05 Jul 12 Farewell vegetarians, all hail the vegievore
Turning away from a meat-heavy diet is no longer a minority activity, something that socks-and-cruelty-free-sandal-wearing, wishy-washy tofu-loving student activists do. This is a trend embracing all of us. Enter the Vegivore. The term, coined 18 months ago by New York magazine, describes a new kind of eating…
Unlike vegetarians and vegans (described by Anthony Bourdain, the maverick American chef and writer, as the “Hizbollah-like splinter faction” of vegetarianism), the Vegivore does not restrict his or her diet. Vegivores don’t hate meat – far from it – they just love vegetables.
You’re a Vegivore if you like the roast potatoes, buttered carrots and Yorkshire pudding as much as the beef. Or if at Christmas you secretly prefer the chestnut stuffing and trimmings to the turkey itself. Or when the pork is served with a dauphinoise gratin, you know which you’ll be enjoying more, and it’s not Percy.
A Vegivore meal has vegetables as the star, but might or might not have a little meat or fish added for flavour… It is the celebration of the deliciousness of vegetables – the savoury slow-cooked tomato, the bosky cep, the evocatively scented, crisp cucumber – that marks out the great Vegivore dish. Many such will have no meat at all; but I’m unwilling to tarnish them with the depressing “vegetarian” label. Take asparagus with hollandaise sauce, sexy, silky, rich, complex and deeply satisfying, and also flesh-free. So what?
Food without meat is doomed as soon as it tries to ape meat. Nut roast is a case in point. Oh, I’m sure it is nutritious and filling enough if you can’t, for moral, religious or health reasons, eat the real thing. But no omnivore would choose it over the delights of a real roast, nor even its nearest competitor, texturally and visually, a meat loaf.
Attempt to make a meatless lasagne that looks and tastes vaguely as though it has beef mince in and it will always be a second-rate botch job, a poor relation to the real thing. But cook up a mushroom and kale lasagne where the mellowness of the fungi is bolstered by the ferric, robust greens, and instead of a shoddy imitation, you’ll have a dish that is good in its own right.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that large chunks of meat aid fitness, either. According to food writer Rachel de Thample’s book Less Meat More Veg, we in Britain eat twice as much protein as we need. Men need just 56g protein a day (women can manage fine on 45g) – the amount in a single chicken breast or an 8oz/225g steak. But as she points out, this is misleading, as most foods, including vegetables, have some protein, albeit in a less dense form than meat. A study published by the medical journal The Lancet concluded that 3oz/90g meat a day was plenty.
An added bonus of cutting down on meat is that vegetables are cheaper, which, with food prices soaring, is a benefit few of us can ignore. Canny Vegivores get down to street markets for bargain boxes of tomatoes and aubergines to cut costs still further…..