Vegetarian: Day One

I have a sneaking admiration for vegetarians because, unlike a lot of meat eaters, they’ve actually thought in detail about where meat comes from: how it’s reared, how it’s slaughtered, how it reaches the table. The squeamish reaction to Jamie Oliver’s ‘this-is-how-chickens-are-killed’ TV spots seems to confirm this, with hardened carnivores shrieking in horror while the grim reality of the battery farm is unveiled in front of them. Vegetarians, I imagine, have always been far more willing to confront the ugly brutality of intensive farming, and have made a life-style choice based on this, a decision that affects them every day, that limits the choice of food they can eat in restaurants, and makes them the butt of endless jokes from avowed meatheads like me who consider most of them to be pale-skinned, anaemic weaklings. This is to be admired. It can’t be easy.

So I’m going to join in. For a week, I’m not going to touch flesh. World Vegetarian Week starts tomorrow, and I’m going to join the mung-bean brigade. It’ll be tough – I eat meat with every meal. My fridge contains a huge vat of foie gras. There’s more in the larder. My freezer is brimful of beef, pigeon, duck and deer. Meat? It’s what I do best.

The nice lady at Peta pointed me in the right direction, offering to organise free samples from people like Redwood and Fry’s, purveyors of quality vegetarian gear, but I’m going to stick to my usual routine, shopping in the places I already frequent and seeing if life becomes more difficult.

The evidence, thus far, suggests that it will. Yesterday, on a trip to Waitrose to pick up some peppers, the store was evacuated after a fire alarm went off. This kind of thing never never happened to me as a meat eater, and I almost took it as a sign and gave up on the spot. But when the store re-opened, I accidentally stood on the foot of celebrity Sikh Hardeep Singh Kohli while attempting to retrieve some chives, and while Kohli’s religion doesn’t preclude him from eating meat, it did make me think that, like most holy men, he probably thinks very deeply about the killing of animals, and that I should at least finish the experiment.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs on toast

Lunch: I was at Lords for the test, and while I’d taken some home-made pear and cranberry upside-down cake to thwart the inevitable pangs of hunger, I did have to buy a vegetarian option for lunch. I eventually settled on a Mushroom and Asparagus Pie from the good folks at Pie Minister, whose delicious meat products I’m very familiar with. The pie I ended up with, however, was a disgrace, £4.90 for a pastry case concealing what looked like a fistful of Glastonbury mud and didn’t taste much better; a miserable, gritty gloop.

Dinner: Homemade roasted peppers with penne pasta and sage. Delicious.


  1. You go for it! I know you’re going to love it ;) Def try some faux meat during the week, you can pick it up from Waitrose or any supermarket. Have you tried it before? Yum yum. The roaster peppers with penne pasta and sage sounds delicious. Might try that myself actually!

  2. As a staunch meat eater I paused and took stock of the comment about Hardeep Kohli, I don’t really often associate meat with cruelty, we’re so far distanced from slaughterhouses that the plastic wrapped, pre-packed, slab of meat that I pick up in the supermarket seems so unrealistically cruelty-free..

    Congrats Fraser, I may have to join you this week – didn’t think myself a fan of PETA before – I shall enjoy seeing this week progress (maybe I may be able to fit into my stylish jeans again after) ;)

  3. Just had a marvellous flatbread with roasted vegetables, red pepper hoummous and it was very, very tasty – different, but very tasty!!

    Um, let’s see – yep – Amano’s on the Southbank – relatively priced too (£3.50)

    Wonder what I can get in for dinner now.. Don’t feel so sleepy and bloated like I usually do around now..

  4. Be warned – I was a staunch meat eater until I tried a veggie week. That was in November 1988, and I haven’t looked back. I do agree about pre-prepared veggie food – it is inexplicably bad. The majority of ‘pies’ seem to consist of third rate veg which isn’t good enough for freezing in an insipid cheese sauce. Someone has forgotten to tell the manufacturers that food, whether veggie or not, is meant to be a source of pleasure.

  5. Plants are alive too, there is no moral superiority to be had unless you live on milk and honey.

  6. Go italian, always really easy. I heartily recommend making an aubergine lasagne.

  7. Hmmmmm. I don’t suppose ‘Matt’ (if that’s his real name) works for Peta or the Vegetarian Society, does he? His comments look like a pretty clumsy attempt at propaganda to me (apologies if I’m wrong, Matt).

  8. Go Fraser.

    Busy cooking our way through the Ottolenghi cookbook at the moment. It’s very, very good.

  9. Funny you should sat that, Mike – I ate at Ottolenghi on Saturday and got the book yesterday. I hope it’s been proof-read better than the recipes on their website, though – I made one cake where the recipe was riddled with errors. Although, to be fair, when I moaned they were fixed almost immediately, and I got a thank you note back from Mr Ottolenghi himself.

  10. Cool! We’ve made the ratatouille (lovely use of dried orange peel) and the butternut squash/apricot/couscous thing that was wonderful too.

    I’ve never eaten in the restaurant though, only bought their meringues :)

  11. Chris: But eating meat is extremly bad for the environment, therefore it’s more moral to eat vegetables (you won’t get all your nutritive substances from milk and honey). You can never be a perfect moralist, but you can always be better!

  12. Try Pieminister’s Heidi Pie. Goat’s cheese, sweet potato, spinach, red onion, roasted garlic. Can’t go wrong.

    That said, being vegetarian, I’ve not tried their meat pies, so maybe I’ve grown accustomed to the taste of gritty gloop…

    BTW if you’re looking for inspiration, try The Gate’s recent cookbook (they’re a restaurant in N London), Leith’s and the Crank’s Bible. And the World Food Cafe books are ace too. Best of luck!

  13. Try pumpkin lasagne!