I’m backing chef who says ‘why should I cater for vegans?’
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We need to stop beating ourselves up in January. says Andy Newman, and be a bit less intolerant too!
If you are out and about in Norwich this weekend, you may find that the city's 'lively' Saturday night streets have an even more hedonistic feel than normal.
This is because Saturday is 1st February - the day that those who chose to deny themselves pleasure in the year's darkest month can finally indulge.
Expect to see booze-quaffing, steak-guzzling hordes everywhere you look, as the misery of Dry January and Veganuary (probably the most awful of all the made-up portmanteau 'month' words) are finally set free from their purgatory, and can enjoy themselves again.
And in the process undo pretty much all of the supposed health benefits they may have accrued during their 31 days of wretchedness.
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Because all of the evidence suggests that these month-long detoxes invariably lead to bingeing once they are over, and if anything an over-compensation during the weeks that follow.
By the end of March, most will have consumed more alcohol and more meat in 2020 than those of us who ignored the peer pressure and decided that January is miserable enough as it is, without piling on more unhappiness by denying ourselves the good things in life.
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It says much about our relationship with food and drink that we think that we will be better people by not allowing ourselves the things we enjoy. If you want to be teetotal, or vegan, then by all means go ahead, but why would people who enjoy a drink, or eating meat, decide to emulate them?
It's self-flagellation, done for what reason? Guilt? Social oneupmanship?
And I particularly bridle at those people who say we 'should' undertake these miserable exercises in self-denial.
What we eat and drink is a personal choice, and given that food and drink is one of the visceral pleasures in life, our choices will have a huge effect on our overall happiness.
At a time of increased awareness of mental and emotional wellbeing, why would we resolve to make ourselves miserable?
And it is all about choice. So, for example, it's right that those who have chosen to be vegetarian, or vegan, or whatever other diet, are now generally well catered-for in supermarkets and restaurants.
But we have to be very careful when we try to impose these choices on others.
The two-Michelin starred chef Sat Bains, who runs one of the UK's best restaurants, in Nottingham, has taken some flak recently for daring to say that he has decided not to serve a vegan version of his renowned tasting menu.
Now presumably he knows that in doing this, he will lose business from those who have chosen a plant-based diet, but it's his business, and his right to serve whatever he chooses.
As he says, he 'can't go to a vegan restaurant and ask for a steak'. He compares those who expect him to cater for vegans as being like 'going to a heavy metal concert and expecting to hear classical music'.
These are fair points. But down in the bottom half of the internet, where the anonymous keyboard warriors lurk, you would think he had advocated killing babies.
The vitriol displayed beggars belief when you realise that this is a chef who is simply making a personal choice about what he wants to cook - he is not forcing anyone to eat at his restaurant.
Perhaps the people taking to their keyboards are angry because they haven't had a drink, or a pork chop, during January.
If so, then maybe once they have finished detoxing their bodies, they might want to try to detox their poisonous minds by trying an internet-and social media-free February. But somehow I don't think that will happen.
Perhaps all those people doing Dry January have been satisfying their craving for alcohol by eating the abomination that is gin and tonic flavour yoghurt.
This is just the latest - and strangest - in a series of products being anointed with the flavour of the month, others include crisps, chocolate, ice cream and even popcorn.
It's not enough that gins themselves are now being flavoured with ever-stranger ingredients (one maker even launched a brussels sprout flavoured version for Christmas), now apparently we can't even get through breakfast without a fix of our favourite alcohol.
It's enough to make you give up the booze entirely for a month. Oh no, hang on…