As a nation, we’re obsessed with food programmes.
Whether it’s people crying over soggy bottoms on Bake Off, or Dave from Stockport serving shop-bought ice cream on Come Dine With Me, we love nothing more than watching other people cooking and eating.
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Sometimes we sit there smugly eating our own tragic supper while watching someone else have a kitchen disaster.
Other times we see how simple something can be to make and we’re inspired to try it out ourselves.
If a prat on Dinner Date can make a Baked Alaska, so can we.
But what if you’re a vegetarian or vegan?
Bizarrely, for such a food-focused country with an ever-growing population of plant-based diners, there are no mainstream programmes aimed at cruelty-free cooking.
Bake Off might centre on cakes and sweet treats but they have to make sausage rolls and meat pies.
Cooks like Hemsley + Hemsley and Rachel Khoo offer an alternative cuisine, offering great vegetarian options – but they still rely heavily on meat, seafood and dairy.
And that’s fine. Many people who get into food do so because they love it in all its manifestations and think of their work as a celebration of being alive. For many chefs, the idea of being vegetarian or vegan would be unthinkable.
But it seems astonishing that in 2017, there are still no cookery programmes on TV aimed at meat-free eaters.
Back in the day when it was standard to eat meat and two veg for your main meal, it wouldn’t have made sense to pump money into shows championing beetroot and quinoa burgers.
But it’s estimated that there are some 3,000,000 vegetarians and vegans in the UK.
Go into WH Smith and it’s a real struggle to find animal product-free recipe books. They’re there but they’re few and far between.
It seems that you have to go online for your plant-based ideas.
Instagram is absolutely packed with bloggers, cooks, nutritionists and amateurs sharing vegan recipes. There are almost too many to process. Back in the day, every family had a recipe book that female relatives added to – full of tried and tested favourites. These days, we curate our feed to get the best animal-product-free cakes, dinner and protein recipes.
But it’s not always practical to spend hours on your phone scrolling through endless pictures to then follow a link through to a blog page.
And just because a recipe works for a professional, doesn’t mean to say that it’ll work for us. We want to see the recipe in action.
And that’s why baking and cooking shows are so great.
Sure, the folk on Bake Off are infinitely better than your average baker. But at least we see how one is basically supposed to put together a swiss roll. We know what a fruit cake is supposed to look like at various stages, and what kind of flavour profiles work. You can’t get that from an Instagram post or blog recipe.
And it’s not as if you can create absolutely fantastic vegetarian food that can compete with any meat dish.
Back in 2011, vegetarian Jackie Kearney was the first plant-based chef to reach the semi-finals of Masterchef. And she’s since released a vegan street food book.
Now, you don’t get many vegetarians or vegans on cooking shows full stop – let alone reaching the last four. And Jackie was unashamed of her meat-free stance, using the opportunity to spread the word on vegetarianism.
At the time, she apparently had to deal with some anti-vegetarian trolling but found that the public warmed to her and the way she improved the image of vegetarian food.
While people like Nadya are sweet to watch, there’s nothing particularly new about what she’s cooking. She’s one of a dozen cooking personalities teaching us how to make our own ‘healthy’ fried chicken and sweet potato wedges.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see someone like Jackie taking us on a vegan journey through Mexico? Or showing us how chefs in Kuala Lumpa make Fat Yans – mock ribs?
The reason so many people are put off by veganism is because the only thing they know about it comes from the angry vegans on their feeds who post aggressive images and don’t have time to inspire people to choose to go meat-free for the food, not the ethics.
It doesn’t really matter why people stop eating meat or consume fewer animals products – the end product is the same.
And for those of us who are vegetarian or vegan, it’s time we had shows teaching us how to expand our portfolios.
After all, there’s only so many times you can throw a vegetarian burrito party or make sweet and sour tofu for your boyfriend before they call in a stack of ribs from Deliveroo.