Children of the Quorn

I’ve decided to raise my son a vegetarian.

Alright alright, I can hear you logging off as we speak. Calm down, you heathens! I’m just letting you know that I think it’s the right thing for Felix and me. Yes, I’ll be doing it too, otherwise Felix would resent me at the dinner table stuffing my face with chicken nuggets whilst making him eat quinoa.

What’s behind the decision? Well it reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and blah blah blah. To be honest the swaying point for me is that I’ve gone off the idea of eating corpses and I don’t want to raise my child doing it. Personally I can’t handle anything rare, and blood is a big no-no. I remember one Christmas we had a work lunch in an old-style English place near Brick Lane. They gave us a sharing platter that was basically covered in neck, tongue and other bits of offal on a bed of mashed potato. The mash was red with the blood that had seeped down from the offal. When the plate came to me I swiftly passed it to the next person (I prefer organs to be internal). I ordered the only veggie thing on the menu which was this horrible beetroot and lentil dish. On the way back to work I had the worst wind ever! Thank God I had my own office so I could do some damage control. Sorry TMI! But offal and blood isn’t the worst of it, I’m actually not good with anything that looks remotely like it was once alive. This includes meat on the bone, which pretty much left me with cheeseburgers and frankfurters, so you can see why I’m not exactly in tears over the loss of meat.

My dad (pictured) has always been veggie and my sister became veggie when we were kids. I’d planned to one day follow suit, and when I decided to become a parent I realised the perfect time would be after the birth as it’d be a fresh start. Then Felix was born and I was like “OK one more chicken strip won’t hurt…”, and I sort of didn’t go through with it.

So what changed? I’m not sure actually. It was sort of random. The other day, 25 February to be precise, Cyberdyne Systems became self-aware and I decided to give vegetarianism a go. I thought it’d be hard but it hasn’t at all! The thing with me is that I want lots of protein in my diet because I’m an aspiring Muscle Mary (although I’m eating so much Texan fried food I’m fitting more into the Bear category). This is one reason that held me back from taking the plunge before - chicken seemed the best way to get that protein. Yeah I know beans and pulses do the job, but I was so put off by that windy lentil experience that I didn’t want to inflict that on my colleagues again. I also suspected that I wouldn’t be able to raise my son healthily because of the lack of protein, which is kind of the idea that’s instilled in us. Well this is wrong!

There are so many other non-meat sources of protein out there and I’ve been slowly discovering them all, but instead of hard work its actually been loads of fun. For the first time in my life I feel like I’m rediscovering food. I know that sounds a bit OTT but hear me out.

Edamame beans, for example, are an excellent source of protein, as are sunflower seeds, soya milk, almonds, hemp and all sorts of other stuff we thought was pretentious before. Places like Whole Foods have gone from being an overpriced hippy place to my overpriced HAPPY place! When I got let loose on vegetables I had more fun cooking than I’d had in ages – tofu stir-fries, cottage cheese with almonds, pico de gallo, green beans and yoghurt – this stuff was simple but healthy and yummy.

There is a serious side too. I just don’t think we should be killing animals anymore. Don’t worry I’m not going to be one of those preachy veggies. Actually one thing that’s always annoyed me is this portrayal of the militant veggie. This is bollocks! I’ve seriously never met a veggie that’s tried hard to convert me. Of course those sorts of people exist, but over and over again I’ve seen it’s meat-eaters that tend to give veggies a harder time. Why? Because ridiculing vegetarians masks our own deep-seated guilt about killing animals for food. I say “our” because I still count myself as one of the guilty ones, having only quit meat five minutes ago. You may not realise that guilt is there but trust me, deep down in your knickers you know eating animals is an increasingly unnecessary and dark part of our existence.

How many times have you seen a news story, documentary or Facebook post about cruelty in some form of animal harvesting? We all think its disgusting but we continue to turn a blind eye when we get our shish kebab. Then we cross paths with a veggie and we realise they’re not turning a blind eye. They’re sacrificing that delicious taste in the hope that less animals will go through what we saw on that report. It makes us angry and we lash out - they’re not better than us! We shoot holes in their logic in order to make it stupid, questioning their leather shoes if they’re kind to animals and so on, because if its stupid logic we don’t need to follow it! Others hide behind the the fact that we were made carnivores – who are we to mess with a higher purpose? Phew, conscience clear! It is the law of the jungle after all. Well I’ve got news for you…

Wait for it...

We’re not in the jungle anymore!

This is the twenty-first century and we can get exactly the right amounts of vitamins and minerals without killing anything. We just need to be motivated enough to learn where to look. This isn’t only our fault as consumers though. Take chicken burgers, for example. In basic terms to produce one of these we need to farm chickens, slaughter them, cut them up, coat them in batter, fry them, bake dough for the bun and prepare the relish and so on. With all that in mind, it never ceases to amaze me how I can drunkenly stumble from the gutter into my local chicken shop (we’ve all been there) and get a chicken burger for 99p, whereas a salad will set me back upwards of three or four quid. A salad! A salad, as in leaves! What’s wrong with this picture??

But I do believe the tide is slowly turning for the consumer and for the attitude of eating meat in general. Veggie products are cheaper and more extensive now than when my dad was a veggie back in the 70s where eating out meant basically a side salad or chips. At least it’ll be easier for Felix and me (but let’s still pretend that I’m making a huge sacrifice for the good of mankind please).

To anyone who wants to try to poke holes in my logic, to be honest you probably can. I’m new to vegetarianism and I’ll probably do it completely wrong and become anaemic or something. And I know I’m no Diane Fossey. I can’t promise that every aspect of my life will be kind to animals. I just want to do the right thing, one teeny tiny step at a time on this little spinach-fuelled pilgrimage with my son.

So wish us luck, smile for a selfie and say “cottage cheeeeeeeese!”