him this a year or so ago. And 3 years ago when Matt announced to him that I had become vegan, you could hear him swearing down the phone from across the room. As a cheffy cook, he doesn’t like it at all (although he has risen to the occasion admirably) but maybe he’d take it from Tara Garnett. There’s also the Food Ethics Council.

But – and it pains me – I have to nod to Jay Rayner again: for everybody, but particularly for people who are older, younger, not well, not wealthy, or not well-educated, there is the important matter of nutrition. The authors of The Observer article completely neglect this when they’re telling their readers to forego meat and dairy products. Morally undermining fundamental parts of most people’s diets without proposing alternatives doesn’t strike me as a very good idea at all for behaviour change, and Nigel’s thai curry will only get you so far – particularly if you’re ‘panicking’.

It’s not so hard though, being vegan.

All in all, maybe things are beginning to look up for vegans. And if they’re looking up for vegans then a strengthening body of evidence says they’re looking up for everyone. Including many different animals, although The Observer couldn’t care less about them.


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