I became veggie in my early teens on a whim – I wanted to see what it was like. I was aware of animal cruelty in the food chain, animal testing, the fur trade etc, and I found it wrong that people would eat something prepared by someone else, but went all squeamish at the thought of having to kill their food for themselves.

My Mother had brought us up to eat vegetables with every meal and pulses were already a frequent item in our meals. It must have been daunting for her – there were 5 of us to feed and now I was asking to eat differently to the others. Even so my Mother was very encouraging. She bought me a cookbook, showed me how to prepare pulses from scratch and shared the food I prepared. I still have that first cookbook and clearly remember the joy of reading that plain chocolate was a store cupboard essential because of its iron content.

In the 30 years since, although my cooking has improved and the range of ingredients available has increased, eating out still fills me with dread. Chinese and Indian are great to eat out at, Thai not so much because of the fish sauce, however eating at pubs and mainstream restaurants can be so boring. The reason for this? The mainstream chef’s love affair with cheese. Its as though they panic when being asked to have a veggie option on the menu & thonk lets do something with cheese.

Perfectly good mushroom burgers have to have a slab of halloumi on them, beautiful salads are smothered in feta, hot dishes have to have a cheese topping. If the chef is realy going for it both the veggie starter and main will be cheese filled. If I wanted to eat the same thing at each course I would eat at home. Eating out should be filled with variety. I love discussing food, and have no problems with eating with meat eaters and asking them about their food and the mix of flavours. As a veggie you just get the same cheese flavour with a different base. Boring.

Don’t get me wrong, I do eat (vegetarian) cheese, however strong cheeses can trigger migraines and I don’t like the taste of halloumi, feta, strong cheddars and parmesean (lets not start on the parmesean issue just yet). With so many other ingredients out there it baffles me why chefs think that all we eat is cheese.

So for me eating out can be stressful and disappointing. I don’t enjoy asking for a cheese free version of something. I’d like to have a cheese free choice in the first place. Even something as simple as Pasta Neopolitan or Penne Arrabiata,so we can go all Death Star canteen, would be a welcome change.

So if any chefs are reading this please think of something other than cheese – other forms of protein are avaialble.

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