I’ve felt outrage this week. Since Mr. Canny’s bold decision to become vegan I have felt frustrated at the attitude of establishments towards catering for those who have made a specific lifestyle choices in relation to the food on their plates. Many people follow a vegan lifestyle due to lactose intolerance, but this doesn’t seem as widely acknowledged as gluten intolerance is. Even Italian restaurants will trumpet gluten free on the menu, but clearly vegetarianism and veganism are harder to cope with. I’ve spotted many a menu exclaiming a dish is vegetarian that contains Parmesan, a cheese that is known for being far from being veggie friendly, and we’ve lost count the number of times we’ve had to explain the difference between vegetarianism and veganism when eating out. You could argue that he should just stick to vegan restaurants, but what happens if we want to dine out with friends? Should we ‘chuck’ all our old friends on account of this decision and hang out with the ‘mung bean brigade’?!
Seeing people on Twitter make derisory snorts towards The Evening Chronicle for sending a vegetarian food reviewer to Byron Burger further irked me. It seems to be considered as Food Critic of the Year you have to be the equivalent of a human rubbish bin, capable of shovelling anything and everything into your pie hole. I heartily disagree. I don’t see why a discerning palate deserves scorn. While The Chronicle were exceptionally late on the reviewing front with Byron (see my review here), I think sending a veggie along to sample a wider range of the menu was a smart move. In fact, I pipped them to the post! There are many vegetarians and vegans who love to eat out with their meat eating friends, and discovering that places like Byron offer plant based foods for them is often a revelation. I received a great response after posting about the vegan lunches Toby Carvery have on offer. While it will never feature in my Top 10 North East restaurants- heck not even my Top 100- it deserves some blog space on account of its liberal attitude towards those with specific dietary requirements.
We agreed in advance that Jnr and I would follow whatever diet we chose, but would be respectful of Mr. Canny’s decision. Jnr, in fact, was very vocal he would never follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. At home I would prepare vegan meals for him, and that myself and Jnr would possibly eat something different. What has ended up happening is that no meat is purchased for home consumption, although Jnr and I still consume dairy. Chocolate and cheese are two things we’d find very difficult to wean ourselves off! No matter what substitutes we try, they simply aren’t as good. The Mr has been overwhelmed we’ve gone even this far to support him, although some rather gruesome films we watched about meat production helped change our attitude! Having spent some time as a veggie when Newcastle was ‘light’ on the old culinary front means I can empathise with his plight. Things are improving immensely with the opening of Painted Elephant and Boho, amongst others, but what is wrong with a mainstream establishment having at least one or two items that can be adapted? We were happy to discover Wagamama does this, so maybe the tide is eventually turning.
I will continue to cover restaurants and cafes that I’m interested in visiting, vegan or otherwise, for the Canny Food blog. I may even choose to have the odd meat dish if I feel so inclined. I find it incredibly interesting seeing what an eatery comes up with for vegetarians and vegans, and I think it’s a great test of a chef. Cooking a steak perfectly has an art to it, but doesn’t require as much consideration or flair as cooking with a limited repertoire. I’ve made enquiries at places like the Michelin starred House of Tides if they will accommodate us, should we push the boat out on occasion. Mr. Atkinson said this was not an issue with advance notice, proving that not all chefs have a negative attitude towards ‘difference’. Maybe he just relishes the challenge, eh? ☺
For those who may comment on Mr. Canny himself, I can say he didn’t take the decision lightly. Although his transition was almost instantaneous, it is still a learning curve for us both. This was a man who had historically hunted, who loved eating chicken hearts and would rib me for my perceived ‘fussiness’. He was certainly not adverse to trying anything once. This change has been huge for me to watch, and I am ‘protective’ of him as any partner would be. I don’t like him being made to feel ‘inferior’ by the way restaurants behave or some of the digs made on Social Media towards those with a conscience. If this was a religious or health-based choice I don’t think anyone would have the audacity to comment, so I don’t understand why ethics are questioned so freely. Everyone has a choice, and we certainly don’t impose our views on others. What we would like to see is others being more open minded.
Thanks for reading,