I’m writing this on Monday, June 15, which happens to be World Meat Free Day. If you read this column regularly, you’ll know that only last fortnight I was heartily recommending Bain the butcher’s mince pies.
Confused? Me too.
I have a love/hate relationship with “animal products”, as vegetarians often call them. I haven’t eaten a steak for three years now but I still hanker after the bacon roll, the full Scottish breakfast (when I’m in a hotel or a B&B) and the Scotch egg or pork pie when I’m on a fishing trip. I don’t do a Sunday roast and I won’t eat chicken because of the way it’s industrially farmed and pumped fat with growth hormones and antibiotics. I’m married to a confirmed vegan and we do the supermarket shopping together so my diet and my convictions are slowly changing.
The internet means we’ve access to a lot more information than we used to and last week my Facebook timeline threw up a video interview with an American heart surgeon who’d been a vegan for 50 years. Nothing surprising there you might think. Except that he was 100 years old and he only stopped being a surgeon when he reached 95!
He was very clear about the direct connection between regular meat-eating and coronary heart disease. He said: “Meat is full of saturated fat. That puts your cholestrol up far higher than your heart can stand. If your cholestrol level is 140, you’re pretty much certain to get coronary heart disease. If you get it to 117, like mine, you won’t get coronary heart disease. And the best way to get it that low is to change to a plant-based diet.”
That’s hard for a lot of people to hear. I’m one of them. Eating’s a very personal thing and a lot of what we choose to stick in our gobs is determined by what’s on the high street rather than what’s in learned medical journals. Come out the pub at nine or ten in the evening and the welcoming glow of your local chippy with it’s sizzling fryer will lure you in. But hey, chips are vegan and is there any actual meat in those pies anyway?
What’s swinging me towards a more plant-based diet is the simple desire to make it to 100 like that heart surgeon. If he tells me it’s not that difficult, I’m inclined to believe him rather than my mates who shout me down with their usual war-cry of “Oh shut up, everything’s bad for you!”
If I’m lucky enough to have grandchildren I’d like to live long enough to take them fishing with me and brainwash them into supporting the Hibees. Eating lots of meat isn’t likely to help me live that particular dream. Even non-vegan chefs like TV star Raymond Blanc are clear that our bodies aren’t built for heavy meat consumption: “There’s no doubt about it. It’s abnormal for us to eat meat six or seven times a week. Our organism isn’t made that way.”
If I’m a walking dietary contradiction, Glasgow’s even more of a conundrum. On the one hand, it has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe with record levels of heart disease. On the other hand, it was recently named the most vegan-friendly city in the UK by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals), an organisation that hates me because I fish for trout and eat them. But Edinburgh’s changing too. On August 8 the city will host its first Vegan Festival. I’m going to go along and learn a bit more. Meanwhile, I’ve just had a tooth out so all I’m eating is fruit, pulped into smoothies by our trusty blender.
I’ll go Gerry Feral again while fishing ‘with the boys’
Most of the time I’m a polite, clean-living, tidy sort of a chap. I’m pretty much house-trained. I’ve learned to love washing the dishes, which is handy because the magic dishwashing machine is knackered. I know how to vacuum properly too and eliminate all the “dusts and fluffs” as my Hungarian wife calls them – even the little wisps of blue fluff that abide in my belly button.
On hot days when we open the balcony doors and flies pay us a visit, I have a special tennis racket to electrocute them.
The slightest hint of whiskeriness and out comes my lubricated, ten-blade razor. I have progressed from splashing Fabergé Brut all over my upper torso to squirting just a few drops of rather more refined fragrances behind my ears. I bring my wife frothy cappuccino in bed at just the right temperature. I know to use the special spray for cleaning glass surfaces and the different, creamy one for bathroom surfaces. I never leave the toilet seat up and I always replace the toilet roll when it runs out.
I buy fresh-cut flowers and I know to trim the stems and pull off the surplus foliage before arranging them perfectly in the vase. I’m proud to lug the shopping home and open jam jars. I say “please”, “thank you” and “darling”.
But all this is about to change. Because in three weeks I’m going fishing “with the boys” and different rules will apply. There will be no cuddling, let’s get that straight. Just the quick-n-manly embrace with double back-slap, as perfected by Tony and Co in The Sopranos (pictured). Space will be cleared in the fridge. Anything that doesn’t have alcohol in it – apart from milk and butter – will be removed. Underpants will not necessarily be changed daily. We will be wearing mainly thermals instead, which double up as pyjamas and loungewear. Cups will be damn lucky if they get rinsed – you wouldn’t call it washing.
Plates will be made of paper for obvious reasons. Dirt will accumulate behind the fingernails. Possibly between the toes as well, but we won’t know for sure till we get back home because our special lucky fishing socks will be kept on.
Fish will be gutted in the sink and eaten for breakfast, filling the house with the delightful smell of, well, fish. The coffee and the language will be industrial-strength. It’s going to be simply delightful.
Net makes me throw wobbly
I just watched a pet parrot tear paper into long strips, tuck them in among its tail feathers and strut about looking fair away with itself. After that I watched two black swans stretch their necks into a feeding trough full of grain at the edge of their pond and feed it to their pond-mates – a shoal of koi carp. The internet’s turning my brain into jelly and I like it.