Sunday, 15 April 2012

Never mind chewing the cud - chew the cow

According to a news report yesterday, organisations representing just about every single doctor in the UK have decided that obesity is a big problem and it needs tackling.

“News”, did I say? Sounds more like history, given the popularity of the subject in the mass media.

Well okay – all these organisations have agreed that it’s a problem and needs dealing with.

But the answer is surely simple? According to a billboard advert in Gloucester earlier last week, if you’re not ready to “meat your maker”, you should go vegan.

And as if that were not enough to make you split your sides, it was illustrated by a picture of a coffin-shaped pie.

The advert had been funded by campaign group Peta, which had chosen the city because a new mortuary that can take corpses of up to 50 stone had just been opened there.

According to reports, Peta’s Yvonne Taylor said the ad was designed to highlight a link between meat pies and pasties with obesity and other ailments.

With enormous panache and sensitivity, she continued: "The best thing that coffin dodgers can do for their health and to help animals is to go vegan.”

Ah. That’ll be the animals that won’t exist any more if everybody stops eating them, will it, Yvonne? What would sad people like you actually do with your lives then?

The thing is, if people want to be vegetarian – or even vegan – then fine and dandy.

Just don’t behave like a bunch of religious fundamentalists nuts and try to convert everyone else with claims that are, at the very best, spurious.

Mind, the advert did actually have an amusing aspect, since historically, pie crusts were known as coffins, but one doubts that Peta activists actually have this sort of knowledge and intended such a play on words.

It is, as I’ve said before, one of a series of new forms of Puritanism. And its followers are every bit as boringly intolerant and bigoted as those who believe their version of god is the only one there is and everybody else is wrong.

The claims that eating meat is the cause of obesity and assorted illnesses is piss poor – the French Paradox alone is evidence to the contrary.

But like religious fundamentalists, facts and evidence are not the strongest suits of Peta and its ilk, preferring the sanctimonious statements of faith of the truly saved.

Few people would claim that rising obesity is not an issue – but this is about as useful a contribution to any discussion as a Daily Mail article claiming that neon lights during night shifts give you cancer (but only during a month with an 'r'). It makes government policy on public health look coherent by comparison.

Anyway, I know that other people were irritated by the advert. And I suspect – with a wry smile – that it is exactly the sort of thing that produces the opposite effect that was intended.

Apart from anything else, going around telling people that pies and pasties are bad for you (ignoring ones that don't contain meat) is a bit of a stupid attack on a UK cultural icon.

From a personal perspective, I made sure to schedule plenty of meat for the weekend. Just to make sure that I die – and that I get fatter than I am and get lots of illnesses.

Yesterday – and utterly apt for a day of sport – I settled on good pork bangers from Henry Tidiman, which were cooked gently in a little lard and served with boiled spuds and peas, bot of which came with butter.

And today, after spending further hours in the garden, it was time for a steak and ale pie, with top-notch braising steak from Richard at Wild Dartmoor Beef.

Excellent beef – and even grass finished, unlike some other producers that make great claims.

The recipe came from the Hairy Bikers.

I sliced an onion and chopped some de-rinded, smoked streaky bacon, and cooked them gently in a little lard, before adding a finely chopped clove of garlic.

When golden, this was scooped into a casserole and replaced with the diced steak itself (around 450g for the two of us).

That’s browned and added to the pot. The frying pan is deglazed with approximately half a bottle of ale and this goes into the pot too.

Then the rest of the ale and a little beef stock, a tablespoon of tomato purée, a couple of bay leaves and some thyme are brought to the boil and join everything else in the casserole.

It’s covered and goes into a pre-heated oven (160˚C fan) for at least two hours until the meat is very tender and the ale has sweetened.

Take it out, add a little cornflour that's been blended with water and pop back to thicken.

Then add some halved or quartered chestnut mushrooms, let it cool and decant everything into a pie dish. Roll out some puff pastry and top with that. Brush with whisked egg (Argh! Another dead baby non-human critter!) and bake at 180˚C for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Consume with something apt like mushy peas on the side. Go on – a few vegetables every now and won't do you any harm.

And as if that were not entirely bad enough, then later this week I shall be eating Bambi.

It all put a contended smile on my face.

But then, I’d be prepared to wager that Father Christmas isn’t a vegan either – and look at him for longevity.

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