Thursday, 6 January 2011

Mock The Roast

Does a Controversial Veggie celebrate Christmas? If so how? A question prosed by my Uncle in his card to me, including a request for “Answers on a postcard please”. Well Uncle, with a bout of flu is this year's reply. Fever, aches and pains, and an empty rumbling belly. My best-laid plans, like Nigel Slater's memoirs, literally turned to toast. A drudgery of dry nibbles and liquids. Mouthfuls of mashed pulp all I could stomach. Returning to solids and “grown up” portions my New Year's resolve.

Bare plate before me, my thoughts turned to other controversial veggies and how they might celebrate? What traditions would they observe? Every family has them from when to exchange presents to when to eat. A unit of 3 adults – my parents and myself, ours have become a bog-standard affair. No less enjoyable, but a going through the motions. Monty, the pet dog, the star of the proceedings. The baby, his gifts torn into first and squeaked to their death within five minutes of play. Balls of wrapping paper the next best game. Not so much Santa's Little Helper, despite attempts to dress him as such, but a mischievous elf who thinks every present is for him.

Gifts unwrapped and exclaimed over, lunch is usually a late affair, bordering on early dinner. Here however is where tradition falters. With a veggie at the table, anything is possible. Tampering with the festive feast a personal crusade. My Indian theme one year a stretch too far with spicy lentil soup, naan breads, homemade curry and rice. Humored, but now left very much to my own device. On Christmas Day, principles matter. I want different but non-laborious home-cooked fare. The veggie offerings on supermarket shelves deemed inhospitable to both my palate and beliefs. Retailers assume one of two meat-free positions, 1) heart attack on a plate – veg inspired centrepieces laden with fat, dairy, and pastry or, 2) vegan friendly imitation roasts, tasting just like the real thing! My choice this year - a home prepared nut roast with Winter roasted veg, unconsumed, but tame in comparison.

Resisting the obvious, the tendency to emulate the look, taste, and smell of meat, is my battle cry for a true vegetarian Christmas. Shouldn't a meat free Christmas be just that – meat free? Tucking in with gusto to imitation-style meats is not the same I agree, but doesn't it perpetuate the myth? That veggies need meat, even in a fake form, to thrive? A guilt-free indulgence. “No pain, our gain” the new veggie mantra. I come from a different school of thought. A time when mock meats were not plentiful. Quorn, the new kid on the block, aroused my curiosity, but the attraction was short-lived. Doll's house food, like chewing on plastic. The hole they supposedly filled, that desire for “meaty” satisfaction, contradicting the very core of who I was: my veg-essence.

Is the last laugh on us? As veggies, are we committing a mock meat faux pas? Imitating stuffed turkey, roast beef, and haggis, this comedy roast a mock too far?