In celebration of Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast: autumn, winter publishing this October, we asked some 4th Estate authors to write a few words about veg-minded living.
Laura Whateley, author of Money:
“When I decided, aged 25, to move in with my boyfriend, it was not the loss of single-girl freedom that most concerned me, nor how we would navigate our different views on “tidiness” – he’s an Essex boy with a father who was an architect, immaculate work surfaces are in his blood.
No, it was the knowledge that there would be no roast chicken on a weekend and I would never come downstairs to him frying me bacon for my breakfast. Our future did not include us sharing spaghetti bolognese together in front of the TV, or barbecued beef in the park on a balmy evening. My boyfriend has never, in fact, tasted a burger. I was to cohabit with a man brought up vegetarian and Sunday lunch would never be the same again.
Fast forward nine years, where this cohabiting arrangement is looking permanent, well that’s what I promised in my wedding vows, and I can report that becoming an accidental part-time non-meat eater is one of the best things that could have happened to my diet.
My husband is relaxed about food and was never going to ban meat from our fridge. I absolutely draw the line at Linda McCartney sausages in my toad in the hole, for example. Sometimes he compromises and eats fish, he feels like he could kill a prawn without too much guilt. But it has always been easier to cook and share the same thing.
So, slowly I’ve learned to relish the challenge of making chickpeas and lentils interesting, readjusting my mindset about what a main meal looks like from meat/veg/carbs, towards adopting my mother-in-law’s enviable ability to rustle up a table-full of green dishes, a few salads, or two curries, some rice, served in mismatched crockery.
Eating less meat means eating more colourful food and I feel healthier for it in body, energy levels, and wallet. It is amazing how much money you save by not unthinkingly chucking packets of mince in your trolley.
The biggest shift, however, has been in how much I now pause and think about eating meat before I do it.
I will still order the steak if we go out to eat (when invariably the waiter puts it down in front of my husband and we have to switch plates because meat is still an oddly gendered topic, but that’s a rant for another day). I no longer do so automatically, though. When I’m browsing Pret options for lunch I think harder about it: how much do I really want ham in my salad?
I’m much more aware that I should consider where my food has come from, and the impact that journey has on an animal, or the environment, and whether that impact is worth it.
I don’t know if I can ever give up meat entirely, my husband has an advantage – he doesn’t know what he’s missing – but I am grateful that through love and laziness, I’ve learned to be a lot more conscious for what it is that’s on my plate.”