Fear of Meat
I was vegetarian for about ten years. Not that I had particularly strong ethical views about the rights and wrongs of eating animals, it was just what all my (more strong-minded) friends were doing and it was easier to go along. The cooks in our share houses were always vegetarian; vegetarianism, even now, seems to be a default position when I think of meals. It astonishes me when my father, for example, hurrumphs about a meal being incomplete without meat. Pasta, curry, risotto, frittata, soup - what could be easier than putting together a meatless dinner?
Michael was a vegetarian, too, and stayed one long after I'd lapsed back into my evil bacon-and-sausage eating ways. It was having children that brought him undone. The temptation to finish off that abandoned sausage roll or shred of chicken on Alice's plate was just too strong.
Ironically, now we're both full blown carnivores again, it's the girls who turn up their noses at meat. Alice's crossbite makes it almost impossible for her to chew on anything, and she objects to food that looks like it came from an animal (I entirely sympathise with this position, having some residual squeamishness myself). Evie likes warm chicken only, and Nana's roast lamb, and otherwise isn't interested, though they will both eat mince. My lack of cooking practice means I'm nervous about cooking big hunks of meat like roasts, and anyway, we get bored before we can eat it all.
So we are not a big meat-eating household. I have to make an effort to include meat in our meals, rather than leave it out. Shepherd's pie, meatballs and lasagne get a big workout on our menus. These days I feel bad about meat-eating on environmental grounds rather than animal cruelty. Save the planet, have one vegetarian meal a week! I heard on the radio the other day. ONE vegetarian meal? A week? If it's that easy, why isn't everyone doing it?
And yet there are people like my dad, who can't really come to grips with any form of protein that didn't once have a face. Friends in Scotland once planned to open a vegetarian cafe in Edinburgh (this was in the early 1990s); there was no such thing in existence then, and they met so much hostility and disbelief that they eventually gave up the project. (This from the city that invented the deep-fried pizza slice.) At college, our ex-army cook was so baffled by student requests for at least one vegetarian option at each meal that he resorted to eggs every night, and, on one memorable evening, served up a curry made from the fruit scones left over from that day's afternoon tea.
There's something to be said for the belief that if you're going to eat it, you should be prepared to kill it. I know I'm a coward; I don't want to have to think about what the poor animal goes through before it reaches my plate, let alone actually wield the knife myself. But animals do eat each other, and I don't have a problem with that, as such. I don't want to have to grind my own flour, make my own cheese or pick my own oranges either; is it more wrong to out-source meat production than any other food? Do I have an ethical stance? In the end, it's easier to eat the little bits of incidental bacon on top of the roll, make the soup with chicken stock, throw some chorizo into the risotto, than make the effort to be purely meat-free.
There are philosophical tangles here that I will have to face at some point (when Alice starts to quiz me, which will happen any day now). In the mean time, I've got some fruit scones to curry. Bon appetit.