Last week, I was on board Celestyal Olympia cruising the Greek islands on assignment for Cruise International. You’ll be able to read my article shortly in the magazine (when I’ve actually finished and submitted it), but one of the things I was really impressed with was the food. We all know that the Mediterranean diet is super healthy, with the emphasis on good fats, fresh vegetables, beans and pulses and of course, all that fabulous fish, and I was bowled over by Greek food. I spend the week eating huge Greek salads, fat olives, fresh fish and vegetables and actually came home 2lb lighter without even trying. I was also fascinated by an article by Sali Hughes that recently appeared in The Pool about her decision to turn vegetarian in her forties. Many of Sali’s reasons echo my own feelings, so as a little experiment, I decided to give up meat while I was on the cruise. And honestly, now I’m really pondering becoming a pescatarian full time.
My feelings about meat are complicated, and have been for a while, so bear with me as this might be a bit waffly. Having seen TV footage of those awful, crowded chicken sheds, I always feel guilty eating chicken, so I buy free range (our food bills are ridiculous), but also I adore cooking and one of my absolute favourite things to cook is a big roast dinner with, say, a leg of lamb or a beef brisket and all the trimmings (placating myself with the fact that Waitrose have high welfare standards), but there have been a few things recently that have put me off a bit. The first thing was a segment on BBC’s One Show that interviewed a pig farmer right next to a sow in a farrowing crate. She was pretty matter of fact about her reasoning (which I can’t dispute), which is that if people want affordable meat, they have to accept that this (gesturing at the pig behind her with babies that she can’t even reach around to touch) is how they have to be reared.
The second thing was a lovely friend of Mr E’s giving us some venison mince. It’s all above board and he has the shooting rights to a local estate, but my god, the smell of the raw venison nearly tipped me over the edge and after I’d cooked it, I felt that I could still taste something ‘off’ about the meat and couldn’t eat it.
There are other things too… articles read about the environmental impact of meat production, the health benefits of a vegetarian diet… I could go on, but you get the picture.
This has left me avoiding chicken (especially when I don’t know where it’s come from) and buying expensive outdoor bred ham and bacon (and definitely no venison) which goes some way to assuaging my guilt (as Sali says ‘first, I did what people lucky enough to be comfortably off do to make themselves feel better: buy only organic and sustainable meat, and eat it rarely, like a posh bar of chocolate or 10-quid wine’). So here’s where I’m at, pondering becoming a pescatarian.
I have a few worries about it too, though. Firstly, that I live in a household of four adults (often more), three of whom eat meat and love it. Will it be practical? We’re all adults, can they just go and eat meat elsewhere? But then is it fair to force my decisions upon other people? Having mentioned it, everyone’s actually pretty supportive. I’ve told them that I’ll continue to buy the outdoor bred ham and bacon if they want me to, but they’re happy to give it a go if we still eat fish. I’ll report back.
Oh, and if you don’t have dairy for whatever reason, I’ve been trying out Innocent’s new diary-free range. My own particular favourite is the hazelnut which is creamy and nutty and so nice you can just drink it on its own. It’s delicious in cereals and would make a fab hot chocolate. Second for me is the oat, again you could drink it on its own and it has a pleasing mild sweet taste most similar to normal milk, I would say (none of the milks are sweetened or have any nasty gums or stabilisers added). Least favourite for me is almond, which still has a very mild nutty taste, but I think it would suit people who want to use a milk alternative that isn’t overpowering. They’re available now priced at £1.99 for 750 ml from Waitrose, Ocado and Sainsbury’s and from 21st May in Tesco and Asda.
Are you vegetarian or pescatarian, or seriously considering it? I’d love to know your thoughts x