How a cockroach turned me vegetarian

I’ve thought seriously about becoming a vegetarian since I was about 10 years old. I’ve never really eaten much meat; I used to try all sorts of tricks to avoid eating the pork, beef or other meaty yukkiness my mum used to make us as kids, from feeding the cats to dropping it in my cup when I thought no-one was looking, or trying to hide it under my leftover mashed potatoes and sneaking it into the bin. Incidentally, that’s not a criticism of my mum’s cooking, she just seemed to cook a lot of meat. Which I really didn’t like eating.

When I was 11, I asked my mum if I could become a vegetarian and when she asked why, I told her I didn’t like eating meat. She said, “wrong answer, so no you can’t,” and that was pretty much that. I’d eat burgers and bacon, but pretty much the only other meat I’d eat was mincemeat i.e. meat that didn’t have a meaty texture. But even then, if I thought about what I was eating, about the poor piggy or moo cow that used to run around a farm with their piggy and moo cows friends before ending up on my plate, I’d stop eating and feel pretty mean. And think about going veggie again.

But every time I thought about it, I thought about how much I liked eating burgers and how I’d gone 20 or 30-odd years not being a vegetarian and not labelling myself and not stopping myself from eating the odd burger. And after convincing myself the odd burger wouldn’t do any harm, each time I’d go back to being pretty much a vegetarian except the odd burger or bacon butty.

I have an ill-fated cockroach to thank for finally tipping me into a decision in September last year to vow never to eat anything with a face ever again.

veg meme

We were sitting outside at the hotel bar one evening on holiday in Tenerife, a few drinks in, when a cockroach appeared under someone’s table. This was quickly followed by everyone in the vicinity freaking out as though the weird alien thing from Alien had just erupted from someone’s stomach, accompanied by shrieks of ‘kill it!’ and ‘stamp on it!’ I mean, it’s a cockroach. It’s small. It’s not going to kill you. I’m not exactly a lover of cockroaches but we had one in our room for at least half of our holiday because I couldn’t catch it (and the other half refused to try). It didn’t do us any harm.

And I thought, if that was a kitten, no-one would be shouting ‘stamp on it.’ But apparently it’s perfectly acceptable when it’s a cockroach. Does that really make sense? (It didn’t at the time, although I had had a few drinks at this point…) I suddenly wondered how I could be so bothered about injustice to a a cockroach and then eat burgers. And then I thought about the burgers they’d been serving at the pool bar. Which were pretty awful. Which probably means they came from pretty awful cows. Poor cows. I could see their little cow-ish faces, blinking at me. And I thought, this is it, I’m not going to eat anything with a face ever again. (And yes, that does include fish. Whether they feel pain or not, they still have faces.)

Since I really thought about the cows and the piggies as real creatures with faces running round in the fields, I don’t eat them any more. And although I still have times when I really, really want a burger, I tell myself I really, really don’t want to eat a dead cow. And that usually does the trick. I can’t pretend I don’t want one though.

I found out when I got back from my holiday that a lot of wine isn’t actually vegetarian. This may be a surprise to you – it certainly was to me – and potentially a bit of a problem as I am partial to the odd glass of wine. And what do you do at a bar when you order a glass of vino – ask whether the wine is vegetarian? Do you scour the supermarket shelves for a decent wine which has a vegetarian symbol on it? If it doesn’t have a vegetarian symbol on it, do you assume it’s not suitable – which rules out the majority of bottles?

Well I could. But I don’t. Wine isn’t meat. I can’t see it’s face, oinking or mooing at me. This probably makes me a really bad vegetarian. And if that’s the case, I don’t mind being a non-meat-eater instead. Maybe I should change the title of the post.

 

Doing something useful: a bit of good for nothing

What happens if you stick a bunch of creative people who’ve never met before in a room, give them a brief to come up with a brand identity and marketing strategy for a social enterprise, and tell them they have until the end of the day to finish it, but that there are no leaders and everyone should self-manage?

gfn2

On Saturday I went along to Good for Nothing where we did just that. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but the whole idea is to give some of your time and use your skills to do good for a social enterprise. The social enterprises come along with something they want help with, and they get access to a diverse group of people who want to do some good for nothing – in this case, most of whom hadn’t met before – and who aim to turbocharge a project by completing it in a day. There’s a briefing the night before to get you thinking about the problem, then you spend the whole of Saturday doing. Solving the problem. Coming up with ideas and doing stuff.

In this case the two organisations pitching their ideas to the group were Cowherd’s, a healthy vegetarian cafe which will run as a social enterprise in Salford and which wanted help with creating a brand and strategy, and Levenshulme market which was looking for a new website to better reflect the market and its stallholders. I opted for the cafe, not only because of my vegetarian leanings (which made this an easy choice), but also because I do strategy and brand a lot more than I do website building – I don’t really do code!

It was a great day – loads of creativity, working quickly with a lot of new people, all keen to help the organisation whose team we were supporting, and all just getting stuck in rather than debating or spending ages deliberating. And the results were fab – our Cowherd’s team created a logo, menus, business cards, paper bag designs, website wireframes and a marketing strategy in a day, while the Levy market group created an actual website – well, almost, I think they finished it on Sunday (as I’m writing this, it’s not live yet, presumably they need to transfer the domain over etc.) but come on, one day or a couple, it’s still pretty amazing! It’s ridiculous how much we got done, and Paula Maguire from Cowherd’s seemed genuinely really impressed with the designs and ideas she took away. As did the lady representing Levy market.

So people who are doing good (the enterprises) got something useful from a bunch of other people (us) doing good for them, and we got to solve a problem, meet a load of new interesting people and make some new contacts, as well as doing something more useful than what we’d usually do on a Saturday – we made a difference to someone just by sharing our time, which is a great feeling. I met a couple of ladies who work literally seconds away from my office, so we’re planning to do some ladies-who-Christmas-lunch soon, sounds like a good excuse to meet up again to me.

Big thanks to the guys at Good for Nothing who organised the whole thing, looking forward to the next one!

Fancy doing a bit of good for nothing? They’re on twitter and that, have a nosey.