Meaty decisions

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Vegetarians are ok by Lisa Scott.


I had one of those big moments of life-altering realisation last week: up there with "an eyeline flick is not for you" and "it’s OK, nobody knows what they’re doing, everyone’s pretending'.

And it is this: vegetarians, they’re all right. I’m as shocked as you, having got used to thinking of vegetarians as militant farty weirdos in homespun jerseys. However, after spending time in carrot-stick circles (yes, there is a hippy in my life, and no, I don’t know how it happened either), where dinner is tussock jumper pie with lentils replacing lamb and there’s never any gravy, I’ve come to see there may be good reasons to eschew meat. That it might even be sensible.

This is a very new thought, being such a carnivore that living in southern India (where eating meat is a sin, if not a crime) for six months almost drove me insane. There were days when I had to be physically prevented from sinking my teeth into the rumps of holy cows wandering the highway, and an emotional homecoming involved clutching blue plastic trays of steak and sausages to my bosom, weeping while crooning "meeeeat".

"If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them so delicious?"

I actually said once, a statement so cringeworthy it may as well have been "Don’t you know who I am?" which I also said once, but I was joking, not that it made any difference.

Vegetarians get this kind of rubbish a lot (which is why they have tough hides, hahahaha! Sorry, lightheaded), as well as: "Where do you get your protein from?"

From the same place the animals do, of course. And so does most of the subcontinent, thank Ganesha. Because can you imagine what a disaster it would be for the planet if 1.3 billion more people ate meat? Mind you, vegetarianism is a caste thing in India too, as well as a regional thing, but mostly it’s a money thing: a meat-free lunch costs between 50c-70c and the bulk of the population makes $2 a day.

New Zealanders, on the other hand, are spoilt for choice food-wise, making vegetarianism a conscious decision and not a social, cultural or financial imperative. The hardest things to give up, I hear, are McDonald’s and KFC, almost addictions, suggesting some kind of cabal, the Grilluminatti as Caitlin Moran put it in Moranthology, are using secret herbs and spices to enslave the masses, and their colons.

A diet of pulses and root vegetables can be surprisingly filling (although no more carrots, I beg you), vegetarianism good for body and soul (the whole no-animals-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-me-dinner virtuosity), and I could totally do it ...  if it weren’t for bacon. For bacon is the most powerful substance on Earth, the kryptonite of anyone attempting a plant-based diet and I am powerless to resist it.

I am but bacon’s fool - as is pretty much the whole of America, which has been taken over by bacon (perhaps explaining their recent aggression against those whose religious covenants forbid the eating of it). Their president is a talking slab of smoked meat, their supermarkets are chock-a-block with bacon-related treats. Baconaise, bacon chocolate, bacon salt (mission statement: "because everything should taste of bacon"); which you can sprinkle onto mashed potatoes, hog up a cup of tea, even over ice cream if you’re deeply perverted for piggy treats.

Yes, bacon looks like rugby players’ ears and cooks itself if you leave it on a hot dashboard. A blessing for the stupid cook, bacon is basically meat toast: you can’t screw it up. And then there are bacon’s medicinal qualities. It’s common knowledge that for every unit of alcohol consumed on a Friday night, the body’s reserves of bacon are lowered by the equivalent of two inches, which must be replaced the next morning. A hangover is simply a bacon deficiency.

For more than a month now I’ve persevered with vegetarianism and bacon denial as best I can, only eating the odd bit of chicken lying around (lest it go to waste) and some barbecued chops (rude not to), and a steak pie at Maheno because I was stranded there for an hour hitchhiking home from Oamaru. Maheno is the Deadlands. If you’re ever unlucky enough to be dropped off there, you’ll disappear from view, cease to exist in the eyes of drivers. It’s like Brigadoon, without the mist.

And then this morning I woke at 3am, my face wet with tears. I caught one with a finger. It tasted like bacon. 



There is only one thing worse than being bacon's fool, and that is being Francis Bacon's fool.

In the Anthropology of Diet, the strictures rather bossily set out in 'Leviticus' have utilitarian purpose. I mean, cloven hoofed for your dinner? I eschew (won't chew) milk fed veal, or the frog's legs.