And before you go all “how dare you generalise! We’re not all like that!”, be assured I know we’re not all like that. I am one. But I’m also well aware that vegetarianism and vegetarian food gets a pretty bad rap, and sometimes with very good reason.
Let me back up a ways.
I have recently been re-reading the columns of my very favourite food writer (and one of my favourite writers full stop), A. A. Gill. This man could make Gordon Ramsay cry with his acid tongue and withering reviews. Never have I read such stunning descriptions of either how delicious or how disgusting something is. The man is a maestro of the metaphor, the samurai of the simile. I hate how well he writes, because it makes me never want to pick up a pen again, for I know I’ll never be as good.
I read with great trepidation his column on vegetarianism. Sometimes I can get a little defensive when someone belittles us (but bacon is so delicious!), but I rarely say anything in our favour. Live and let live, I say. I know how annoying vegetarians can be, and I know how gross tofu sounds. And is. So I was nodding along as I read, amazed at how perfectly he captured the feeling of most carnivores to us poor lentil-lovers.
“Vegetarian cooking is, it need hardly be repeated, unremittingly vile.” Um, yes – it can be. Ever picked up a pre-2000 veggie cookbook? They’re full of baby-poo-coloured sludge and boiled armpit hair. true story. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way.
“‘Ah…’ I can hear the frail, ululating voice of a wan and flaccid woman, lying exhausted on a sticky chaise longue. ‘You just haven’t had any good vegetarian food. You should try my mixed-pulse cheesy bake.'” It’s true! They do try to convert you with their “special” dish. Which, to a meat-eater is missing a massive slab of flesh to make it palatable. Even I blanch at the chickpea curry offered at work as the veg alternative to the other meaty lunches. Who in their right mind wants to eat a chickpea curry? Lentil pasta bake? Not I, said the fly.
When visiting a vegetarian restaurant on Christmas (“it would be mercilessly free from conspicuous fun and gratuitous enjoyment”), Mr Gill described the smell as the “round, mushy, slightly acidic odour of sanctimonious worthiness”. There are some vegetarians that do think they’re one up on the general populace because they forgo eating a tortured animal’s fear-ridden flesh. The rest of us nibble at a bit of cheese guiltily and know we’re no better than anyone else. “Vegetarians aren’t big on presentation, everything looks as if they’ve got a bulimic hippo as a food taster.” – *ahem* chickpea curry *ahem*.
“My Moroccan potato casserole was a textbook dish. You might like to make it at home to insult the neighbours.”
“I noticed that vegetarians are all marked by their extremities. They have double helpings of freeform set-aside hair, which they arrange in exuberant abstract patterns, and their shoes are cunningly cobbled so that, if need be, an extra pair of feet may be inserted. They also all sniff fruitily.” I have seen people like this. And yes they were eating a toasted mung bean burger with sprouts.