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March 4th 2017

The picture you see above is from my shopping exploits this morning, in which I bought a range of vegetables (nothing too unusual for me there, honest, Mum) and supplemented this with Quorn & Linda McCartney stuff (much more unusual. I'm really a Paul McCartney man, usually). This is because I have given up meat for Lent.
You may already have heard about this, if you've been somewhere in my vicinity over the last few days, as I have been mentioning it to basically everyone I've met. Not in an attempt to appear holier than thou - in fact, I'm pretty sure that modern Christian thought is somewhat anti giving things up for Lent - but more to complain and seek sympathy. Sympathy is understandably in short supply, what with this being entirely my own doing and all, but that hasn't stopped me yet.
I say it's my own doing - and it is - but it's undeniable that my brother Simon has long been a cheerleader for this move. As a vegetarian of 16 years' standing (I think), he's tried to persuade me in the past to become vegetarian for Lent, although seemed to have given up the effort in recent years after I countered that I would do it if he gave up tea. I must admit that at least part of my motivation in doing this is to help him accept that he is strong enough to give up tea, and break an addiction that - like all addictions - is unhealthy. Anyway, next year, eh, kid?
Simon has professed himself excited that I am joining him in the land of milk and honey only, but unfortunately for him my prevailing thought so far is that I have long taken meat for granted. I have underestimated how great it is. I would say that I have a greater appreciation of meat now than at any time in my life before. Basically, vegetarianism makes eating worse.
Take pizza, for example. Everyone likes pizza. Pizza is one of the great inventions of man. But pizza without meat on it is kinda lame, and there's no getting away from that. Similarly, sandwiches: chuck what you like in a sandwich, and it might turn out pretty decent, but you can be sure that it would be significantly better with some bacon or chicken (or why not both?) in it.
OK, I've certainly not explored the full range of vegetarian eating yet - or even come close; I've not really had time this week to push myself beyond the aforementioned pizza & sandwiches, as well as some pasta - so I'm sure better stuff is to come. But whenever I picture the meals I'm going to put together, they are all essentially unfinished. They lack meat. And this is not just hypothetical, because I've had vegetarian meals several times in the past - usually alongside Simon, but occasionally in other scenarios - and no matter how good they have been, they have all felt like they just needed that little extra something. Mushroom risotto is not as good as chicken and mushroom risotto. Aubergine lasagne is half a lasagne at best.
I have not yet cooked anything with the Quorn & Linda McCartney meat-alternatives you can see in the picture above - although I have had the burgers before, and they're pretty decent - so I'm looking forward to replicating my usual repetoire (largely random stuff from my fridge chucked into a wok) and conning myself into believing I'm eating meat. I wonder how that will go. My suspicion is that these things are only acceptable replacements if enough time has passed that you can't remember what real meat tastes like. Indeed, I remember Simon assuring me passionately that the veggie burger at his local pub was the best he'd ever had; when I had one, it was a little worse than a below-average beefburger.
For all this, I'm not actually craving meat, and I'm sure I will be able to make it through Lent without caving. It's just that I'm also sure I won't enjoy doing it.
You know, removing meat from your diet is a bit like removing the letter E from your writing. It complicates the process, it makes everything harder, and it ends up making the writing worse. For now my alphabet is incomplete, and I look forward to getting all the letters back.
(Er... apologies if any vegetarians found this offensive. Keep doing your thing. At least you're not vegans, right?)

what was I listening to?
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy - Elton John
what was I reading?
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
what was I watching?
127 Hours
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