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A Carnivore’s Journey Into a Herbivorous World: Tom Tackles National Vegetarian Week

by Tom Simpkins · 0 comments

in tastecard news

If he can do it, I feel like I can too

 

Move over national holidays; we’re talking about national holi-weeks! This week in particular is all about herbivorous lifestyles, aptly calling itself National Vegetarian Week! Though this is certainly something to be celebrated I can’t help but feel that I am certainly writing this from the perspective of, well, a straight up carnivore. That being said, I am an individual who endeavours to try anything and everything food related in the pursuit of capturing the very essence of good food and fantastic flavours – and bring my findings over to you on the tasteblog.

To prepare myself for National Vegetarian Week I decided to go all Leonardo DiCaprio-method-actor and immerse myself in the healthier side of dining, both at home and outside of my comfort zone, by subjugating my body to a whole host of veggie friendly delicacies! Spoiler alert, it didn’t go well, but no one can say I didn’t give it a good shot! So for your viewing pleasure I present to you the frenzied diary of my week long experience of seeing if the grass truly is greener on the other side; and more importantly if it tastes any good.

 

Bistro Eighteen 64′s Well-I-never-that-was-quite-tasty-ington

 

Day 1: Life seems so cruel-dité.

All journeys must start at home, which is why I began mine in Huddersfield. With nothing but some spare clothes, this diary and my dreams wrapped up in my bundle tied to a stick, I set off to find a restaurant that could serve something that would tantalise the taste buds of a fairly close-minded meat eater. Then I remembered that I had a car and already knew somewhere that had a lot of good dishes so I drove to Lindley, towards Bistro Eighteen 64.

A favourite spot of mine, I settled into the cosy and ambient dining area and, to the owner’s surprise, didn’t immediately ask for some form of improvised Surf n’ Turf. Instead he took my order (with a look that suggested he also wanted to take my temperature) for the hearty spinach & goats cheese Wellington. What I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed) was a creamy delight that felt as satisfying as it was good for me, with a perfect amount of delectable sautéed potatoes and slightly spicy Napoli sauce helping the spinach go down.

I left Bistro Eighteen 64 full, happy and optimistic about the rest of the week. If only I knew what was coming.

 

If memory serves me right, I’ve answered my own question

 

Day 2: Can you really not make friends with salad?

So after a not-totally-disastrous start to my self-imposed punishment, I decided that I’d go straight into the heart of darkness and tackle something that my body has fundamentally rejected my entire life; salad. I’ve just never been able to get to grips with it; the lack of flavour, the awful texture, the fact that it’s not made of meat or potatoes, these are all considered to me as massive roadblocks to my healthy eating.

Deciding not to dangle a proverbial carrot (or, more aptly, something akin to a steak) in front of my face, I opted not to go to a restaurant for my meal. I thought it’d be wise to take matters into my own hands and make myself a salad. If this has to be done, then let us do it right, I told myself as I started prepping a Superfood Salad.

A medley of quinoa, green beans, pomegranate seeds and other disagreeable ingredients later I felt like condensing myself into the foetal position and rocking myself to sleep. So much for optimism.

 

Sour, spice, and all other sauces that go well with rice

 

Day 3: Time to get too spicy for the pepper.

Despite the turbulence that was my attempt at vegetarian cooking I refused to give up, realising that I was the problem and not the cuisine. With this logic in mind I ventured out to Leeds to visit the critically acclaimed Hansas; an exclusively vegetarian Indian restaurant recognised by such notable voices as The Guardian and The Times.

Aiming to kill two blocks of tofu with one stone I ordered a fiery dish (to prove that my family’s taste buds were nay immovable when it came to heat levels and to mask any taste of vegetable) in the form of the Valor Ringan with extra chillies. It may come as little shock that I failed on both counts with my intelligent counter measures and I could taste the runner beans, which were somewhat refreshing and tasty, and the aubergine, which was not really to my palate’s preference, and almost cried like a child because of the heat.

That being said, it was still a delicious meal and the venue itself was so delightfully decorated that when there weren’t so many manly tears in my eyes I could soak in a wonderful atmosphere that, I imagine for those who chose more to suit themselves from the menu, would be perfect for a good meal with friends and family.

 

A typical exchange between my brain and taste buds

 

Day 4: Wok’s your problem?

Deciding that I wouldn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth from my own kitchen I took to the hobs again to give vegetarian cooking another shot. Thinking that surely the right sauce could mask enough of the undesirable tastes, I raided the cupboards for some of my favourites. I struck gold, finding a couple of sachets of hoisin sauce, and set to work.

I heated up my wok, using a liberal amount of garlic oil, and started prepping spring onions, shiitake mushrooms and white cabbage. While everything was heating up I gathered the rest of the required elements, such as beansprouts and thick udon noodles. Deciding the go full on stir fry with this meal I simply threw it all in, adding my tsunami of sauce a few minutes later. The result wasn’t that bad at all, except I mistook the ratio of spring onions to shiitake mushrooms (shiitake mushroom tastes like…Well, you see where I’m going with this) so I ended up grimacing through a lot of the meal.

That night I dreamt I was stranded in a field of cows, with cattle as far as the eye could see, but instead of lunging at them like a feral beast I joined them in grazing. I awoke the next day in a cold sweat, not entirely sure what was happening to me.

 

Something fresh this way comes..from Zizzi

 

Day 5: E-Zizzi does it now.

Deciding that technically five working days constituted as a week I thought I’d end my experience with a safe bet and headed to my nearest Zizzi, having heard rumours of an exclusively vegan menu.

As I sat down and got relaxed in the Manchester Piccadilly branch I allowed myself to unwind, soaking in the vivid artwork and charming décor. Much like dealing with a dog at the vet, I assured my brain that it’d be okay, that the vegan food would be fine, that I would enjoy it. Gratefully I did, which shocked and amazed my taste buds. The Vegan Lentil Ragu, with added chillies just for good measure, was utterly scrumptious and my veggie friendly reward that was the Prosecco & passion fruit coulis adorned strawberry sorbet made for a sweet yet sharp taste of bliss.

I left happy and somewhat amazed by Zizzi’s offerings to the vegetarian and vegan community, though as soon as I stepped out of the door I smelt that tantalising aroma of a steak cooking. With that alluring scent drilling into my nostrils I considered my experiment over and, despite being full, allowed my feet to lead me towards what I believe heaven must smell like.

 

An apt personification of the article’s title

 

Even if I couldn’t cut it as a tourist vegetarian I’m sure there are plenty of stronger willed people out there with big plans for this week! Tell us about them in the comments below or via Facebook or Twitter!

By Tom Simpkins

Thanks for reading!

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