Me & Hugh: a pledge to eat less meat in 2012

Introducing our new regular feature, Me & Hugh, by the brilliant Ben. Follow his journey as he cooks his way to a new veggie lifestyle! 

Ben, our man on the veggie front line.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never ordered a vegetarian meal at a restaurant. In fact, I tend to rule out the veggie option whenever I go out for dinner. And, what’s more on Boxing Day, during a brief interlude between meals, I worked out that I must have eaten at least a good 1kg of turkey over the festive period. So, with that in mind, I’ve pledged to eat less meat in 2012.

You see, I’m a man that loves his meat, something I put down to being brought up as part of a ‘meat and two veg’ family. My mum and dad subscribed to the idea, long held by their mothers and my grandmothers, that meat was an essential part of a dish. Every night, from an age when I brandished plastic cutlery, I’ve had the likes of sausage and chips, chicken casserole, bacon pasta, every meal structured squarely around flesh.

When I go out for dinner, I indulge with a steak, chops or a beef burger (usually with the additional request of ‘extra bacon’, mostly because I just can) And so, for almost 23 years, I’ve carried on the long held ‘meat must be present’ tradition, mainly just out of habit.

So I’ve decided to try and eat less of the stuff in 2012 by doing without meat for one evening meal a week. It’s only one night so won’t change the world but it’s my way of doing something that’ll benefit our planet (meat production, with all it’s growing feed, grazing, slaughtering and transporting, has a severe environmental impact) and it’ll go a long way to improving my limited culinary skills too.

Once a week I’ll cook a recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ‘Veg everyday’ book, based on his recent TV series espousing the benefits of vegetables. I didn’t catch much of the series but the philosophy is simple: get to a point where you don’t feel like you have to have a “tyrannical piece of meat dominating the agenda, making everything else feel like a supporting act”.

So every week I will attempt one of Hugh’s recipes, take a few photos of the final product and update you with how it went. My first attempt, a corner shop spanakopitta, worked a treat so fingers crossed I can carry it on for 52 weeks.

For the sake of next Christmas’ turkey, here’s hoping it works.