Life

Nuala McCann: My new adventures in veganism – though soy milk's a pinta too far

If it has a face or a mother, then you don't eat it, the happy brothers say. Out goes the meat, chicken and little fishy on a little dishy. In go the ginger, garlic, onion, chickpeas and lentils. Consider the latter...

What we talk about when we talk about hummus...

A SURPRISE bag of books plops through the door. Among them is a certain cookbook that I craved. A good friend has waved her wand and made my wish come true.

I’d feel a lot better if my Christmas present to her wasn’t lying at the back of my wardrobe. There’s a song I love called “Where does the time go?” I’m humming it.

The cookbook is a dalliance with a new way of eating. It’s by a couple of brothers who run the Happy Pear restaurant and who are, indeed, a happy pair.

And, oops, sorry, I’m falling for a trend here, but it’s about vegan eating. Fad, fad, fad, you cry, but honestly, I’ll try anything. Admittedly, my hand hovers hesitantly over the soy milk, oat milk and almond milk – it’s a pinta too far.

As far as I remember from long ago poetry, the cow was happy to give the milk.

“The friendly cow all red and white 

"I love with all my heart

"She gives me cream with all her might 

"To eat with apple tart.”

This gives me free rein to ignore the “no dairy” advice, but otherwise I’m on board.

If it has a face or a mother, then you don’t eat it, the happy brothers say. Out goes the meat, chicken and little fishy on a little dishy. In go the ginger, garlic, onion, chickpeas and lentils. Consider the latter.

“Chickpeas, lentils?” laughs a friend in work. Yes, it’s tie down the duvet time. Windy Miller, eat your heart out.

“It’s only two weeks and I’ll cook the chicken for you,” I tell the carnivores in our house. They chomp their way through things that had faces and mothers.

Friday night is steak night in these parts. My secret is a pinch of Demerara sprinkled on the meat as it hits the pan – it caramelises the steak.

The friendly cow stares up at me from the frying pan. My family has not converted to my plan so it’s a ‘do it yourself’ adventure.

“What’s on the menu tonight?” asks my other half.

“Three bean chilli,” comes the reply. He has to sleep with me.He would be forgiven for not breaking into a rousing chorus of “Blow the wind southerly...” But, as my friends, tell me, think of it as a good clear out of the system.

Talking of clear outs, I ring my friend who has a big trip to San Francisco coming up.

“How are you?” I ask.

“Mmmm,” she says.

She is going on the trip of a lifetime, so she has taken to clearing out her laundry cupboard. It’s so important to leave your linen cupboard in good nick if you’re heading for the Golden Bridge and Yosemite Park, I tell her.

But I understand. I am the mother of procrastination. In the week leading up to a trip away, I’m the one who suddenly wants to close the curtains, lock the doors and just pretend to have gone away, while squatting at home.

I tell her about my adventure in veganism. When my niece was a small child, she had a Joycean epiphany outside the family butcher shop.

“That’s not a butcher’s shop, that’s a dead pets shop!” she shrieked.

I lied blind to our boy who loved his bacon.

“How does the pig give us the sausages,” he lisped at the age of three and a half.

“He pulls them out from behind his ear,” I lied.

When we all went with my sister to arrange her wedding dinner nearly 30 years ago, we drove out down a long winding road.

“Look at the little lambs in the field,” my sister said with a smile.

“And soon they’ll be doused in gravy on your wedding dinner plate,” said my mother.

It’s early days, but I’m embracing my plant diet. I might even be getting a little sanctimonious. My son bursts that bubble quickly. Apparently, I’m the worst kind of nature Nazi. He’s probably still smarting over that piggy lie.

But it’s true that I think snails are cute and slugs deserve to be squished. Sparrows and coal tits are sweet; magpies are murdering bas***ds.

Yes, I am that a la carte type... who cries over a butterfly and swats a house fly: who’ll save a spider but stamp on a cockroach.

You tend to think about these things as you dunk your toasted pitta into your hummus pot.

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