"This steak is so rare it's eating the &!@%ing salad!" ranted Gordon Ramsay.
It was another Hell's Kitchen rant as he tore strips off a wannabe chef, but for once I couldn't bring myself to agree with him. Y'see I love a bloody steak. That unctuous, dribble-down-your-chin feeling as your teeth sink into flanks of barely broiled bovine. Turn its rump to the flame and serve with Béarnaise. Job done. So it was with increasing concern that I saw the likes of Jamie Oliver tweeting about a movement called 'Meatless Monday', a barren, steakless desert lurking somewhere between Sunday night and Tuesday morning. The phrase alone was as repellant as Kryptonite to a man in blue tights.
The trouble is, when opinion-leading behemoths like Oprah, Martha Stewart and Jessica Simpson* are driving the band-wagon, even the most die-hard carnivores put down their cheeseburgers and listen. So I started doing a little research. It turns out Meatless Monday isn't just a fashionable, fad diet from the tofu-loving fraternity. In fact it may be the food equivalent of the 11th hour talks between Kennedy and Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Let me explain.
Global warming isn't the fictional bogey man many once thought it to be and its effects go way beyond marooning polar bears on melting icebergs. The methane (noisily) produced by livestock is 20 times more deleterious as a greenhouse gas than C02, which makes meat production the second most damaging source of greenhouse gases in the world. But that's only just the beginning. 30% of the world's entire land surface is used for rearing livestock and much of this land is the deforested Amazonian lungs which are meant to reverse the greenhouse process. Basically, if you thought Hans Blix was searching for anthrax you'd be wrong. He was looking for a cache of T-Bone Steak.
It gets worse. Not only do you need 20,000 litres of water to produce just 1 kilo of beef (nope, the four zeros aren't a typo), but the steroids, antibiotics, pesticides and fertilisers used in livestock production all find their way back into the food (and water) chain. And if eventual Armageddon is a little too esoteric to curb your appetite then perhaps heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a plain old case of chronic constipation will do the trick.
But doom and gloom isn't the best motivation for going meatless on a Monday. It's all stick and no carrot. I'm as partial to a global cause as the next man, but if you really want me to move mountains then the way to my conscience is through my stomach. Vegetarian food is now miles away from the unshaven, lentil-eating, yoga-practicing, hippy stereotype of yesteryear. A quick Google search turns up a goldmine of ridiculously good recipes and myriad meat-loving chefs are leading the herbivorous charge. If you thought it was impressive when David Copperfield made the Eiffel Tower disappear, wait till you see the vanishing act Yotam Ottolenghi does on your meat and two veg.
So this weekend, if not for the sake of the troubled polar bear, take a trip to the vegetable aisle and come Monday let your taste buds trip the light fantastic.
*Someone needs to provide entertainment for the journey.