Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Memories and Veggies

The world would be a better place if we were all vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian, It is far too boring to be a veggie here in the UK. Every veggie meal is a meal with something missing: Sunday dinner becomes Yorkshire pud and veg. And it gets worse, sausage and mash becomes... mash, fish and chips is just chips and an English breakfast becomes a tomato with a slice of fried bread and maybe an egg if you're not a vegan.

Being a veggie in South India on the other hand is easy and tasty. Almost all street food is vegetarian, puri, pakora, idly, vada and other delightful goodies. Contrast that with fast food over here and you can have fried chicken or a burger. The restaurants even have levels of vegetarianism; there’s 'non veg' which means they serve meat but probably have a separate cooking facilities for vegetarian food. Then there 'veg' which means you can get the most fantastic paneer curries and the best masala omelette that you've ever tasted. Then there is 'pure veg' which is what we would understand as vegan. South Indian vegetarian food is not just a meal with something missing, nor is it just the best vegetarian food I have ever tasted, it is the best food, meat containing or otherwise that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I miss it so much, that the last time I was in London for March26 I made a special visit 'Chennai Dosa' an extremely authentic Dosa cafe in Wembley, not fine dining but much better than that; £3 buys a mouthful of good memories.

Enough reminiscing back to the main point. Put simply; meat needs space. In one year a field of grass will support 20 cows, those 20 cows will provide meat for 100 people. We can not get all the energy that the cows got from the grass, in fact we cant get anywhere close. The cows use most of it to move, grow and go about their daily business. There is also a large portion of the cow that can't or prefer not to eat, only a tiny fraction of the energy in the cow is available to us. If you were to plant a crop in the same field you could feed 1000 people because there is one less step in the food chain. Cows are a bit of a bad example because meat is a by product of the dairy industry but the argument still stands that growing grass for livestock takes up far more space per human fed than any vegetable crop.

The Tory press would have us believe that if you don’t buy meat then you are not supporting British farmers. There are other ways of supporting British farmers however, like by buying potatoes. I am not going to turn veggie but I think by limiting meat intake to ever other day or to once a week would have long term health benefits. Cultures with lower meat intake have fewer incidences of bowel cancer but there are few too many other factors involved to say 'meat causes cancer'; It may be a contributing risk factor. I there is no biological need for a portion of meat every day: The human digestive system is has evolved to be unbelievably efficient at extracting nutrients from food, this evolution would have occurred over centuries of hunting - which is a bit hit and miss, and gathering - which is a little more reliable. Buying the less fashionable parts of an animal (I'm talking chicken with bones in, not offal or tripe) has obvious monetary benefits too. So be a vegetarian or a part time veggie, if everyone did if then world would be a better place.


Patrick Carr said...

If you're feeling really nostalgic check out adventurer Al Humphries' 10 things I love about travelling in India

Lynne said...

I suppose I need to get cooking like Jeyarani then?

Me said...

Being a veggie in england is well easy and not boring.