Alice-Azania Jarvis: I'm very creative with the lentils. At 20p a go, why not?

In The Red
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The Independent Online

Everyone assumes I’m a vegetarian. I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems there is something about being small, female and dressed uniformly in florals that tends to inspire the same assumption: Alice, remind me, you are a vegetarian, aren’t you?

Well, no, actually. I’m not. I’m a meat-eater. I, officially, eat meat. That’s what I tell people when they invite me for dinner, and that’s what I put on those forms that ask if I have special “dietary requirements”.

That said, I do seem to be edging into veggie territory, slowly but surely. It’s all quite unintentional, but it’s true nonetheless. Meat is such a rarity in my flat these days that, until last Sunday, it hadn’t been on the menu since Christmas. What’s more, I hadn’t even noticed.

Of course, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with ethics. Well, almost nothing. Principally, at least, my pseudo-vegetarianism is economically motivated; I simply cannot afford the meat that I want to buy.

This is mainly down to my dogged insistence that it should come from humanely reared animals (virtually my only nod to our rather boring modern-day obsession with all things “organic”). It’s still perfectly possible to buy a chicken for £2 when it comes from a cage the size of a jewellery box, but if you don’t want to be plagued by guilt while you eat, you’ll have to fork out a good £7 for an organic bird.

It’s also a function of my budgeting techniques. At the end of the day, I’d rather have three times as much of everything else even if it means passing on the steak. Much has been made of the sudden boom in cheap cuts of meat – pigs’ trotters, brisket, offal and so on – but, honestly, what would you pick: brie or offal? As far as I’m concerned, there’s just no contest – brie works for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Offal, on the other hand, does not.

Combine both factors and, before you know it, there it is: accidental, non-ethical, economic vegetarianism.

It’s gone so far that I’ve even toyed with making it official. I doubt that’ll ever happen – can you honestly be a vegetarian if your principal motivating factor is money? And wouldn’t it sort of defeat the object if it meant turning down meat that was free? But if this recession carries on much longer perhaps it will happen, simply out of habit.

In the meantime, I’m becoming remarkably creative with the lentils. And at less than 20p per serving surely that can’t be too bad.

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