This weekend I have tickets for VegFest, not a music festival with vegan bands, but a food festival celebrating vegetarian food. I can’t go to the whole thing as I am working parts of the weekend. I’ve been looking forward to it, but last night I saw a programme with a piece about vegetarian food and now I am a bit worried.
All the food they featured mimicked meat. There was the line about vegetarian food that could tempt meat eaters; a comment, based on the fact that so much of the meat mimicking stuff would have passed the blindfold test, that vegetarian food has come a long way. I wasn’t giving the programme my full attention, but my expectations of the weekend’s VegFest have abated. One producer who made veggie burgers that taste like meat listed the various ingredients she uses that give the taste, texture and whatever else of meat. In other words, the things I dislike.
So will VegFest be about what I think of as vegetarianism, or a prosletysing force for people who’d like to cut meat out of their diets but still feel like they eating it? The Linda McCartney form of vegetarianism. Fine if that’s what you want, but I’m beginning to feel it should have another name to distinguish it from vegetarianism that doesn’t have any interest in recreating meat out of vegetables.I am being a tad hypocritical I am aware. Hypocritical because I am interested in finding out about non-dairy alternatives to cheese. I use a soya based cream in my coffee (Alpro if you’re interested), and it’s great. I like Alpro’s yoghurt too. It’s contradictory too, and a new situation for me. I’ve always struggled with people who ask what I eat instead of meat. I don’t eat anything instead of meat. I don’t start with a meat recipe in my head and then think what I could use instead. So starting to think in terms of what I might have instead of cheese is quite disorientating, and makes me think that I am wandering up the wrong path, starting from the wrong place.
A number of celebrity chefs have produced vegetarian cookbooks, presumably in response to market interest. Yet why would I want Jamie Oliver’s guide to vegetarian cookery when I could have Rose Elliot’s? Jamie comes from a meat eating culture, Rose has been vegetarian for decades. No offence to Jamie, but I’m not interested in his take on vegetarian food. Yet he, and others like him wield undue influence in how people see and understand what vegetarian food is. They’ve hijacked the narrative and it means that narrative now how has a meat eater’s philosophy behind it. You wouldn’t, I hope, go to a man to find out about feminism, so pay more heed to vegetarians if you want to understand vegetarian food.
With luck my pessimism is misplaced and VegFest will suggest combinations of foods that are going to send me along an interesting path in this next chapter of my vegetarianism, and not drag me back to walk in close parallel with the meat eaters.
I’ll let you know.