Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mikey's Veggie Manifesto

Okay, so we're in week 2 of being veggie. I'm going to try and get to 52, and blog about it.

First things first: what kind of meat-eating am I leaving, albeit possibly temporarily, behind?

I have in the past, along with my partner Irene, defined myself as a "flexitarian". To me this means that I don't particularly go out of my way to consume animals: I don't stock up on routine processed cuts of meat at the local supermarket. However, on the other side, if a nice piece of traditionally cured sausage finds its way into our kitchen (and with Irene it often does!) then I'm probably - WAS probably - going to partake.

Secondly, I have had an interesting time developing my own little food writing gig, which really is more a restaurant-reviewing gig. Since I was about 10, I've spent time in a family where we would give each other feedback on restaurants. Eventually, I found I could create demand among magazines and the like for this, so that's where I'm at. When I go to a place - and I recognise it's a choice to be there, for writing purposes - I don't feel comfortable saying 'well, I'm here to review your restaurant, and talk about the menu' but I won't eat most of what's on it.

Dilemma. :-)

For the record, I personally (and still) believe that French cooking achieves things which are imitated everywhere to better or worse effect, including at some places in France. I had a meal on a cruise ship which was in part an imitation of the great Joel Robuchon, for example. Was it as good? No, you need the right kind of butter if you're gonna try and do his famous mashed spuds.

So, accepting that the noble French tradition probably comes from somewhere else originally - Renaissance Italy, perhaps - you have to work with what you've got, and what we've got here is a whole culinary resource of sauces developed over generations, and subtly matched in my opinion with the meats they accompany. The French can and do innovate - I supposed I mean French chefs - and things are lighter, more produce-based these days. They've even invented a horrible word, or two: "sourcing" and "fooding" which sound vile to me in a French accent. French is the language of gastronomy. Come on guys!

My point, though, is that they can try this because, like Picasso, they can do all the classical stuff too. I for one regret that I will probably now never get to taste a meal largely based on sauces and cooked by Robuchon at the height of his powers, which are still formidable. He does compromise and serve out the potatoes, but his current restaurants are not doing classic cuisine. Then again, they are great.

Still, there ARE others working today in the grand style: Passard, Ducasse....

The first of these is (almost) a born again veggie. (More on this topic later, hopefully.)

So, that's the kind of vegetarianising meat-eater I have been. Today, I am trying not to let dead flesh pass my lips, and so here - anticipating that I may adopt a middle-way, flexitarian approach at some point over the next year (I do live in France!), I have invented some categories for possible recidivism. If any one is reading and sees the following, they'll know what happened!

CAVED! - This will mean I deliberately and consciously partook in a meat dish, where the meat was the main or a substantial ingredient.

FLAKED - This means I knew something did contain or was VERY likely to contain some meat, and ate it anyway.

WINGED IT - This means I ate something which I couldn't in conscience be sure had no meat, and would have to agree it goes on my research list. Living where I do, and not knowing much about food preparation, this list could quickly become very long indeed. For example, cheeses are not listed typically as vegetarian in supermarkets, even when they are.

Tanya, over at Mostly Nonsense, who's doing a great job listing cool places for veggies - called "FLAKE" the other day, when we were all at Le Basilic...but this was an accident, as I was trying to taste some of Irene's pumpkin soup. Then I was reminded it contained lardons. I should strictly have eaten Tanya's veggie version of the same, but I say it's the intention that counts!!! So no flaking yet. I HAVE however winged it on the cheese front, like my mother who's a full-time, label-reading UK vegetarian but eats cheese, no questions asked in France.


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