A couple of days ago we went out for an evening carvery meal with some friends. Certainly an interesting experience as I'd not been there before.
Carvery meals are quite good value if you're a meat eater. You get a fairly generous serving of meat, a Yorkshire pudding and then plenty of vegetables which can be re-filled any number of times, all for under £5.00. For myself as a vegetarian there was a limited choice but seemed, on the face of it, quite good. Knowing I was with friends, this was all good.
Without any engineering on my part, the conversation quickly got around to food and, in particular, vegetarian food. The conversation was delightfully light-hearted and picked up on a recent Facebook post of mine where I confessed to having not enjoyed my lentil and chutney sandwich I recently found in my lunch box. This led to great hilarity and then we got onto vegetarian food with the spot light shining on me. Some friends were intrigued and some felt somewhat sorry for Rachel in having to prepare food with and without meat. I did wonder if they were secretly wanting to be vegetarians themselves, perhaps I'll never know.
After a while I thought it was time to turn the tables and commented on the recent news reports where we are all advised to eat 10 portions of fruit and veg, rather than just five.
"So how many portions do you eat? Can I ask each of you?"
David immediately jumped in as the group's witty entertainer "oh I don't have a problem with this, especially if you include potatoes, pasta and so on. Yep I'm there easily!" Then there was a sigh with "no, probably not enough".
Gerry followed as the natural leader in the group, looking pretty prosperous these days with "hmmm there's some raisons in my muesli so that must count as at least one portion, plus look at this meal!".
"Really, you count half a dozen raisons as a portion? Nah sorry Gerry, you need more than that".
Gerry's wife Janet came next. She's tall, very slim and probably an ectomorph. She turned the table on me a little by asking why I was a vegetarian and also for how long. Now while I have no difficulty in answering this, what do you say when you're with a group of valued friends that will be disagreeing with them on this very profound point. I also knew if I really launched into my reasoning I would be insulting my friends and spoiling the meal, so it was quite a dilemma.
So looking directly at Janet, I quietly said "I made the decision about 10 years ago because I was wanting to improve my health. Also because I was worried about the supply chain ethics".
That could have been lighting the touch paper in such pleasant company. Did I dum down the stance I have taken or argue my point? I decided to leave it at that having answered the question in the most concise way I could.
Since then the conversation has been on my mind. I feel as if I have not explained myself to someone who was genuinely wanting to know. This was brought home to me as I found myself reading through a copy of Viva! (the vegan magazine) which was lying around in the kitchen. Page after page is argument after argument in favour of being a vegan. The evidence of improved health, lifespan, lower rates of cancers, heart attacks and so on is pretty powerful. Add to that the horrors of modern production-line farming methods I feel so guilty at only being vegetarian.
This is all such a dilemma. In my heart of hearts I know being a vegan is right for me. Giving up all kinds of dairy, eggs and the occasional piece of fish is quite daunting. And then I remind myself I quit smoking way back in the 20th century, along with alcohol. Then 10 years ago I became a vegetarian and then in 2015 I quit caffeine.
So is becoming a vegan really so difficult?