The Battle Of The Christmas Dinners; Roast Turkey Vs Vegetarianism

19/12/2016 13:01 GMT | Updated 19/12/2016 13:01 GMT

Christmas Day is fast approaching and, for the majority of Britons, that means it'll soon be time to hit the shops and buy a turkey.

In fact, a recent survey found that 57 per cent of people are preparing to tuck into a turkey on December 25, and according to British Turkey we consumed 10 billion of them in 2015!

But what if you're a vegetarian? You might think vegetarians will be missing out on the big day, but many would disagree... While some think this is the one day of the year when hardened carnivores can indulge in a table heaving with meat dishes, others feel the turkey is overrated and the vegetarians are getting the best deal anyway.

I'm torn between the two. I've been a vegetarian at certain points throughout my life, going through spells of giving up meat for a month or two. But I could never resist the bacon sandwich rituals that take place in my house.

However, I am convinced by friends that vegetarians eat just as well, if not better than I do at Christmas so I wanted to take a look at all of my options...

So what will it be, a meat or veggie treat?

Turkey. It's low in fat and calories, high in protein, and a great source of iron, zinc, phosphorus and other essential vitamins and nutrients. It can be roasted, barbecued, boiled and fried; added to stir fries, salads, pasta and curry; and filled with goodness knows how many types of stuffing. This Jamie Oliver recipe is an example of an alternative stuffing and it's delicious!

But what if you don't eat meat over the festive period? Surely there are other alternatives that make the highly anticipated meal just as memorable? Andrew Brookes, a lifetime vegetarian says, "Turkey is expensive, big and takes hours to cook. That's valuable time when you could be hitting the sherry."

He said: "Imagine a turkey-free Christmas dinner plate instead... There'd be more room for the better things for a start. I'm thinking about the roast potatoes and stuffing! Plus, you can replace the turkey with something so much tastier. If you don't believe me, try this stuffed aubergine recipe (oh and the starter 'crackers')."

I did this last year, and I must admit it was a revelation! The simple, yet tasty meal made me question the traditional turkey for a moment. Turkey is pretty dry and tough. Maybe there's a reason why it's not on the menu at any other time of the year?

Of course, I wanted to hear both sides of the argument, so I reached out to my friend John, who is what some would call a "meat enthusiast".

"We are omnivorous, with teeth designed to rend flesh and internal organs evolved to render it down." he began. " It's why so few athletes are vegans or vegetarians".

"And sure, there'll be those who look disapprovingly, and those naysayers will point to the alternatives such as nut cutlets, tofu and other inadequate substitutes. I'm sorry, but as any honest diner will tell you, there simply is no substitute for real meat."

John argues that if you're a vegetarian and looking for a gateway into the land of meat, the nutritious (and let's be honest, hideous while feathered) turkey is your easiest route.

"Look at it this way - whether you eat turkey meat or not, millions of birds will be eaten this Christmas. Millions more will be left in the freezers or simply thrown away. Why not give yourself a Christmas treat and pull off a turkey leg before pulling the crackers?"

Andrew believes the notion that 'Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a turkey' is nonsense and that it only really became popular 60 years ago. So is it high time we moved on?

"Have you ever found yourself standing in the kitchen in the middle of the night, grimacing as your hand gets stuck up a cold turkey's bottom?" Andrew asked. "Well, that's the face of a meat-eater's Christmas, and it's a Christmas you should turn your back on."

"A poor soul in every house has to grapple with the bird - and what a pain it is from start to finish! Break the mould, be different and make room for the better dishes on your plate this year - or do it simply for the fact you can stay in a bed a little while longer, with your hand thrust up inside a nice warm pillow instead."

It's a debate that isn't going to be settled anytime soon, and whilst the turkey isn't in danger of being toppled as a Christmas favourite any time soon, It's great to see various types of alternatives are being explored at this time of year.

Whether you choose to eat meat or lead a vegetarian lifestyle, it's comforting to know that there is a delicious meal to suit everyone in what is surely one of the biggest dining events of the year.