10 things you need to know before you become a vegetarian
- Credit: PA
Apparently, one of the most popular New Year's resolutions for 2015 is for people keen to eat less meat.
I would desperately struggle with this resolution – not because I am an offal-guzzling carnivore, but because I haven't eaten meat or fish for more than 30 years. To eat less would involve having some kind of netting fitted to my mouth to prevent kamikaze spiders and insects flying down my gullet.
While I don't eat things with a face or food that had parents, I do, however, wear leather (not all over. I am not Bonnie Tyler) so am a hypocritical vegetarian, although if you'd lived through the summer of 1993 living with a plastic-shoe wearing vegan, you'd understand. Anyway, you lot have eaten the cow, the least I can do is honour its life by, er, using it as a lovely bag.
There are lots of reasons why people should eat less meat – if the world ate 15 per cent less meat, which means abstaining from flesh for one day a week, it would mean the environmental equivalent of taking 240 million cars off the road each year. And as long as one of those cars isn't either of mine, I am completely down with that.
January is also the most popular month for people to ditch meat and fish entirely and come over to the green side, so with this mind, I have compiled a list of essential things you need to know if you want to become a vegetarian. Say goodbye to meals out that don't involve extensive Googling of menus beforehand, bid farewell to marshmallows and the best Haribo and hello to a longer life, better sex, more room in the freezer for ice-cream, less chance of food poisoning and less guilt about the environment, the supply of fossil fuel (it takes more than eight times as much fuel to produce meat protein as plant protein) and super-viruses.
Being a vegetarian isn't a mistake, it's only a missed steak.
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Things you need to know before you become a vegetarian:
• You will spend your life answering this question: 'But don't you miss bacon?' I don't miss bacon remotely – from my dim and distant recollection, it tasted like blood-flavoured chewing gum. If I really missed bacon, or sausages, or burgers, or roast beef or any of the other things that many meat eaters think no human should live without, I'd eat them.
• Mustard. Brown sauce. Ketchup. Chutney. Pickle. Condiments will swiftly become your best friends, particularly if – like me – you are a lazy vegetarian that can't really be bothered to cook very often and therefore relies on a selection of ready-made meat-free options. I had a vegetarian sausage roll today which I am sure was quite healthy, what with all the vegetables and grains and the like, but tasted like slightly-moist sawdust in a pastry jacket. With the addition of brown sauce, it tasted far better. Bearable, almost.
• Good restaurants offer around three vegetarian options. Bad restaurants offer one vegetarian option and it is risotto, also known as 'slimy rice with bits in'. Risotto is the cousin of stuffed peppers which in turn are the cousin of vegetable lasagne. Never agree to go out for Sunday lunch if you are a vegetarian: while everyone else tucks into roast beef or chicken with all the trimmings, you will be eating an omelette. It is literally impossible for 99.9 per cent of chefs to comprehend that a vegetarian might want a roast dinner with all the trimmings, too. They think we want to watch our loved ones having a roast while we eat (and I have taken this from a selection of menus in our fair city) macaroni cheese, tomato and vegetable bake with salad, grilled goat's cheese salad, teriyaki vegetables with stir-fried noodles and beanshoots, broccoli, mushroom and stilton carbonara and garlic bread… the list goes on. One does not get Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes with teriyaki vegetables, therefore it is a rubbish Sunday roast.
• Similarly, restaurants, cafes and pubs think it is perfectly OK to serve vegetarians a big mushroom in a bun and not only call it a 'burger' but also charge us as much for it as they're charging meat eaters who have a decent wedge of beef in their bap. In the supermarket I go to, Portobello mushrooms cost £1 for 4. And they're expensive mushrooms. Compare this to the price of steak mince. Charging vegetarians up to £9.50 for ingredients that cost around 30p is obscene. And yes, I know you have to factor in the cost of staff, premises, utility bills, marketing, mortgages, insurance yada yada yada – my boyfriend has a restaurant. I know more about this stuff than is healthy. Someone once asked me how I'd like my mushroom burger cooked: rare, medium or well-done. Effectively they were asking if they could serve me a raw mushroom sandwich. A vegetarian burger is a burger made out of vegetables plural, not vegetable singular. If we let them get away with this, next thing we know they'll be serving a carrot in a finger roll, calling it a hot dog and charging us £15 for it.
• Here's another question you'll have to answer several bajillion times: 'If it meant your Mum would be killed by zombies if you didn't eat meat, would you eat a burger?' or, along the same lines, 'would you eat a sausage for £1 million?' No, I would throw my Mum to the undead and pass up the chance to live out the rest of my years in luxury based on principle. Meat eaters love finding out the vegetarian breaking point. The truth is this: OF COURSE I WOULD EAT THE BURGER. Hell, I'd eat you if it saved my Mum. And my price for eating the sausage, even an economy one, even one that has been on the floor for longer than the two-second rule dictates, is far lower than £1 million. Contact me for details.
• Someone will gleefully tell you that Hitler was a vegetarian. Point out to this person that coincidentally, you too have plans to annex Poland. Other jokers will say stuff like: 'if animals weren't meant to be eaten, why are they made of meat?' The answer to which incites cannibalism. As Oscar Wilde almost said, 'we are all of us made of meat, but some of us prefer to stick to nut roast.'
• You are not a vegetarian if you eat fish. Or if you 'occasionally' eat chicken. You're just someone who doesn't eat much meat and you can't play with us at break-time or join our gang.
• Just because some of us are drum-banging bores who judge everyone on what they eat (see (7)) doesn't mean that you have to be. The whole point of being a vegetarian is that you live and let live, so adopt the same policy with the meat eaters in your life. They don't know any better. They haven't seen the colonic irrigations that I have.
• Meat lurks in all manner of unusual places: marshmallows are made with beef gelatine, Worcestershire sauce contains the pulverised bodies of innocent anchovies and you can't even trust innocuous-looking things like cheesecake or cake mix, lots of soups that look vegetarian, yoghurts, mousses or sweets. I was served orange juice with Omega 3 in it once at a B&B – FISH BRAIN JUICE. Every shopping trip is a minefield and will involve studiously reading every packet before it ends up in the trolley. This makes you really popular with loved ones.
• Be aware that 30 per cent of omnivores would never date a vegetarian. Their bad: a study published in the scientific journal Hormones and Behavior recently linked a vegetarian diet with increased virility in men and sexual appetite in women. Take that, meathead.