Kicking the meat habit

Many people see those who choose not to eat meat as over-idealistic hippies. Dan Whitehead and Sam Noble explore their different reasons for shunning the red stuff

Many people see those who choose not to eat meat as over-idealistic hippies. Dan Whitehead and Sam Noble explore their different reasons for shunning the red stuff

Dan’s story

After almost twenty years of tearing away chunks of flesh from a cow’s derriere, I decided that turning into a herbivore was the ethical path of enlightenment that I wished to follow. On the two week anniversary of my new life, I have decided to report from the front line of the world of lettuce leaf munching.

Day 1: When I first experienced my “epiphany”, as a friend tastefully put it, I was fully dedicated to the vegan cause. I wanted to help Daisy’s udders fight for freedom from the oppression of farmers’ milk-thirsty, fondling hands; I wanted to stop those egg-robbing bastards (farmers again) from taking Chicken Little’s children. After all, how hard could it be to stop consuming animal products for the greater good?

Apparently harder than I thought. I was dirtier when I came out of the shower that morning than when I went in, as I realised that no longer could I use my toiletries as both contained animal products. Upon getting dressed, I concluded that my favourite jumper was also out of the question as it was made from wool. When I realised I was going to have to re-paint my room due to the paint containing “animal-based ingredients” I decided the vegan way of life just wasn’t for me.

Day 2: Having lowered the ethical ambitions of my new way of life, day two promised to be painless. How wrong could I have been? Everywhere I looked there were succulent steaks, sausages, pasties and Roger Kirk food (well maybe that wasn’t so tempting). Then came the Satan of all meats: bacon. As a student walked past me, fat dribbling off his jaw, I began wondering how I would ever cope.

Day 7: After surviving mainly off Ploughman sandwiches it was decided that a visit to Tesco was a must. Upon arriving at the store, a voice crackled in the background “I would like to inform you that this store will be closing in 15 minutes”. “Fifteen minutes!” I cried, “How do I possibly have time to shop for an entire week’s worth of vegetarian food in 15 minutes?” The fruit and veg section was right in front of me so I dived in, grabbing all manner of Pythagorean necessities. Swede, sweet potato, leeks, celeriac?! Don’t know what it is but it sounds vegetarian, I’ll have two.

This continued for several minutes. As the woman screeched over the speakers “5 minutes to go”, I raced towards the Quorn, feet riding on top of the trolley wheels like an 8 year old child. But where was the Quorn? I couldn’t find it in the frozen section. Panicking, I turned to the crisps (I heard they offer a very balanced diet) especially with such varieties as roast beef and chicken, then I remembered I can’t eat them. I arrived at the checkout, tail between my legs, knowing that the second week was going to be another feast of cheese sandwiches.

Day 11: Munching my way through a lettuce sandwich I notice a small bug on one of the leaves. With my new sense of nature-loving still intact I carefully remove the bug and place it outside. I then notice the small present it has left placed next to where it was sat. Does eating insect faeces count as going against the principles of vegetarianism?

Day 14: Looking back over the fortnight it is amazing how much shock and displeasure I got from friends and family. I can see the stares in the street, the whispers as the mothers shield their children and tell them “We don’t mix with that sort”. At least it can be said that I have my own place in life now, and can proudly say to the next chef who asks, “I don’t eat Sunday roast!”

Sam’s story

The choice to become a vegetarian is one you should not take lightly, nor is it something which as an experienced and accomplished carnivore you should fear. I took the plunge at the beginning of term, partly to feel healthier and to save money but also to prove the sceptics wrong. They have a point; my motivation is far from moral, having no ‘beef’ with eating animals or a desire to rally behind the cause for animal rights; I just wanted to see if I could shake the nineteen year habit. So far so good, but be warned: ham roll nightmares, farts that can strip paint off walls and a distrust of solid food are some of the side-effects you won’t be told about.

My mind must have approached my decision like a recovering alcoholic: meat was the enemy and my addictions to it lead to bad places such as putting on a stone over Christmas and always feeling bloated. The first week went swimmingly as the novelty resulted in lots of innovative cooking. However, it went downhill as the weather brightened. Now, I’m a Southern pansy and I get tetchy if there is a cloud in the sky, but the invite to a barbeque I knew would be a test. I was already gutted (the mini Sainsbury’s on Scarcroft Road had no veggie burgers) so I retaliated by buying an assortment of chocolate snacks. It’s never good to comfort eat, but I was sulking. Upon arriving at the barbeque, the sensitive hosts had home made hummus and sixteen veggie burgers for my delight. I had managed to pass the test!

That night the nightmares began. I woke up racked with guilt, prepared to phone my girlfriend to tell her of my shame that I had given in and had a ham roll. I opened the fridge only to find vegetables, Orange Juice and Friscuino. Now this only strengthened my resolve and the benefits began to show.

Over three weeks I had lost a stone and as a result started to run around campus at eight in the morning every day (hangover permitting). It’s my Forrest Gump ideology – I ran this far so I might as well keep on going. I feel more motivated, less bloated and genuinely pleased for myself of accomplishing so much with honestly little effort. Although, be warned, my farts are the deadliest smells around this town.

Our resident chef, Johan Carlin, provides a tasty recipe suitable for student vegetarians

Peanut wok

Serves 3

200 g basmati rice
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion
1 pepper
6 mushrooms
1 leek
25 g ginger)
1 red chilli
1 tin of coconut milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon tomato puree
4 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
cooking oil

While the rice boils, start chopping the vegetables. Garlic is a lot easier to peel if you first smash it with the blade of a knife and ginger is best peeled by scraping it with a teaspoon.
You can control the strength of the wok with the chilli. Chop the remaining vegetables into rough chunks.

Pour some oil into the wok, and set it to maximum heat. Add all the vegetables once the oil is hot, and fry for less than two minutes while stirring.

Add coconut milk, lemon juice, tomato puree, peanut butter and soy sauce, stir and taste.
Try adding some more soy or a dash of salt. Serve immediately once the wok has been brought to a boil.

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