Tallow Tales

I don’t really know why, but unlike many vegetarians and vegans I can’t really get too worked up about the tallow in the new fiver.  The first time I got one of these was in the village of Grosmont at the local shop (a local shop for local people) – in fact the place seemed to be awash with them; but it wasn’t until I got back to civilisation that I heard about the tallow.  If I’m honest, my reaction was a shrug of the shoulders.  What’s the big deal?  There are bigger things to worry about, in my opinion.  After all, I’m veggie not vegan; I wear leather and suede and use things with animal products in.  I don’t mind handling meat on the odd occasion (though I guess it depends what type of meat and what I’m doing with it) and to me, vegetarianism is about what I put in my body not what I hold in my hand.

I first embraced vegetarianism when I was living in a yoga ashram.  The plant-based diet was considered to be a peaceful one; first, because it didn’t involve the slaughter of other living things, and second, because the consumption of meat was thought to raise levels of aggression-inducing hormones.  There are also of course health reasons for not eating meat: it’s better for your digestion and the diet tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol.

That was twenty-five years ago, and I’ve never looked back.  Though initially I missed things like corned beef and tuna, the very thought of what I’m actually eating is enough to put me off should I get the urge to order, say, a bacon sandwich (bacon is one of the hardest things to give up).  Not everyone was supportive at first; my family didn’t understand it and when I said I had a craving for bacon, urged me to ‘just have some!’  Not helpful.  But I’ve never regretted it.  My digestion functions much better and I think I probably am less aggressive, though it’s hard to say as other life-changes went along with a change of diet.

Yet I can’t bring myself to care about tallow in five pound notes.  Maybe I should – maybe I would if I gave it more thought, but I don’t.  And I get a little pissed off when people say there’s no point in being just vegetarian: that you might as well go the whole hog and become vegan.  I don’t want to be vegan.  Vegan is too extreme for me.  There are many reasons for being vegetarian and they should all be respected.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts…

Kirk out

My Mushroom Valentine

Now I know I’ve told you this story before but a lot of you may not have heard the tale of how Mark and I got together.  When we first met in 1990 I was living with my boyfriend and I had made friends with a German woman.  She was rather intense and serious – and a vegetarian – but we got on all right as I made her laugh.  So one day I asked her round for dinner.  She said, ‘Can I bring my boyfriend?’

‘Of course,’ I said, being a hospitable sort of bod.  And then she dropped two words into the soup of my life which changed it forever.  ‘He’s vegan.’

He’s vegan.

‘Vegan?  What?  What?  Vegan?’  What the hell do vegans eat?  I spun round the flat opening and shutting cupboards and pulling things despairingly out of the freezer and shoving them back in again.  As a meat-eater, I could cope with vegetarians – but vegans were altogether alien.  I knew what vegans didn’t eat – I just had no clue as to what they actually did eat.  I mean, what the hell do you live on if you don’t eat meat or fish or cheese or eggs or milk?   Or yoghurt?  Added to my woes was the conclusion I drew from this – that since my German friend was intense and serious – and a vegetarian, therefore her boyfriend, being vegan, must be even more intense and serious.  This was not looking good.

If only I’d had the Vegan Cookbook back in those benighted days!


In the end, not having a clue what to do, I made a salad and, following the advice of the Calendar Girls (‘when in doubt, get it at Marks and Spencer’) I went to M & S and found a mushroom pate.  The day came: I made the salad and opened the pate,  and my friend arrived with her boyfriend.  ‘This is Mark,’ she said.

‘Hi Mark,’ I said.  He looked friendly, so I decided to come clean.  ‘I didn’t know what vegans ate, so I copped out and made a salad,’ I said.

And he laughed!  Thank God!  So we had dinner and he was very polite about the mushroom pate although afterwards he said he hadn’t liked it – and we got on fine.  And that was our first meeting.

Next installment tomorrow…

Kirk out