ARE we all turning vegan? This possibly scary thought arises after certain happenings lined themselves up like spice jars on a dusty kitchen shelf.
First happening: the unpleasant vegan cauliflower curry I made the other weekend to please my vegetarian wife. I hope never to cook or eat that meal again, even though other meals by that weekend supplement writer have been good. The curry pleased my vegetarian wife only mildly and greatly displeased me and my stomach.
Second happening: the top-notch, and incidentally vegan, dahl I will be eating as soon as I stop typing. This is regularly cooked up from a recipe by Simon Hopkinson, a man on whom you can depend.
Third happening: the row that puffed up around William Sitwell like turmeric spilling from one of those jars on the dusty kitchen shelf.
As outrages go, posh man sacked from posh supermarket magazine for being disobliging about vegans is not much of a story. Sitwell was the long-time editor of the Waitrose Magazine, until his rudeness to a contributor was made public, and he had to resign.
Sitwell got into this meat-free tangle after he spurned an idea for a feature about veganism with what he took to be a joke, writing in an email: “How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy. Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”
The writer asked for an explanation or apology, and, receiving neither, went public with Sitwell’s admittedly not that funny joke. And Sitwell resigned, unseated in a manner he perhaps hadn’t seen coming.
Sitwell, who you may recognise from the BBC1 series Masterchef, has been hailed by some as a martyr to free speech; others have pointed out that he edited a PR puff sheet for Waitrose, and should have realised his words might not please his employers.
My passing interest in this story was snagged by a follow-up in the online version of the i newspaper. This story was built around remarks by a vegan heckler who phoned an LBC talk show, possibly to insert a carrot in the presenter’s ear.
The caller said that Sitwell’s unfunny joke about killing vegans was an example of “food racism” – a form of intolerance that may be new to you, as it was to me.
Perhaps some vegans lack a sense of humour, although I hesitate to pursue that as a theory, because most of the ones I’ve met can still raise a laugh. But still, that “food racism” remark got to me in a way that seems unreasonable.
This is, I think, because the general intolerance in society and politics seems to have bled into food. If that seems to be an inappropriate image to conjure up near a non-meat-eater, some vegan burgers spill ‘blood’ extracted from beetroot (a confusing innovation).
Another reason for meat-eaters, even one who eats meat sometimes only once a week, to feel got at is that veganism has become super trendy.
This is probably a good thing, but it can be annoying, especially if the number of vegans is exaggerated; and if not exaggerated, then waved in our faces so often that it seems you can’t move without tripping over vegan articles, products and proselytisers.
According to a BBC report from last June, research from the Vegan Society suggests there were around 540,000 vegans in Britain in 2016 – up from 150,000 ten years earlier.
That is a remarkable change, but it is still a minority choice, something you could miss thanks to all the articles about how we’re all turning vegan.
Veganism is trendy and trendy things can be annoying, apart from trendy craft beer in tins, which is surprisingly good. One potential problem from all this is that big food firms, including Waitrose, get in on the act by producing vegan ready meals, which are as likely to be healthy as any other ready meal you pop in the microwave.
To answer my opening question, I hope not. But should we eat less meat? Quite possibly, although less than once a week would in my case add up to no meat at all. And however moral I might try to be, or pretend to be, there is no way that I could give up cheese.