It’s National Spare Some Chickens the Torture of McDonald’s week.

First published 28th May 2010

Today is day 5 of National Vegetarian Week, a fact I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for a meat eater on Twitter. But  then again, as a vegetarian, what involvement should I have in NVW? At first my thoughts were ‘none, I’m already a devoted veggie, my job is done’. How very stupid of me.

NVW obviously wants to attract more people to living a vegetarian lifestyle, and why not? It’s healthy, ethical and saves a lot of money on your weekly shopping bill, but those are the pros. The con, and I can only think of one, is that it can be genuinely hard to get started. Eating meat (or dead animals as I prefer to think of the bits of yuck on your plate) everyday can leave you wondering what other options there are to eat, and how easy these new, bizarre things are to cook. So existing vegetarians should really play an active part in not only encouraging new members to our animal-friendly way of living (and eating), but help them out too.

The truth is, us veggies eat more than vegetables and don’t restrict our diets to the colour green. The variety is enormous, it can just take a bit of further thinking than your normal sausage, chips and beans tea. The main objections I hear about to vegetarianism is the lack of food choice, or sometimes the inability to give up meat. (If this is you, go get yourself some Quorn or Linda McCartney sausages and off you go, you won’t notice the difference if you buy the good stuff, still cheaper than meat, may I add). Ifyou genuinely want to make a go of it though, here are some of my own meal ideas. Don’t forget, it’s all about trying new things, figuring out what you like and how to cook it.

My absolute favourite food is pasta, I have nine varieties in my kitchen in fact and I only live with one other person. It’s rather sad. But still, the variety is amazing and delicious. The best pasta dish I’ve ever come across, well two of the best actually, were both gnocchi, so here’s two simple ideas:

Meal one: basic gnocchi.

Boiled gnocchi, not for longer than instructed, it can go a bit gooey otherwise, covered in heated olive oil with cherry tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and some parmesan cheese for a bit of extra flavour. Chuck in some other herbs until you come across a version you like, garlic is probably a good one.

Meal two: creamy pesto gnocchi.

This one comes from a small Italian, street restaurant I found in New York’sTribeca area last year – the best meal I ate in a month there.

Cook a couple of spoons of green pesto sauce with single cream, on a low heat in a saucepan. Again, chuck in whatever extra ingredients you fancy, but pine nuts go really well. Stir until the sauce is fairly thick then mix with the gnocchi, sprinkled with a generous amount of parmesan cheese. Heaven. Add a glass of white wine for perfection.

Still not convinced? Send me your favourite meal and I’ll do my best to come up with a veggie-take on it. I may even test and try a few out. (And if you want some real convincing, search for the ‘meet your meat’ video from Peta).

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