Category Archives: food

Occupy St Paul’s (sorry, London)

Went and spent a couple of hours down there last week – never been to a protest before.   It’s a really interesting, well-organised space with the tents and the people who stay in them (not always overnight or so it seems!) and then loads of people milling about – be it tourists or workers on a break.  I ended up having a long conversation with a chap who believed the fundamental issue was Fractional Reserve Lending (something I know a little about from the course and from the remarkable film in this earlier post) as well as a Swedish couple, one of whom had done some work with the IMF.  So, there are high-calibre people are hanging out down there.

As someone from a communications background, the main thing I took from the experience was a lack of understanding of what they want.  You get no clear idea of what ‘success would look like’ (to use that phrase).  For example, one banner says ‘Capitalism IS crisis’, another says ‘This is not an anti-capitalism movement’.  Perhaps the most frequent thing you see is ‘We are the 99%’ – referring to the fact that the other 1% have all the money.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that?  Now, maybe it’s too difficult to compress what the movement is into a soundbite and to do so is to deny the complexity of the situation we find ourselves in.  But, I would suggest, if they want to engage more people more fully, some sort of clarity of what they stand for/what they want etc would be of benefit.  By doing this, they might be able to garner more support as more of the population will more easily be able to understand that the issues they are protesting about.

As a footnote to this, I stopped by on a couple of days ago and the main banner has changed to ‘What Would Jesus Do?’  Which is kind of better in that they have understood that the protest has a moral edge to it and that they’re right outside St. Paul’s.  BUT, given all the press about whether they should move on and the Dean resigning over this, the ‘Jesus’ banner could easily be construed in the context of whether Jesus would let them stay and protest, rather than what would Jesus do in relation to the inequality in the banking system and economy which I would understand to be closer to the point they are trying to make.

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The Problem with Food Labelling

I talked to a few people about my week going ‘vegetarian’ (see previous post) and since then a few of them have asked ‘Are you still vegetarian?’  The answer to that is ‘no’, but, to me, the interesting thing is binary-ness of it.  It’s like you are either a vegetarian or not.  There is no middle ground in that you’re allowed have meat every now and again.  This seems like a bit of a problem if we’re going to try and encourage more people to eat less meat.

This is because being a ‘vegetarian’ seems to come with certain criteria.  Firstly, you’ve got to have a reason not to eat meat.  And that reason has to be quite strong in order to overcome the pleasure of eating meat.  And those reasons usually are (meat is murder; Climate Change; poor animal conditions; animals have feelings too).  Further, the vegetarian’s have their own bit on the menu (usually at the bottom), their own restaurants and their own brands (e.g Linda McCartney).  So, in many ways they are set apart and ‘different’ from the mainstream.  To what degree this is desired as a means to make a statement about themselves or to what degree this is merely for the ease of making choices, I don’t know.  But what I do know is that it makes them different and I don’t think that most people want to be seen as ‘different’.  Especially when it comes to something as basic and fundamental as food.  So, I think that the vegetarian’s are shooting themselves in the foot.  By creating segregation, they are deliberately creating a line that people will be unwilling to cross.  People don’t want the finality of restricting their choices.

So, one answer is to create a new ‘label’.  In walk ‘Flexitarian’.  It’s the term for vegetarians who eat meat now and again.  (Apparently Gwyneth is one darling).  Now other than it being the most ridiculous label I’ve heard in ages (Hi, no, I’m not a vegetarian, I’m a flexitarian), it just adds to the desire to cut things up into neat piles.  There are thousands of different foods which make up millions of combinations to eat.  To try and categorise what you eat seems a bit daft to me.

So, what to do?  Well, on the one hand I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and just cook and eat what tastes great.  However, people need to eat less meat. How to do that?   Using the stick of ‘vegetarian’ to seems counter-productive.  Perhaps instead it should be about how great meat tastes if you only eat it once a week.  Make it about the pleasure of rarity, rather than the evil of eating it at all.  Might just work.

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The machismo of nut roast

So, Nick Stern (of the IPCC’s Stern Review) says that the single thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to go vegetarian.  Now, I LOVE roast lamb and a bacon sandwich, so this could be hard.  But to do it for a week can’t be that difficult.  Can it?

So, this was the challenge.  I was to go vegetarian – and my friend Celia (who already is vegetarian) was to go vegan for the week.  Oh, when I say I was going to go vegetarian I mean ‘vegetarian’.  A fish is not a vegetable.

So, how was it?  It was pretty easy to be fair, but with only 2 ‘highlights’.   The first was a client dinner at The Summer House, a beautiful restuarant on the canal in Maida Vale.  The problem was that there were two vegetarian’s – Elinor who’s a permanent vegetarian and me, the fly-by-night one.  However, they only had one vegetarian option on the rather extensive menu and then they only had one portion of that one option.  So, we shared that – which turned out to be a rather weird deep-fried risotto cake – and got them to de-king prawn some king prawn and tomato pasta dish which we also shared.  So, thumbs down to The Summer House but thumbs up for getting on with your colleagues better.

The second was having Ross, Gordon and Ben round for Sunday lunch before going to watch the Man Utd v Chelsea game in the pub.  Now, it’s May and therefore the perfect excuse to have roast lamb – a double hit of manliness.  But no, it was nut roast recipe instead which is something I’ve never cooked before and only eaten once – at Schumacher College on week 3 of the MSc.  But, it was pretty special.  So, it was an afternoon of yin and yang as we ate nut roast and gravy (made with ‘nutrional yeast flakes'(?)) which tasted very good – good enough for everyone to stop moaning about the fact that they were eating nut roast.  Man Utd won the game and no-one went for a burger afterwards.  Or so they said.

So, what did I learn?  That going vegetarian was easy and from now on I’ll be eating a lot less meat than before, but when it comes to going out, I think I’m going to stick to the meat/fish options – it’ll make it more ‘special’.  Just like the bacon sandwich on the morning after the week was up.

(As a post-script to this, here’s a US magazine who launched a Go Vegetarian 30 day challenge)

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