Today I read this piece by Alexander Proud in the Telegraph about vegetarians. Or rather, that he loves meat but morally should be a vegetarian but probably won’t be. There was a lot of sense in it, about why meat-eating makes little sense any more, both ethically and in terms of resource-depletion. Namely:
What does work for everyone though is not eating meat. It’s basic maths. Estimates vary, but it takes around 7 kilos of grain to make one kilo of beef. Pigs are about 4:1 and relatively thifty chickens are around 2:1. Then there’s the vast water consumption (15,415 litres for a kilo of beef, some of which goes into growing the feed) and the CO2 emissions (27kg for a kilo of beef). If, however, humans were to eat the kilo of grain themselves, that would be that. A kilo of lentils creates only 0.9 kg of CO2. Along with not flying and driving, going vegetarian is one of the very best things you can do for the earth.
And there was some nonsense.
The trouble is, down, I also love Beef Wellington and foie gras and veal. I am a loud, booming alpha male. I have described vegetarianism as an eating disorder – and worse. Spending the next 40 years on mung beans strikes me as both off-brand and off-putting.
This infuriated me on two counts. First, what the hell is a mung-bean? Also, why does everyone talk about lentils when they talk about vegetarians? I eat lentils, but I also eat sweet potato, quinoa, chips, cheese, crisps, spelt, tofu, greens, beans, potatoes, chocolate, ANYTHING. Anything that wasn’t once alive, of course. I eat toffee-apples, too.
I’ve been vegetarian since I was 21. Twenty-four years. I became a vegetarian when I had a bar job and one of my fellow bar workers told me for weeks on end about the six months he’d just spent working in an abattoir. I haven’t always been a perfect vegetarian, not by a long way, but I have been for a while now, and I intend to stay that way.
I’d guess that 80% of my food is home-cooked, by me, and most of it is pretty fast food. It’s healthy and it’s good. So I have decided that having my regular blog and my running blog and a book deadline that is absurdly tight is not enough, and I’m going to start this food blog too. I’ll post recipes. Most will be of the “what’s in the fridge and cupboard and what can I do with it? That is the kind of cook I am, and sometimes I’m successful and sometimes not. I get that kitchen cupboard inventiveness from my mother, who is a brilliant cook and baker. So I wanted to start a blog about being a vegetarian, and a cook, which is honest and representative and healthy. I don’t have razor-sharp cheekbones or glossy hair like the Helmsley sisters. I’m fit and a runner but currently about half a stone heavier than I’d like. So I will be cooking and eating to get the weight off, only so I have less to carry while running. I NEVER DIET. Here is a representative meal, which was my dinner last night. I looked at what I had and made something up. But in fact it has protein (tofu), loads of vitamins (kale, spinach, chard), more protein (peanuts) and fibre and complex carbohydrates (brown rice). Serendipitous.
Oh, why mucky fat? Because I’m from West Yorkshire and though beef dripping on sliced bread is not for me, I still love the name. I’ve used it in the site’s name to mean that vegetarians eat more than lentils.
- A packet of tofu (Cauldron organic, because it’s the only one on sale near me)
- Sesame seeds
- Swiss chard, spinach and kale, a panful (from my allotment)
- Asparagus tips (because they were on sale for 99p)
- A dollop of peanut butter
- Soy sauce, a few splashes
- Vinegar (ideally rice vinegar, but I was out of it, so white wine vinegar instead)
- Sweet mirin sauce for sweetness (but a teaspoonful of sugar would do)
- Olive oil
- Brown rice
- 1. Chop the tofu. Cauldron is pretty robust but if you have time, press it under something heavy (I put my stone pestle on top of a plate)
- Put a bit of oil in an oven dish. Sesame would be good, but I didn’t have any so I used olive oil.
- Cube the tofu, add it to the dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and anything else you like (dunno, cumin? smoked paprika?). Put it in the oven. (I first got the idea for baking tofu from the wonderful Veggie Runners, whose site and company I highly recommend.)
- Boil water in the kettle, rinse a cupful of rice and add to a pan of the boiling water, enough to comfortably cover it. It will take 20-25 minutes, so leave the tofu in that long too. As for oven temperatures, my oven is rubbish so I always put it on at about Gas Mark 7 and keep an eye on everything. I left the tofu in for about 20 minutes.
- Sit down and have a drink
- After ten minutes or so, wash and steam the greens and asparagus for 5-10 minutes
- Get your blender. I have a Nutribullet, which I bought and was not given as a freebie, but I recommend it anyway because it’s quick and easy and washable and very powerful. Also it’s supposed to do special nutrient extraction, but I can’t testify to that without a lab and a scientist. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, mirin and vinegar, and a tablespoonful of olive oil. Then add some boiling water, enough to make it into a thick liquid rather than a claggy mass of peanut butter. Blend.
- I didn’t have any ginger but if I had had, I’d have grated some with some garlic and fried that briefly in a very hot wok. Maybe some spring onions too, and half a fresh chilli, including seeds (you can remove the seeds if you don’t like too much spice). Tip in the greens and asparagus and saute for a bit, then add the tofu and saute for about five minutes (I can’t remember how long I did it for). Then add the sauce and stir everything, again at high heat, for another few minutes.
- Take a stylish picture for a blog that you haven’t yet realised you’ll be creating (oops)
- Eat it.
And now, a picture of mucky fat sandwiches at my Uncle Keith’s funeral wake: