Tag Archives: vegetarian

Jay Rayner doesn’t give a toss about raw food

7 Jul
Jay Rayner's taste buds could with a lot more raw/vegan cruelty

Jay Rayner's taste buds could with a lot more cruelty from vegan food

While at Hay Festival, like the great big nerd I am, I unashamedly queued to have my books signed by both Jay Rayner and Heston Blumenthal (note unashamed name dropping).  In my small moment basking in their celebrity aura, I asked them both the same question; ‘what do you think about raw food?’  While Heston was ‘onto it’, Jay Rayner was, well, less enthusiastic; ‘I don’t give a toss.  If food doesn’t taste nice, it shouldn’t be eaten.’ 

Ignoring the question of ‘what exactly does nice tasting mean?’ – he’s right and I don’t think it’s just because I agree with him.  Raw fruit and vegetable combinations of all sorts are often difficult to swallow, literally.  But I didn’t need to meet him to hear his point of view.  Having read his review of SAF (which I whole-heartedly disagreed with in my own review), he made his point against raw food loudly and clearly in the headline: ‘It’s grim down Saf; vegan cuisine is a non-starter if it’s kind to animals but cruel to the taste buds.’

Jay Rayner is blatantly anti-vegan, anti-vegetarian, anti-raw and having read his recent book; ‘The man who ate the world; In search of the perfect dinner’, which is a kind of Michelin starred, international Super Size Me, he is also clearly anti-healthy food. 

However, I do think he is truly great, not just because he took the time to answer my question honestly, but because he represents the voice from the stomach of just about everyone I know, including the hypocrite in me. He is also really hilarious, completely decadent, down to earth and I happen to know he is extremely generous with his time with charities such as Summer Uni London’s Nang magazine.

Despite the large black rings (swollen liver?) under his bloodshot eyes (adrenal exhaustion?), a sweaty pallor (high blood pressure?) and swollen belly (candida?), Jay’s energy and wit defy a body under nutritional stress. My instinct following my 36 second ‘meeting’ with him was that he is a genuinely happy and successful man and also a genuinely unhealthy one.

But at what point do we let go of our emotional conditioning around the food we eat and prioritise our health?  And when do we allow ourselves to make choices that are not centred around what our mothers allowed or didn’t allow us to eat? Jay constantly referred to his famous Mother, Clare Rayner, in his book and he’s not alone in making the connection to food and mothering.  We all do it all the time, although mostly subconsciously.  But does eating something  that triggers happy (or sad) memories of childhood, maternal approval or feelings of success taste ‘nicer’ than the real clear-headed-living-in the-present-moment experience of eating fresh, natural, local, ripe,  nutrient-rich, absolutely 100% raw food?

I love Jay’s column and his books and don’t want him to change but I also, selfishly, want him to keep writing about food for a very long time.  I also, as a personal aim, want him to, one day, write about a raw meal in the same way he writes about the ‘Arpege tomato’.

There simply must be a way to embed the same ecstatic ‘nice tasting’ triggers in the experience of eating raw fruit and vegetables in our children, that Jay gets from buttery, garlicky escargots and foie gras and I get from cheddar cheese and gherkins on a freshly baked baguette.

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from the Guardian: Day of the lentil burhgers: Ghent goes veggie to lose weight and save planet

15 May

Prior to spending the weekend in the beautiful Flemish town of Ghent, my understanding of a Belgian menu extended the short distance from moules and frites to chocolate. And so I traipsed to Belgium fully armed with raw fruit balls, raw spinach pesto, a pineapple(??), and ingredients for a raw mango salsa. It was a complete waste of time and bag-carrying energy.   

Ghent may not have a raw-specialist restaurant but it does have three times as many vegetarian restaurants per capita than London and has just declared that every restaurant will go vegetarian every Thursday from now on. Now that’s groundbreaking for us vegetable lovers!

In the meat loving, chocolate and cheese eating moules and frites capital of the world, is the world's first no-meat-thursday town

In the meat loving, chocolate and cheese eating moules and frites capital of the world, is the world's first no-meat-on-thursdays town

The Guardian picked up the story.  Here’s an extract:
The city council says it is the first town in Europe and probably the western world to try to make the entire place vegetarian for a day every week. Tom Balthazar, the Labour party councillor pushing the scheme, said: “There’s nothing compulsory. We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable and healthy living.”

Every restaurant in the city is to guarantee a vegetarian dish on the menu, with some going fully vegetarian every Thursday. From September, the city’s schools are to make a meat-free meal the “default” option every Thursday, although parents can insist on meat for their children. At least one hospital wants to join in.

A small, dreamy city of spires, bicycles, and canals, prospering since the Middle Ages, Ghent may be on to something. It appears to be tapping into a zeitgeist awareness of the cost to human health and the environment of intensive meat and dairy farming. Other towns in and the Netherlands are making inquiries; there has even been one from Canada.

Read the full article here.

Raw Food on Eurostar

11 May

Compared to carbon-greedy airlines, Eurostar has always struck me as a relatively progressive and eco-friendly brand. So when my friends and I booked our trip to Belgium I was sure they would have healthy food for both someone like me who can easily dabble in cooked food if they have to and someone much nicer who eats raw food 100% of the time.

Fruit salad on the Eurostar

Fruit salad on the Eurostar

If you travel Business Premier or Leisure select you have lots of options however you will need to give notice: 12 hours for vegetarian meals, 24 hours for children’s meals and 36 hours notice for kosher, halal, vegan, diabetic, low fat, low salt and gluten free meals. When I rang the dedicated phone number (01777 77 78 78) and asked about raw food meals this is what happened:

RFH*: Hi, Do you have a raw fruit and vegetable option?
E*: Yes, we offer vegetarian.
RFH: Is that cooked?
E: Yes.
RFH: I’d prefer a meal of fruit and vegetables that is uncooked. Do you offer that?
E: Yes. You can have the vegetarian meal uncooked.
RFH: Will that be raw fruit and vegetables?
E: I’ll check.
Time passes
E: Hello. We cannot do a raw fruit and vegetables option, but you can bring your own.
RH: Thank you.

I wonder what an uncooked vegetarian meal looked like in her mind – raw pasta and tomatoes?? No thanks. 

While no raw fruit and vegetable option is officially available on Eurostar, here is the link to the standard class menu, which offers the raw options ranging from a fruit salad, garden salad, various fruit pieces, to a dried fruit and nut mix.

Needless to say I took their advice and brought my own.

*’RFH’ is me, the raw food hypocrite, and ‘E’ is Eurostar call centre.

Where is the raw food in Paris?

27 Jan
Not remotely raw french onion soup

Not remotely raw french onion soup

There’s only one answer to that question. There is none. Other than, of course, the fresh market fruit and veggies on every second street corner. But who on earth would consider eating raw food in Paris anyway? Well. Me. I did. But only for a very, very brief amount of time.

I thought that, in a country famed throughout history for being the leading innovator of cuisine, surely there would be a couple of raw food restaurants, such as SAF we have here in London or RAW in New York. My research began and ended with a list from http://www.HappyCow.net of 38 Parisian vegetarian restaurants, with nothing obviously raw. Nevertheless three hours later I’d checked into my hotel in the Latin Quarter, print out and raw food intentions in hand.

I meandered around nearby Parisian cobbled rues and boulevards, salivating involuntarily. I’m sure someone with more resolve would have jogged past the many restaurants and bistros, without being tempted for a moment. That person would have ducked into a supermarche, bought a pile of seasonal organic root vegetables, julienned them with their pen knife and eaten them piously in their hotel room. But not me.

I scanned my eighteenth menu outside a small and crowded bistro on a busy square. I looked briefly at the salad option; ‘salade du chef prepare selon humeur de jour’ – roughly translated as ‘salad of the chef according to his mood of the day’. The deal was done. Raw or not, I was not going to be victim of a stereotypically moody Parisian chef. I sat down and ordered the French onion soup loaded with melted gruyere on toast. I followed it with duck confit on truffle sauce. I could easily have skipped the duck. The soup was rich, filling and more than enough. But I’m glad I didn’t. The flesh du canard melted heavenly off the bone, onto my fork, and into my hypocritical mouth. On a positive note, I ate all the lettuce, which was 100% raw.

I slept badly and felt sluggish with a sore stomach the next day. I know if I’d eaten raw I would have felt light and fresh. But, I’m sorry to say, it was worth it. Next time I visit Paris, I’ll have to psyche myself up properly, do adequate research and stay somewhere less ‘cooked-french-food’ concentrated, if that’s even remotely possible. Any ideas?