I originally posted this in July, so this is a bit of a cheat. I thought my child deserved another airing and maybe a comment or two (fingers crossed as it got none in July).
Throw a vegetarian in with a bunch of meat eaters and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the lone vegetarian who needs to adjust to the needs of the many meat eaters. If you did think it, you would be wrong.
My son the card carrying vegetarian caused quite a commotion when he confessed that he had converted. One day he was tucking into the Sunday roast, the next he was talking earnestly about being kind to cows and ridding the world of their flatulence. I was ignorant about vegans at the time or it would have completely unnerved me. Vegans are even stricter about what they eat. My partner and I are unashamed meat eaters. Vegetarian boy’s children, his brother and his children are all meat eaters. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke is our family philosophy. Why fiddle around with beans and lentils when a slab of meat and a side of veggies will do the trick?
When I recovered from my panic, I remembered that my son no longer lived with me. I’d only have to consider his needs once a week when he came to dinner. Sensing there was more to it than serving up a batch of steamed broccoli I asked vegetarian boy (VB) for help. He thought he was being obliging when he assured me that he would eat whatever came his way as long as it wasn’t meat. But you can’t expect a hardened meat eater to slap together a meatless meal at a moment’s notice.
Heard of tofu? I had. I just didn’t know what it was, what it looked like or what it did. I had been quite happy in my ignorant bliss, now I was forced to take a crash course. There are two basic types – silken for dessert and firm for everything else. Tofu is the chameleon of the vegetarian world. It has no personality of its own so it absorbs the flavour of anything it comes into contact with. You can stir fry tofu, dip it in egg and bread crumbs to make a schnitzel alternative, crumble it and mix it with an egg, to add bulk. I tested the dishes out on my partner. He obliged for the sake of the VB but didn’t like the taste or the texture.
I used to think that pulses were what throbbed in your neck when you were angry. They turned out to be a fibre fix and an alternative source of protein. I cooked up a storm and served up chick pea stew, fennel and beans and cabbage soup minus the ham hocks and streaky bacon. My partner ate it all then tucked the napkin tighter round his neck and waited patiently for the meat course.
There was no meat course. And there seemed no obvious way to please everyone, so most of us adjusted to the weekly routine. Once a week VB gets the soup and lentils, the casseroles, the stir fries, my partner and I and all who share our table get to shred meat into our personal bowls. It has been a couple of years and I have collected a neat little repertoire of recipes. Along the way I have learned to like pulses and enjoy the occasional tofu burger but no amount of cajoling will convince me to toss a soy sausage on the barbie.