From the Catholic Herald
dated Friday 10 June 1994
time ago I went to a vegetarian restaurant in Covent Garden and got
poisoned. So did my companion. I know that undercooked kidney beans can
wreck havoc in the digestive system but we didn't have any of those. We
had an assortment of salads, and what makes us really bitter about the
whole business is that none of them actually tasted of anything. We had
to rely on the appearance of the things to understand what we were
ingesting. Yellow little grains - sweet corn; dark red chunks of
vegetable matter - beetroot; light red slices of same - tomato; pale
opaque lumps - potato; slimy little curlicues - bean shoots.
But apart from the look and texture of various items we might have
been eating cardboard boxes.
The menu boasted that there were many different dressings enhancing
the various dishes, but the taste buds were defeated and incapable of
distinguishing between them. I know too much salt is considered
deleterious to the human frame, but its total absence renders lunch
This was annoying enough, but then to feel ill for two days was
infuriating. We couldn't understand it since we fondly imagined that
salmonella lurked only in ill-prepared and undercooked flesh and eggs,
nor did we have cheese to give rise to problems from listeria.
I remembered that botulism can proliferate in bottled plums if the
bottler has subjected them to insufficient heat and sterilization, but
we didn't have plums. After long and aggrieved discussion we concluded
that all the poor vegetables must have been kept under warm water to
prevent them from drying up and their vital elements had been
squandered. That would explain the lack of flavour, and the poisoning
probably arose from the same circumstances.
When all the taste has been bullied out of food it has not even got
the vitality to alert the consumer to the fact that it's gone off. But
one does not expect to be laid low in a health food restaurant, damn it.
This brings me to one of my quibbles about vegetarianism. I could
happily live on asparagus and jersey potatoes - with butter, and oranges
and apples and strawberries and so on; but too many vegetarian
enthusiasts seem to lack the courage of their convictions. Nuts are
delicious all by themselves and deserve better than to be rendered into
nut cutlets in order to hoax the diner into the belief that he only has
to splash on mint sauce to have something approximate to a lamb chop.
I could happily eat a Sunday lunch of onion sauce, flageolet beans,
roast potatoes and garlic salad - and forget about the gigot. The same
goes for all the other types of meat and their accompaniments.
As my companion remarked, after trying the quiche, made with a
whole meal crust which reminds one of eating flock-filled sleeping bags,
she only has to eat something which she is told is good for her to long
for something really unwholesome.