What’s wrong with a vegan sausage roll?

Does the idea of British bakery Greggs launching a vegan sausage roll incense or make sense?

If the answer is the former, the big question is why? What’s your (I apologise in advance for this) beef?

On Twitter, some of the ‘incensed’ brigade weakly objected to the use of the word sausage, eliciting a spate of witty slap downs.

“After ordering a Frankfurter, I was disappointed to learn that it was not a cooked person from Frankfurt.”

“What? What are hot dogs made of if not warmed up sausage dogs?”

Vegetarian sausage rolls aren’t new. I used to buy them from Holland & Barrett in Stockport in the mid 80s. I’d also buy veggie versions of pork pies and Scotch eggs.

Courgette fritters, Andros
Courgette fritters on Andros. You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy these.

Some people struggle to understand why anyone who doesn’t eat meat would want to eat something designed to look and taste similar to a meat product. From my viewpoint back in my non-meat eating days, the answer to that is simplicity itself. Because I liked the taste and the texture. I loved sausages, bacon, pork pies etc. But at that time I just didn’t want to eat meat. My reasons were partly because of a suspicion of mass farming methods in the UK (it was at the height of the BSE crisis) and partly because I was living with two women whose vegetarian creations had flavours which soared above most of the meat dishes I’d eaten up to that point. Their cooking radically changed how I viewed a label – vegetarianism.

Lebanese mezes
Lebanese mezes – a whirlwind of meat-free flavours.

People like to stick lazy labels on things. When our neighbour in Tenerife discovered we didn’t eat meat his response was an irritated “and I thought you were normal.”
What he thought it made us who knows? Evil lentil-munching, joss stick-burners or something. People can become aggressively defensive when they hear someone is vegetarian, as though it’s some sort of judgement against them.

Of all my friends who don’t eat meat I can’t think of two who have the same reasons for their choice. Neither do any of them approach vegetarianism in exactly the same way. The problem with umbrella terms is they are the equivalent of a dense morning mist which blurs the lines of distinct objects, making everything look the same.

Goat's cheese ice cream in gazpacho
Goat’s cheese ice cream in gazpacho. Meat eaters around the table didn’t think of it as a vegetarian dish.

Do all meat eaters have the same approach to how and what they eat? The answer is an obvious no. Nearly everyone has a foible or two when it comes to what they will and won’t consider when perusing menus in restaurants, meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike.

The irony is that being exposed to the reality of vegetarian food was a catalyst that moved me from being an unadventurous eater into being an inquisitive one. As is the case in so many walks of life, ignorance had spawned completely inaccurate and ill informed opinions. Vegetarian food wasn’t tasteless, unexciting rabbit food only to be endured for ethical and/or for health reasons… or it didn’t have to be.

maple-glazed sweet potato, chestnut and feta loaf
Maple-glazed sweet potato, chestnut and feta loaf. Not particularly elegant, but very tasty.

I started eating meat again a decade and a half ago because, for me, experiencing as wide a range as possible of any destination’s gastronomy is an important aspect of travel. But once I did, I didn’t automatically resort to gnawing on bones every day, or ordering steak whenever we ate out. Our diet remains mostly meat-free because that’s what many of our favourite recipes are. As a vegetarian friend was visiting over the festive season, we made a maple-glazed sweet potato, chestnut and feta loaf for Christmas Dinner. I enjoyed it more than I had our traditional turkey dinner the previous year. When dining out we’ll peruse all a menu has to offer rather than limit ourselves to a couple of labelled ‘sections’, choosing what teases the taste-buds most. I don’t mean to sound smug, I’m merely trying to illustrate how not putting up barriers because of a label widened my culinary horizons.

Steak, O Puro, Alcochete, Portugal
Not the seitan steak at O Puro.

We ate at O Puro recently and were interested to see the select menu at this contemporary Portuguese restaurant in Alcochete included a vegetarian version of every dish. It was a nice touch, and a recognition of the growing numbers of people who choose not to eat meat. It also got me thinking about how the people protesting vegan sausage rolls would react to it. Would they throw down the menu in disgust and storm out promising to never darken the restaurant’s doorstep again? Would they order seitan steak and make a grand gesture of binning it when the imposter arrived at the table? Or would they simply glaze over the veggie options and pick whatever meat/fish option rang their bell?

Pumpkin soup, Skye
A bowl of steaming pumpkin soup on Skye, chosen because everyone else was eating it and it smelled so damn good.

I know what my money’s on, which is why some of the online responses to Greggs’ veggie sausage rolls had me completely baffled.

Incidentally, my spell check threw up ‘satanise’ as a suggestion for the correct spelling of seitan; talk about subliminal manipulation.

About Jack 756 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a Slow Travel consultant and a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Facebook for more travel photos and snippets.

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