27 September 2012

Comfort food

My guilty secret: pigs-in-a-blanket. Now that I’ve told you, I might have to kill you. Humanely, of course – I am a committed vegetarian, a conscious choice I made 5 years ago after viewing a graphic film depicting the killing fields of profit-hungry corporate carnivores. After that, I could almost smell the fear off a burger, and no, it wasn’t the Special Sauce.

Being a vegetarian sets me apart. I’ve gotten used to deciphering the ingredient lists on everything. Did you know, for example, that gelatin, often used as a thickener in anything from shampoos and face masks to marshmallows and puddings, is derived from boiling up animal skin, tendons, ligaments and bones? Knowledge like this is power: even birthday parties become battlegrounds. Convinced the icing on the cake might fluoresce under one of those lights they use in CSI, I wonder if I might have been better off not knowing The Truth. It may set you free, but unless you live near a Whole Foods, you may be free and hungry.

Quorn, quark, tofu, soya, beans, pulses, nuts, all beaten into submission and reshaped into faux meat. Why do we vegetarians find it comforting to eat ethically sourced protein parcels shaped like patties, sausages and nuggets? Which brings us back to pigs-in-a-blanket. A comforting thought, a squirming, squealing, chubby-cheeked Curly Sue of a piglet swaddled in white flannel, its racing heart so similar to ours that it’s the transplant organ-of-choice in a fix, unless the patient objects on religious grounds. A choice I’ll hopefully never need to make, yet… crack open the door of that pre-heated oven to reveal a baking tray lined with teensy sausage links tightly wrapped in crescents of buttery pastry (a veritable nursery of bite-sized, let’s-get-the-party-started snacks) and I morph into a cartoon dog, a bloodhound trailing a curl of food vapor to the four corners of the earth, snuffling the scent of that great leveler of appetizers, the pig-in-a-blanket. Stuffing one into my watering mouth, I forget whether I’m at a gathering in a mansion or a trailer park. And just for a second, to my shame, I forget that I’m a vegetarian.

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