I'm engaged in conversation. Colourful communication with my dinner date. Facing me, he's chunky. Robust. Bursting with vibrancy. On first impressions, he's tightly bound, but opened up you continue to delve in. His presence dominates the table. Designed for two, he stretches out. Leaves me a tiny amount of elbow room. I forgive him. He's here by invitation. Brought into my life by thoughtful friends. I needed new inspiration they said. I'd been set up. One dinner led to many...
The guest's place now permanently reserved for Hugh's latest creation: River Cottage Veg Every Day. A stunning cook book. Hugh's passion for veg embedded in every page. An exclusively veggie recipe book from a meat, fish loving and sustainable chef. That's what I love about Hugh. He's respectful. Open to embracing a different way of life. Honest about his experience. I'm working my way through his weighty tome. Comfortable putting a tweak here and there. Inspired by fresh ideas. New combinations of ingredients, spices, and herbs. Novel flavours.
For two weeks I gorged on beetroot. Beetroot and walnut hummus. Beetroot with walnuts and cumin. Trying out my own twists. What works? What does it taste better with? My tongue dyed claret red, I progressed to chickpeas instead. Spiced with rice, yogurt, or pasta, or as a delectable filling. A velvet butternut squash soup gave me goosebumps. Asking myself, “Please Ma'am, can I have some more?” Finding the saucepan was empty.
Hugh has shaken up my life. Temporarily displaced my senses. Helped me explore my rootedness. Uprooted my sense of self. What have I discovered? That my vegetarianism is not supported by my ethnicity. White. English. British. The world presents itself like an eat-me map. Italy, China, India. Caribbean spice, Moroccan stews, and Thai curries. England, a melting pot. A tagine. Stories told by feet. An ancient trail. Recipes passed from one culture to another. We've stopped living inside our own geography. We've let other territories in.
Friday 24th is World Food Night. An event to celebrate international cuisine. Observe our multiculturalism, the diversity of our roots. Immigration has been good for British food. Every day of the week, a world food night. The British palette changing. Made up of exotic tastes. A fusion. Geography doesn't define how our towns and cities live, the people in them does.
The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as:"Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter."