Thursday, 19 December 2013


[Warning: This post contains material that may be considered controversial!]

Let me state at the outset - I am not a vegetarian. Well, I think so anyway. The trouble is that the meaning of the word "vegetarian" and the similar one "vegan" is often misunderstood. As far as I know a vegan is someone whose diet consists solely of vegetable matter, whereas a vegetarian eats not only vegetable matter but also things that are not vegetables nor are they meat or fish - such as dairy products and eggs. People's reasons for adopting such dietary regimes are multifarious too: some do it because they think it morally wrong to eat the flesh of other sentient beings; others do it for reasons of aesthetics, health or concern for the environment. Others still might do it because they just like certain foods more than others. This is part of the problem - people (particularly omnivores) just don't understand vegetarianism.

Exhibit 'A' - Griddled beef steaks

Here in the UK a generation or two ago, vegetarianism would probably have been seen as a sort of illness; well, at best a cranky aberration. My father didn't eat red meat ( I never really found out why), but in his youth his parents and schoolteachers tried to make him eat it because they felt it was unhealthy to go without meat. Diet and nutrition were certainly less well understood than they are today. My Dad would for instance never eat Marmite because he was absolutely convinced that it was made from beef - probably because it looks very much like Bovril, which is. Nor was dietary diversity so well developed - people used to eat very much the same type of food more or less every day, wherever they lived. The concept of eating "foreign" food was treated with suspicion. We have come a long way since then! Gone are the days when "Roast Beef of Olde England" was considered our national dish. These days the most popular dish in England is supposedly Chicken Tikka Masala.

Which brings me on to this thought: if we are so keen to experience, accept and enjoy all this exotic cuisine, how come it is still so unusual to find good vegetarian food in a restaurant that is not specifically a vegetarian one? Now I know there are plenty of places where you can get good vegetarian food, but I'm referring to the ordinary "family restaurant" and pub, whose menus still frequently make only a token gesture to vegetarianism by offering one, maybe two, vegetarian choices in amongsts dozens of meat/fish-based ones. Like it or not, when eating out the assumption made by the catering industry is that our meals will be based essentially on meat or fish, and the vegetables are seen as an afterthought (all too often pushed to one side by the diner anyway, and not eaten at all!).

Exhibit 'B' - roasted root vegetables

My Dad used to tell a very amusing ancedote about early 20th century attitudes to vegetarianism: he was dining in a posh London hotel, and the menu didn't include ANY vegetarian dishes, so he said "I'll just have meat / fish dish XYZ without the meat, please". The waiter, looking astonished, says "We'll have to charge you extra for that, sir, because the chef will have to do extra work to take the meat off your plate." Unbelievable! Surely they could have just put some vegetables on a plate (and charged the full price too, no doubt.)? 

As I said earlier, I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat (probably too much of it), but I don't eat fish or seafood (I was put off it for life by the disgusting fish served up to us at boarding-school. For Heaven's sake, who in their right mind would eat cold pilchards in tomato sauce for breakfast???). But the important fact for today is that I love vegetables and eat a lot of them, so in my own eyes I AM a vegetarian!

Exhibit 'C' - home-smoked chicken-breast with home-grown veg

Any family members reading this will know that my mother died young (42), and I think one of the factors in her early demise must have been the stress caused by having to provide appropriate and acceptable food for each member of the family! Consider this:

Husband: eats no meat, but will eat fish, cheese, dairy and eggs; would be happy to survive on vegetables alone.
Son #1: won't eat fish; hates vegetables, dislikes dairy (especially cream - a heinous crime for a Cornish person); very particular about what meat he will eat (e.g. not keen on Lamb in any form)
Son #2: happy to eat most meats, but won't eat any fish / seafood; loves vegetables - except Okra, Peppers, Aubergines, Artichokes and a few others
Wife / Mother: keen on desserts, cakes and pastry, to which the rest of the family is indifferent.

OK, so what would you dish up?

Right, to finish this post off here's another question for you. Of the three photos above (Exhibits A - C), which do you prefer? Meat on its own, vegetables without meat, or meat and vegetables together? You know me, I vote 'C' !


  1. Son no. 1 is just like my boyfriend! It can be hard to cater for him sometimes. How do you manage?

  2. I would choose C, I love both meat and vegetables. Those root veg look absolutely delicious. I have a very fussy household when it comes to food, though I have to say that they're getting easier. Hubby never used to eat any veg at all until I got my allotment, now he eats most things.

  3. I vote 'C' too. Though, I prefer poultry and fish to red meat. Pork is rare on my menu, beef more often. A good portion of vegetables is a must in every meal I have. I do not question the reasons why someone choose to be vegetarian. I think we should eat various kind of food to take all nutrients and minerals we need.

  4. I choose C as well. The thought of catering to eaxch different taste is beyond me. As one of ten, you ate what was served and you'd better be quick about it!

    Except for when my children were very small, they ate what I ate.

  5. Oh that makes me laugh. Here is the family I had to feed. Though when the kids were young I fed them much like David did.

    Me: Loves just about anything but grew up with and is particularly fond of Mexican food, but now can't eat tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant. Loves vegetables and is trying to eat a vegetable rich diet with not as much meat.
    Husband: Won't eat vegetables or fruit. Hates Indian food. Hates nuts. Exceptions are corn, potatoes, tomato sauce and salsa. Eats mostly a meat and starch diet.
    Son: Hates vegetables unless they are mixed into a dish (like in Indian food or stews - none of which the other members of my family will eat). Mushrooms are evil (his words not mine). Hates greens but will eat them in the above mentioned dishes. Otherwise eats a varied diet.
    Daughter: Autistic. Won't eat food that is mixed or has sauces on it. Is very beef/cheese/egg heavy in her diet. Loves certain vegetables but only if plain.

    Can you imagine my problem feeding my family a healthy diet? My husband is an interesting challenge. Mostly I make him take his vitamins because he can't be getting them from his food. I can get him to eat certain things occasionally. For instance I make a biscuit chicken pot pie. I do make it with lots of onions, carrots and celery. But I puree them. Sadly no potatoes which my husband complains about all the time.

    Mexican food used to be a good way to feed him too. He would eat chili that was rich in tomatoes and peppers and beans. My enchiladas had a lot of peppers and beans too. Weirdly enchiladas my daughter will eat as long as I don't make it too spicy. My kids mostly like Mexican food because they grew up eating a lot of it I think. Now I can't eat it. I learned to make Shahi Paneer from scratch because it is one of my son's favorite dishes, but sadly no one else in the family will eat it. I used to be able to, but now I can't even make it. So sad. I think next time my son comes home it is meatloaf with squash casserole. Everyone will eat it. Except my husband won't eat the casserole. I did have to learn to make the meatloaf without tomatoes, but now I have a good recipe.

    And C looks the most delicious to me. But then I can't eat some of what is on the plate. If I ever went vegetarian (which I wouldn't it would be pescatarian) I couldn't at restaurants. So it would be pescatarian at home and anything goes away from home.

    1. Oh Daphne, how awful for you! Must be even worse for someone like you who is so fond of veg.

  6. It can be tricky here too. I was a vegan for 25 years, now just a vegetarian. Son 1 is a vegetarian and informs me he is going vegan in 2014. Son 2 doesn't want to eat meat, but hates cheese, so finds it tricky when he's at school - the veggie option is often cheese-based. Son 3 is just fussy. Sigh. Other half complains about the lack of meat. Who knows what I will feed them all next year. I'm hoping for lots of amazing veg from the allotment to tempt them.

  7. I would also go for C but not because of the mix of meat and veg, I often choose the vegetarian option when we are out, One of the tastiest meals I had in a restaurant recently was a vegetable tagine at Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes.

    I have other issues really which relate to pub meals - why are burgers always served in a bun (and here I don't mean just the standard burgers but homemade ones) and why are so many meals served with a mound of chips?

    Another issue is the quality of the vegetables served. I had a recent pub lunch served with carrots and peas which tasted of nothing at all - literally. When I suggested to the waiter that they needed to change their vegetable supplier he seemed surprised.

  8. Oh dear - I'm afraid I will eat anything and everything - we weren't allowed to be fussy at home - you had to eat everything on your plate and had to sit there till you did.

  9. I like all three photographs, does that make me greedy. Apart from the youngest we eat pretty much anything, though Mike & Rob prefer more meat than I do. Like Sue I tend to choose the veggie option when dining out, I need to know what is in my meat before I eat it.

  10. I have to go with C too. I eat far too much meat. It isn't that I don't like vegetables but just that we don't get any that look as good as your pictures here.

  11. I vote for C. I love vegetables but I believe that meat or fish enhance their taste! My husband and I love fish but our boys don't. I'm not fussy at all and I think I'd be happy with all the three dishes in your photos!

  12. Certainly going for the pot of roots! Mmm carmelized carbohydrates! My favorite, Mark.

    1. Interesting so far that you have around 10 replies here and of those two pick the veggie option. So around 10%. Which I believe is typically the statistics for Western Countries.

  13. Interesting post and all the answers are" food for thought". Dear Daphne, I so feel for you!

    I will go with C as well. We do eat meat often, but not in large quantities. When I buy say, a steak, I will cut it in half after frying and it will serve 2. We do not eat a lot of beef, I find the quality here in France, not overwhelming.
    Generally we stick to chicken, sometimes magret de canard and lamb. Pork has no taste at all, except when I prepare it with a sauce (filet mignon au lait de coco et curry, for instance). We also eat fish.

    What we do eat is veal. My husband's cousins have a gîte in the Poitou area, and they produce their own organic veal, as well as lamb and foie gras. We drive down twice a year with a cooler and I freeze everything I bring back. Needless to say the veal is delicious. Can't buy that in stores around here!

    We eat vegetables twice a day; cooked or raw (grated carrots, salad). Both children will eat most of the veggies, although my daughter won't eat cucumber and my son isn't keen on tomatoes. But both will not eat zucchini. I can live with that.
    We like lentils and I prepare them hot or cold. I once tried an indian recipe, Dahl. My husband and I thought it was very good, but daughter didn't like it.... at all. She doesn't like Indian or Chinese. We had a hard time with her when we traveled to Asia a couple of years ago.

  14. I sometimes eat veal and recently ate foie gras, so I am not having a go at Miss Bougle, but there is the issue of animal cruelty in some people's decision to be vegetarian. I remember visiting a rural french veal production unit and was not sure about their methods, although I understand modern systems are much more humane. I have grave doubts about foie gras.

  15. I have been fretting what you should call yourself as a lover of vegetables. I could not find a word for omnivores like yourself!
    How about veggie-phile?- or vegophile...

  16. C would be my choice, unless there is some partridge and parsnips left. Your post and the replies just show how much we humans differ in our tastes. My wife is Southern (US) raised and for the most part dislikes vegetables. She has the bitter gene and hates all of the cruciferous vegetables. My son lives on peanut butter, crackers, grilled cheese and cheese pizza, with an occasional cheeseburger. My daughter is much more eclectic, but won't eat shellfish and is just starting to eat fish again (being 4, getting sick and blowing a tuna fish salad sandwich out through your nose can do that). She also can't tolerate carbonation, so that eliminates soda, beer, and champagne. I am pretty broad in my tastes but my mother's cooking did foster some of my phobias, such as anything made with condensed Cream of Snot soup and any kind of gelatin mold. So with this crowd and being a a gardener, the kind of cooking I do tends to/wants to look like exhibit C.


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