To some extent, it’s not a radical change, because we were doing at least one night a week of veg anyway. Also, chicken and fish have been our predominant forms of animal protein for some time, rather than beef or lamb.
The major difference is that the commitment applies for four lunches as well as four dinners. I think it’s important to have this level of discipline in the way the eating plan is applied in order for the campaign to have any effect.
All of us – and I’m including vegetarians and vegans in this – need to be more conscious of the impact that our food choices have on the environment. Whether it’s the out-of-season vegetables that are flown in from halfway around the world, or the quinoa that is not necessarily grown in a sustainable manner, or the dairy cows expelling methane, they all have an impact.
The main thing I’ve learnt is that it takes a heap of extra effort to get sufficient nutrition if you’re on a training programme. I’ve had a few dark hours over the past couple of weeks, as a result of burning energy on the bike, and meals that haven’t done all they needed to.
But, on balance, it’s been a positive experience. We’ve had to be a lot more creative in menus and recipes, plus the little bit of animal protein we get over the weekends has turned into a major treat. For all my love of chickpeas, great roast chicken is something I look forward to!
The other little surprise of the month has been that I suddenly realised I needed to indicate a dietary requirement when RSVP-ing for functions. Identifying as vegetarian felt significant. While it’s not on the scale of an unexpected declaration of sexual preference, expressing a new kind of identity – in the context of my current ‘Life of Re_’ process – was a little bit of a jolt.
The meat eaters had a choice of delicious looking bobotie, or beef stew, or chicken pie (most guests piled their plates with all three). As no particular provision had been made for me, I made do with Caesar salad, Caprese, potato salad, as well roasted green beans and courgettes. After finishing these, I found some homemade hummus on the table.
Fortunately, the venue was Boschendal, where everything had been grown on-site in their organic vegetable garden. The flavours of everything – even the out-of-season tomatoes – were striking. And, the preparation had been handled by a kitchen team headed by Christiaan Campbell. It could only be delicious. In fact, it would have been a shame to divert attention from the fabulous produce by piling the plate with meat.
At the risk of being accused of contriving to find a message relevant to a period of ‘re-‘, I would highlight two aspects:
- the experience of ‘identifying as’ something new
- giving pride of place (i.e. undivided attention) to something that would otherwise have been a sideshow
Food is the meeting point of culture, religion, psychology/personal history, economics, creativity, science and more. It’s a pretty good starting point for exploring and evaluating identity with a view to being fully ‘conscious’ about future life choices.
Regardless of life choices, one of my meal choices for the weekend will be roast chicken (free-range, of course).