Well Brian Potter and the Phoenix Club might think that garlic bread is the future, but for me, if I never see a slice of garlic topped baguette again, that will be too soon. It’s not that I don’t like garlic or bread, I love both, so I’m sure you’re wondering why I have an aversion to this simple side dish?
Well, garlic bread was the zeitgeist of the 80s, it was new, it was fab, it was tasty, and it was exotic! Hard to believe I know, but trust me I was there. It was the height of decadence to serve this new delicacy, which meant pubs, restaurants and cafes served it whenever they could, and if you were a vegetarian you literally received it with everything!
In the early 80s vegetarians only accounted for just over 1% of the population, so I suppose you could forgive most chefs, pubs, cafes, restaurants and the like for not really understanding what it all meant, and I guess most didn’t have any real call for providing tasty meat (or fish) free meals. However, as a young veggie this meant that I lived on ratatouille (another really exotic and trendy little number at the time) and the aforementioned green torpedo for almost 5 years. Need I say more…
Being a vegetarian today is totally different. Just over 8% of the population don’t eat meat or fish, and if you look at the student or 18 – 25 population, a staggering 18% regularly avoid animal products. As a result of these high numbers, you would presume that those concepts that cater specifically for this age group would really and totally understand vegetarianism, and they would always cater for their veggie customers as much as their meat eating peers. But do they? I did a quick straw poll and asked quite a few students what they thought of the veggie options at their University and sadly, most thought their choices were dull, boring, rarely changed and to top it all, they were fed up to the back teeth, with goats’ cheese (obviously it’s the garlic bread of the 10’s!)
But it doesn’t have to be that way, you only have to pick up any good recipe book – Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Valentine Warner and you’ll find them brimming with yummy dishes suitable for vegetarians. Or go on line, the Vegetarian Society always has an abundance of tasty recipes including: rigatoni with peas and porcini mushrooms in a creamy asparagus sauce, butternut squash and stilton pancakes, baked mushrooms stuffed with spinach brie and walnuts, and pumpkin and Swiss chard risotto, to name just a few mouth watering delights!
Although I am no longer a dedicated vegetarian, I still aim to have 1 or 2 meat free days a week, and vegetarian cookery is still a subject very close to my heart. So this blog goes out to all the restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés, canteens, and takeaways (or anyone that serves food). Perhaps now is the time you had a look at your menus to see what you’re offering your vegetarian customers and this growing important customer group. Maybe it’s time to take off the dishes that have been around for eons and replace them with some new tantalizingly tempting treats? It really is quite easy. But, if you do give your menus an overhaul, promise me one thing?
Please no ratatouille and garlic bread!