Yummy vegetarian food

Yesterday evening I was at an event in London with the wonderful World Land Trust. The food was vegetarian and delicious.

I’m not vegetarian, but I eat meat or fish only a couple of days a week. I started being more vegetarian, but not vegetarian, about 12 years ago when I made a New Year resolution to have two meat-free days a week. I thought that would be difficult but right from the start it was very easy.

I get a small amount of criticism for eating meat at all, and a small amount for eating less meat than I did, but basically my world of friends, relatives and contacts has moved in the same direction over the same period. Vegan, vegetarian and flexetarian diets are now very common among the bubble of people I meet. I don’t know anyone I would describe as aggressively meat-eating though they are certainly out there.

Let’s just imagine that I did start this dietary change 12 years ago and that I have had three and a half meat-free days a week through that period (to keep the maths easy). That is the equivalent of having gone vegetarian six years ago. It’s also the equivalent of having gone vegetarian 12 years ago, kept it up for six years and then reverted to meat-eating. And it’s also equivalent to being vegetarian for a tenth of my life.

I’d be interested to hear where readers of this blog are on the meat-eating/vegetarian continuum.

The food last night was delicious.

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28 Replies to “Yummy vegetarian food”

  1. We eat only a small amount of meat in an average week, too, and have done 2-5 meat-free days per week for the last 20 years. As we grow much of our own produce, and eat seasonally, and like eating dairy and eggs, its quite easy to make things from the veg we happen to have around on most days. The meat we do eat is usually of local and high welfare /free range standard, and the taste of that versus cheaper, mass-produced meat means that a small amount is satisfactory. Whilst travelling to India about 15 years ago, after 2 weeks of total vegetarianism, the biggest craving was for beef steak and red wine.... but surely its better to have small amounts of nicely-cooked, high standard meat as a treat. I have found this to be increasingly true as household incomes have become restricted, and meat is also often a very small portion in something such as a vegetables/pulses stew. About a decade ago spent a week in Hungary being catered for.. meat three times a day for a week and I actually felt ill.... it being such a small part of my normal diet. Relatives who are comitted meat-eaters seem far less healthy overall, and the cheap, lean and intensive meat which they cook for us always seems bland and over-filling compared to soemthing truly free-range or wild.

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    1. We are a family of 3 and have been vegan for 7 years now. Prior to that me and my husband were vegetarian for around 7-8 years. Been meat free for a total of 14-15 years now. I hadn't really thought about that before now, time goes so quickly!

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    2. I can concur about Hungarian cuisine being bloody awful, one of their 'treats' is to catch the fat dripping from spitted pork on a piece of bread, people have actually came back after moving to Hungary because they couldn't stand the food there. They are not a healthy people - they have a lot in common with Scots. People who've been on a low meat or vegetarian diet for a long time seem to be doing much better than standard meat eaters - unless they smoke which undoes a lot of the good work from a better diet and maybe my imagination but it seems to be particularly hard on vegans/vegetarians.

      Once when I was doing home energy surveys a lady came to the door and I thought of her as a young looking 32 year old (establishing age ranges was part of the survey). When I found out she was actually a 49 year old grandmother I said 'You're a vegetarian aren't you?' She was. I'm a low meat eater too, but it looks as if even strict veganism isn't the assault on our health it's been made out to be, there's a cracking documentary on Netflix 'Game Changers' that's quite possibly the most convincing one on any topic I've ever seen though I thought it skipped over the role of meat eating in human evolution a bit. I would thoroughly recommend it - it brings in the environmental consequences of a high meat diet beautifully towards the end. There's definitely a societal shift and it's pretty exciting to be an eyewitness to it. We'll know the point has been tipped when it's cheaper to buy burgers made from soy protein rather than beef - it's the other way round at the moment which is rather off.

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      1. we are part of a cambridgeshire study of a few thousand folk from south Cambridgeshire and from the Fens - abotu every 5 years I spend a morning being assessed for weight, height, body-fat, sugar etc. Theer is also a big diet questionaire which I find utterly frustrating, asit asks abotu all sorts of things which, when on a dietof home-made seasonal food are impossible to answer... such as how many times a month do I eat, for example, strawberries or courgettes (well, in November, never, but in June, lots! Also, it assumes pies etc are bought and NEVER made..... but, it is an interesting insight into the average health in the region (not sure much is publically available away from the scientific literature) but also personal feedback. Also makes us think that these questions are designed around what most folk eat, so we always come away thinking we must be very odd.....And I always find pre-pared foods terribly tasteless and unpleasing........

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      2. Agree Les -- big societal changes in diet seem more and more possible now. Look out for the 'impossible burger'.
        https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-does-impossible-burger-taste

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        1. Impossible:
          Pea protein isolate, Expeller-pressed canola oil, Refined coconut oil, Water, Yeast extract, Maltodextrin, Natural flavourings, Gum arabic, Sunflower oil, Salt, Succinic acid, Acetic acid, Modified food starch, Bamboo cellulose, Methylcellulose, Potato starch, Ascorbic acid, Annatto extract, Citrus fruit extract, Glycerol, Beetroot juice

          Pasture Fed Beef:
          Grass, Water

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    3. For those who of us who just haven’t got the will power, here’s a healthy, semi-virtuous, three point diet plan:
      Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
      Allergy advice: this comment was written on a keypad with traces of chocolate biscuit in it.

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    1. Well done Stephen, keep going.

      Have the trimmings with Xmas dinner, change the gravy, but you can buy a 'roast' of veggie ingredients, or make it, they're really easy and cheap and very tasty. Plus you know what's gone in to it.

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  2. The food industry is deciding what we eat more and more - through a combination of chemistry and advertising they are twisting our choices towards what suits them - with cheap meat and super processed food central to their pitch. Who benefits most from ready meals ? Look at the ingredients and the shelf life and it's pretty obvious. Fresh vegetables, on the other hand, are the spawn of the devil - low mark up, high volume, low shelf life. And their ultimate achievement (other than shareholder return): quite possibly the reversal of the ever increasing life expectancy we've come to accept as the norm.

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    1. Super-processed foods. Many of these contain palm oil. I am sure many of the readers of this blog will have watched the super-depressing BBC documentary earlier this week about orang utans in Borneo and their plight. As a result of worldwide demand for palm oil the population of these animals is being driven inexorably downwards whilst individual orang utans are found traumatised and often severely injured or weakened in the moonscapes their forest habitat has been reduced to.
      In response to this crisis we are advised to buy only palm oil from accredited sustainable sources but I don't know how reliable or credible the sustainable badge is for for palm oil. Simpler and more effective, I would think, to avoid the heavily processed foods and snacks that contain palm oil.
      Meanwhile we are told that demand for palm oil is set to double in the near future. I presume that much of that new demand is expected to come from China and doubt that very much of it will be supplied from 'sustainable' plantations.
      Of course the production of other vegetable oils can also be environmentally destructive so the one thing we do not want to do is simply to transfer the problem from one place to another through our purchasing choices.

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  3. I have wondered just how good many of the vegan/vegetarian products which are mas-produced actually are.... in terms of their sustainability, carbon footprint and actual wholesomeness.......I tried vegan 'cheese' two weeks ago...... As someone who likes mature cheddar, good tangy hard cheeses, but also stuff that melts, all I can say is that, as long as you only know mild cheddar and have it melted on stuff then yes, vegan cheese is fine but if its that tangy umami-ness you seek, then there is some way to go with that product... there seems to be a big push on getting people to buy vegan alternatives, or vegetarian alternatives to meat..... I find the best meat-free meals are those which never had meatin them - lots of pasta dishes, curries, spiced vegetables and rice, etc.........and never a meat-substitute.

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    1. There are many different sorts of vegan cheese, although finding the ones you like for the purposes you want can be a long and expensive business. Same with milks and burgers/sausages.

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  4. My wife and I have been trying to reduce the amount of animal-derived foods for a year or two now. I think of it as aiming for a "vegan plus" diet. I don't wish to go fully vegan because, apart from the risk of nutritional deficiencies (e.g. lack of vitamin B12), I am also in favour of organic farming. I find it difficult to see that organic crop production can be properly achieved with no livestock manure to put on the land. Would it be possible to have a really healthy soil biota without regular farmyard manure? We know that modern intensive arable farms using only chemical fertilisers are causing long-term reductions in soil organic matter and impairing soil structure. I suspect that modest numbers of livestock are desirable for soil health.

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  5. We're also trying to cut down on meat eating. This involves things like: eating every scrap off a free-range chicken including making stock from the carcase; trying strange cuts like pigs' cheeks; eating offal - all aimed at cutting food waste. I cook meat-free meals and enjoy them but I'm not keen on meat substitutes. We use oat milk on muesli but I find the idea of giving up dairy and eggs a step too far.
    While on the Isle of Muck last year I did wonder if a vegetarian diet was sustainable there - whether you could get a varied enough diet without having to import a large proportion of it.

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  6. George Monbiot's speech on the meat and fish industries at the Smithfield Market on the first Animal Rebellion event in October was brilliant. Truly outstanding and inspiring. If you want to listen to why veganism is the most environmentally friendly, animal friendly and easy to change approach to tackling the climate emergency then watch it here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECIcmh3DVjk

    If you'd prefer to watch horrific films about the abuse, exploitation and downright cruel treatment of animals, people and the environment then I'd recommend:

    Cowspiracy
    Earthlings

    Reddit has a vegan blog and you can watch recommended vegan documentaries on this list:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECIcmh3DVjk

    I first became veggie in 1982 after watching the Animals Film shown on Channel 4 shortly after its launch. It's a documentary that shook me to the core and changed my life and outlook forever.

    Eating less meat - good. Turning veggie - great. Going vegan - brilliant!

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  7. I became vegan 18 months ago following a visit to a dairy unit on an RSPB training course. It was at an agricultural college with a large dairy unit that supplied Tesco with milk. This is a 'best practice' operation but I immediately noticed that the focus was on productivity; how much output can be achieved with minimum food input. This was achieved by keeping the animals in doors all year - 'they use up a lot of energy outdoors' and not letting them move too much, just wander from bedding to feed to milk machine. We were told that welfare standards were high but, yes, ' they would prefer to try run about the fields'. The udders were huge and animals loked bored and dulled, but the productivity was excellent. This is what the students are being taught.
    The tutor was so proud........

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  8. To answer Mark's original question, I'm eating less meat than I did a couple of years ago and trying to eat less still. I was once a militant carnivore (apols to the veggies I used to argue with!) although as someone who enjoys cooking I have always looked for higher welfare meat and local food - nearly all my red meat comes from a butcher, and any chicken or pork I buy is free range or outdoor reared.

    I was never convinced by a lot of the more militant veggie arguments; as a biologist I know that for H sapiens eating meat is far, far more "natural" than eating soya and the way that the pro-veggie lobby quotes US intensive rearing statistics as if all the world raised their meat that way does their cause no good at all. They seem to forget that in the UK and elsewhere, we have a lot of land that's great for growing grass and rubbish for cereals.

    But... but... climate change forces all of us to re-examine old habits. And earning less than I did 10 years ago concentrates the mind too. I always used meat as flavouring in a curry or stew or pasta sauce much more than as meat and 2 veg, but I've found that dried mushrooms are a great substitute for giving a dish a bit of umami, that I'm actually really fond of pulses, that whatever the recipe says its still very nice with more veg and less meat if you use homemade stock, and that there are even more excellent traditional vegetarian and vegan dishes out there than I knew about 10 years ago. They're brilliant if you like exploring other nations' cuisines. Much, much better than "meat substitutes" which at best only resemble the mass produced intensive tasteless version of the "real thing". Each to their own but they're not for me.

    I like my food so it's not been as easy as I hoped, but the trend is in the right direction. Wild venison is a legitimate cheat if you like it; you're helping biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions by eating deer. I've looked for local stuff shot with lead free ammunition but not found it yet. Nothing is ever simple.

    I'm probably eating half as much meat as I did a decade ago, and would like to halve that again. I'm also drinking half as much wine but the wine I do drink is a bit more expensive and much better quality. It's a real treat. If I can get to the same sort of place with meat (say meat 2 or 3 days a week and an expensive but lovely roast with friends a few times a year) that would be a great place for me to end up.

    ps - fish is more problematic. I enjoy local /MSC certified fish sometimes but nearly all the world's stocks are over-fished and the marine environment certainly can't stand a big switch to eating more fish in place of meat.

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  9. Vegetarian for over 30 years and purely plant based for two and have never missed meat, fish or their derivatives e.g. leather.

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  10. Been vegetarian for about 3 years after 55 years of a diet with meat and fish. Slowly reducing dairy products. Never felt healthier and happy to have reduced my impact on environment and no longer colluding with cruel animal practices.

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  11. Vegan for 28 years now. Used to cook a lot from scratch but mental health problems have put an end to that so it's pretty much all ready meals now. Would have been impossible 10 years ago. Eating out is now a practical proposition too

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  12. We visited Messum's Mess in Tisbury a couple of weeks ago and Dearly Beloved Mrs C had a truly scrumptious looking goat cheese walnut and fig salad while I had pigone ragu with roast polenta and cavolo nero but I don't mind eating things with a V by them on the menu and in fact next time I will definitely have the goat cheese unless they have the pigone ragu

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  13. My wife and 2 children are vegetarian. They all chose to stop eating animals in 2006 (the kids were then 5 and 3 years old). I stopped eating meat at the same time and was surprised at how quickly meat products became distinctly unappealling.

    No cow's milk at home since 2002 and I consume even less dairy than I used to as I know more about the reality of its production. Organic dairy is significantly better for animal welfare & environment than non-organic but less or none is far better than either.

    Vegetarian foods we have tried have invariably been interesting and enjoyable while my parents' traditional meat-and-two-veg fare seems unimaginative and boringly bland.

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