My name is Barbara Jennings and I am a vegetarian. Well, sort of a vegetarian, depending on who you talk to. Perhaps it’s easiest to say that I try to avoid eating meat. I have been trying to avoid eating meat since the year that Bob Geldof first organised Live Aid, which was 1985, so for nearly thirty years. I had various reasons for giving up meat; I felt it was cruel to kill animals for food, I didn’t like the way meat had turned from a luxury product to a staple, with consequences for farming practices and the health of both animals and humans, and I didn’t feel that the production of meat was a very efficient use of the work’s food resources. The decider was when a colleague told me that he and his wife had become vegetarians, and how easy it had been. He gave me a cookbook, which admittedly was a bit heavy on seventies-style vegetarian recipes like stuffed peppers but was still a useful starting point. So I gave up meat.
Or at least, partially gave up meat. I still eat meat very occasionally. I am not one of those vegetarians who abhor meat and feel sick if a speck of meat passes their lips. Indeed, I love meat; it’s one of my favourite things. There is nothing in the world so tasty as bacon. I love pork pies almost more than anything else in the world. Pigs have, after all, been bred for three millennia to be unbelievably frickin’ delicious. So, very occasionally, I do eat meat. Never at home, but on occasion it’s been served to me and I’ve eaten it. I have given in to the occasional pork pie. And I eat turkey at Christmas, since it is there and cooked and it isn’t going to do the turkey any good for me to insist on a nut roast, something which led a friend of mine to aver last March that I had in fact been a vegetarian for only three months. And I eat meat when I am not in the UK, about which more later.
No, the difficulty I found, and have since found, with giving up meat was not in substituting dishes I cooked at home with non-meat dishes, but in eating out. At home, I had never been a big meat eater, and it was relatively easy to substitute non-meat recipes, and indeed, without ever stuffing a pepper. There are loads of good vegetarian recipe books and these days loads of ingredients freely available from international cuisine which mean I’m not bound to the old “non-meat substitute” in a meat-based meal which led to so many nut cutlets. I never ever feel deprived at home, despite the fact that meat never crosses my threshold.