And a Tribute in Memory of Tony Banks, MP, vegetarian, animal welfarist, and wit, whose death was announced a few days ago. We vote for Banks for memories and inspiration in the welfare of all animals (human and non-human).
1. Stuff the Turkey for Good was the New Year message that we were wont to proclaim in demonstrations at the end-of-year Royal Smithfield Show in London and to furnish journalists with ready-made copy as they laboured wearily in the break with preparations for the ensuing recovery period of restraint and resolution.
2. Those were the days when the Vegetarian Society was a mover and shaker. If it has lost its vigor, Christmas this year approached with a battery of wholesome health-and-diet earnests to counter excessive eating, drinking, and inadequate exercise and all the dire consequences of obesity. Last April the Economist, reflecting a Lenten, rather than Mardi Gras opinion, offered its Dietary Advice: “… a healthy diet is built on a base of grains, vegetables, and fruits, followed by ever-decreasing amounts of dairy-products, meat, sweets, and oils…”
(Picture from World Animal Conscience)
3. So we at VEGA readied ourselves for the New Year Resolutions the press would dish up in last week’s New Year versions of advisory Supplements. Basketfuls arrived, some of which arrested our attention.
4. The Guardian Weekend on Saturday, the 7th January led off with a feature on a vegan detox diet (a new way of tarting up elimination diets). It soldiered on with an effervescent page or two with celebs (one of whom admitted to only occasional adherence to the Golden Rules – all that hospitality catering and travel, you see). It was all California-style – with sun and snow – and of scant relevance to button-popping Brits contemplating yet another repast of leftovers and servings of the last of the turkey’s mortal remains and perhaps some tardy recognition of the earnest salutary warnings.
5. The Sunday Times has gone gungho on GI. It offered the first of a series of 4 booklets, trendy but much jollier than crash dietoxin and indeed setting forth reform in consistent lifestyle. It offered a bowdlerized version, rather in the manner befitting the reduced meat and dairy frees who tend towards the portfolio of diets in the approach to a healthy lifestyle – Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming, as we try to persuade the Food Standards Agency. These are vegetarian, tasty, Mediterranean and oriental style, and would have fulfilled the purposes of detox, GI- and without a hint of colonic irrigation or the dreaded clyster in a manner much bolder than the Sunday Times has so far ventured. At least on page 59 of the first booklet the question “Can you follow a low-GI diet when you are vegetarian?” is raised. Answer “It is ideal for vegetarians”. A warning is necessary: “However, it is important that you do not go overboard on fatty foods such as cheese and creamy sauces”. Hear! Hear! to that. Cheesytarians, awake! Fibre-righters, rejoice!
6. Back then to the The Guardian Weekend of the 7th January. By page 71 a page of Yuletide dietary debauch clashed with the trendy opening pages. The Vegetarian Kitchen led off with its New Year message for an adaptation that “neatly uses up leftover stilton, even though it’s rather gorgeously rich.” The following quantities were to be turned into a stilton and walnut pate for six and substantial enough for a light lunch or supper (Some light meal!)
- 300g stilton
- 400g Philadelphia cheese
- 100g butter
- 50g walnuts
- 6 walnut halves (as a garnish)
7. The adjoining “Treat of the Week” for these episodes of resolution and bodily cleansing was prodigal with recourse to butter, milk, double cream, eggs, caster sugar, and plain flour, as well as some ground almonds.
8. These recipes flout almost every precept of dietary earnest and reform, by GI standards or by those proffered by the nutritional and medical authorities. They would be ruddled with fluorescent spads (signals passed at danger) in the FSA’s proposed scheme of labelling profiles based on a traffic light system. The vegetarian offering would have been rated a cheesy horror before the end of WW2 when the Vegetarian Nutritional Research Centre (VNRC), our progenitor, was busy campaigning for cruelty-free plant-based food; a few years later it was involved in the launch of the scientific journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. One of our associates, Bessie Chu, now returned to China, has recently sent us a booklet on Chinese Vegetarian Cookery, published in Singapore and fortunately in English, that contains tasty recipes needing no adaptation to inspire unassailable publication in keeping with the portfolio recommended by doctors and nutritionists.
9. At this point we turn to the Body and Soul section of last Saturday’s Times. We “need to know”, it says, that “with smelly remnants of Christmas stilton still infesting many a fridge, you need to be reminded of a British Cheese Board study, claiming that it had disproved the myth that cheese gives you nightmares”. However, the study reported, “oddly”, that 85% of the women who ate stilton had “ unusual dreams” featuring a vegetarian crocodile upset because it could not eat children, dinner party guests traded for camels, and soldiers fighting each other with kittens”. As the Times concludes: “Not nightmares then, just a slice of stilton psychosis”. We would just like to descry awakenings of well-deserved remorse at desertion of vegetarian ideals when it comes to the exploitation of the cow and her calf – and at a time supposedly of good will to all.
10. Which leads to an item in last Saturday’s Grocer. The Milk Development Council “gets set to change attitudes to milk” runs the headline, which tells of nutritionists being “eyed”. The MDC is commissioning “research into why health professionals often suggest removal of dairy products from the diet”. Research carried out last year “showed that 93% of consumers do not have accurate knowledge of the fat content of milk”. The MDC has been working with the 6 major dairy companies on the best strategy for this campaign. “The plan is to join forces in order to change attitudes to milk”, they say. And it is even more urgent for exponents of vegetarianism to change their attitudes and complicity in an exploitation that the defiles the wit and intentions of human kindness.
11. No wonder readers of the press and journos are bewitched, bothered, and bewildered; and bereft because the weekend’s news included the loss of Tony Banks, MP, a vegetarian and animal welfarist. He was 62. Tony could turn out one-liners that could match the wit on “our” long-lived Bernard Shaw’s postcards. We dedicate these weekend’s musings to Tony’s memory. We regret that we can’t do it with a one-liner – even one of his.