I’m halfway through my vegetarian month and as things stand I have eaten enough cheese to glue the Grand Canyon back together. Gone are any illusions that this venture would make me healthier.
Even though I can’t blame this on vegetarianism in itself as the culpability more obviously lies in my mad desire to “meat up” meals by cheesing them into oblivion, I‘m still slightly disappointed at going veggie in it‘s abject failure in turning me into a skin-aglow superwoman.
One of my vegetarian days involved 3 slices of cheese on toast for breakfast, a cheese baguette for lunch and a four cheese pizza for dinner (written down that seems even more ill-advised than it did at the time), which is not what I had in mind when I imagined the kaleidoscope, jewel coloured world of vegetable-based cuisine. However, this aside, I am slowly settling into eschewing meat with a firm hand and have even had a few meat-free meal successes.
After quite a lot of time spent staring glassy eyed into fridge thinking with increasing despair “what on earth am I going to eat?!” noodles swooped in and saved my life, much like Batman but only more likely to soften in water. Remembering my almost complete reliance on homemade Pot Noodles at university, I bubbled up a vegetable stock and Chinese five spice broth with onion, mushrooms, pepper and peas, splashed in soy sauce and lime juice and added nests of fine egg noodles for the last 2 minutes of boiling. It had taken half an hour and was warming in its tastiness. Heartened by this victory for palatability, I mismatched various recipes together in the manner of a child making a mud pie and created a vegetable lasagne, with tomato sauce wrapped around chunks of a fat, purple aubergine and my first ever béchamel sauce, achieved with the guidance and expertise of my mother. Another lovely thing was cooked by my boyfriend, haloumi, asparagus and potatoes all roasted together with whole cloves of garlic and lemon juice, confirming to me that haloumi may well be the only food that is both squeaky and delicious.
All this has been beautiful food and I have definitely been encouraged to do more interesting things with my diet, such as globes of red and yellow tomatoes sliced and placed on garlic-rubbed toast for lunch instead of the usual ham sandwich. Yet I felt that I should try various meat replacements in order to get a full experience, so have at times simply replaced the meat element of a dish with the Quorn alternative. Although sometimes motivated by laziness, I did this to see if it compares and, honestly, it really doesn’t. Quorn mince used in a spaghetti bolognaise is tasteless, airy, almost mushy, adding texture to the dish but not any kind of useful one, convincing me that just filling the sauce with chopped mushrooms would serve a better purpose. The sausages are not horrible but are odd, and the chicken style escalopes are an incarnate of the word “alright”. Despite this, I do feel meat replacements have their place: for when you can’t really be bothered, or when you are cooking for yourself and a meat eater. They are fine, even sometimes pleasant, but don’t set the world alight. My experience of this diet so far has made me realise that that best dish of your life is unlikely to have a meat replacement in it, but it might well have no meat at all.
Read Part 1 of Holly’s column here
words Holly Emma Ashby, illustrations Liz Connolly (see here for more of Liz’s work)