A vegan friend of mine was recently served a plate of rice and mircrowaved tinned mushrooms swimming with brine at a restaurant which had two days previously told her over the phone they would be delighted to cater for her. Furthermore, they treated her like a crazy person, thoroughly spoiling what was supposed to be a celebratory dinner.
Scandalous, I’m sure you’ll agree, yet not so uncommon. Similarly, coeliacs, the gluten-intolerant and shellfish allergic complain of being branded faddy, yet I’ve seen not an eyebrow raised in establishments where X or Y toddler will eat only chocolate ice cream.
Bravo then, for chefs who recognise that everyone deserves to be served great food, whatever their dietary requirements. Rhian Craddock, of the excellent Feathers Inn at Hedley on the Hill, near Stocksfield, Northumberland, is renowned for his commitment to superb local game, meat, fish and dairy, and is now gaining a name for his talent for vegan food (see our review on p21). This is quite a revelation – a talented chef who doesn’t expect the non-omnivore to order off-piste, and whose veggie/vegan/gluten-free etc alternatives are every bit as good as everything else he serves.
As someone who loves food and cooking for others, I relish the opportunity to explore new ingredients, and vegan cooking presents wonderful opportunities to explore and experiment with no end of delicious grains and veg which many people wedded to meat and two veg, eggs and dairy may never see.
As we enter a new season – my favourite for fresh vegetables – let’s all be more open to other folks’ food preferences and, like Rhian, welcome them
all. Happy seasonal eating!