Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bones & All

With a rich history dating back to biblical times, some of us may deliberate whether vegetarianism is in our blood, DNA, or ancestral heritage. A link to the past when abstention was common. In my case, to claim this was so would be a fallacy. I know of no other vegetarians within my immediate family circle. My clan is and will always be carnivorous. I was not brought up with an abhorrence of meat. On the contrary, meat or fish was the backbone of many an 80s TV dinner. There was nothing I wouldn't eat – on or off the bone, as a meat-eater I didn't really care. Vegetables were unheard of, unless you count the odd carrot and mum's buttery mashed potatoes. Veg was the enemy and nothing could induce me to eat them, not even Cadbury's chocolate buttons. Becoming a veggie years later was nothing short of miraculous!

Even now, I don't despise myself for my meat-eating ways. I remember such meals with fondness and gusto. Forming my personal history and a burgeoning relationship with food. Regarded with suspicion, fruit and veg were forbidden from ever touching the plate, but flesh was a feast for the fork. Steak and kidney pie, liver, bacon butties, hamburgers, sausages, lamb chops, and even spam were firm family favourites. Gnawing meat straight off the bone, like Henry VIII, was such a simple pleasure, that even a salted chicken leg would suffice. This confession is not meant to offend fellow veggies or vegans, but to educate those in their continued meat-glutton. Unlike youngsters today, I wasn't oblivious to where meat came from. I knew its origins weren't as vacuum-packed slabs in the supermarket chiller. Raised in South-East London, working farms were not on my doorstep, but I was taught to appreciate food and the farm animal alphabet. Holidaying with my grandparents was a culinary adventure. Meal times governed the day, so sourcing ingredients from local suppliers was a daily quest. All the encouragement I needed to immerse myself in the rich tapestry of food, tuck in and tickle my taste buds.

My point in relating this journey from meat to veg is that perfecting the palate is an education. A part of the curriculum sadly neglected today, in the home, school and general public arena. Knowledge led me to vegetarianism, which given the above was a considerable leap of faith, but there it was. Am I a better vegetarian for it? In all honesty, I think so. Like two sides of a coin, I can empathize with both – vegetarians and carnivores, as I'm sure many other veggies will testify. The squeamishness and ignorance surrounding meat however remains a mystery. To eat meat is not a sin, but it could be perceived as such if you are uneducated about an animal's fate or refuse to use the sum of its parts.

Britain needs more reformed eaters and carnivores who will care about the animals destined for their plate. Until then, meat is meat, slaughter is slaughter. A rich man's meat to some, poison to another.