The days when a vegetarian diet meant lentils and rabbit food are a long time past . When I first went vegetarian at the beginning of the 1980s, the choices on offer were, to say the least, limited. Not only were there barely a handful of convenience foods available (and those only in specialist wholefood shops), the meagre stack of lack-lustre recipe books on offer weren’t particularly inspiring and there was no internet to turn to for ideas. Eating out? Bring a packed lunch.
Fast forward to today and it’s a completely different picture. The internet abounds with delicious vegetarian recipe ideas, most cafes and restaurants have vegetarian, and, increasingly, vegan options, and shops from the corner store to supermarkets often have a shelf (or even a whole section) dedicated to meatless meals. The upshot is, eating a meat-free diet is the easiest it’s ever been.
With more people than ever turning to meat-free food, the out-dated image of the ‘weirdy beardy’ veggie friend/colleague/family member has died an overdue death. Even some of the more stalwart meat-lovers are replacing one or two meat-heavy meals a week with a veggie one. Eating more vegetables has a positive impact on your health and no longer comes with the inconvenience or stigma it once did.
With the increasing awareness of sustainability (the production and consumption of meat exacerbating climate change), not to mention the health gains of eating less meat, what better way to celebrate the humble vegetable than by joining National Vegetarian Week? This campaign is run by the Vegetarian Society and is supported by the least-likely of Britain’s celebrity chef team – Si King and Dave Myers, aka The Hairy Bikers. Well known for their love of unctuous meat dishes, they are not too proud to admit that vegetarian food is not only good for you, but delicious, too, and they’ve written a vegetarian cook book to prove it.
The idea of going a whole week without meat might sound daunting, but with all the recipe ideas and new convenience foods out there, it’s far from impossible. The campaign website gives lots of recipes and meat swaps taken from around the internet, so there are plenty of ideas to get you started. The Hairy Bikers’ Sweet Potato Saag Aloo recipe is a cheap, easy-to-make and delicious way to kick off.
Taunton Farmers Market are not strangers to vegetarians. In fact, locally produced, organic vegetables, free-range eggs and vegetarian cheese are a core part of our weekly market. We even have our own vegan stall. Buying day-fresh and local is the best way to optimise your food swaps. Come and see us this Thursday, and be sure to visit Gould’s Cheddar for vegetarian cheese, Ray’s Veg for pesticide-free veggies and free-range eggs, Linscombe Farm for organic veg and Charlton Orchards for fresh, local fruit. From Nature has a selection of totally vegan food, and Kinori (Not Just Sushi), provides a vegetarian hot food option each week.
With all that on offer, going meat free for one week is not so very daunting.