DFA Staff Pick: A Taste Of The Future

DFA Staff Pick: A Taste Of The Future

Date: 01/12/2023 09:06

For anyone thinking of switching to a vegetarian diet but who fears missing out on favourite meals such as burgers, this month’s DFA pick of UTV’s ‘Highdays And Otherdays’ cookery programme from January 12th 1992, should act as reassurance that changing to a vegetarian diet has been both possible  - and painless - for at least thirty years.

Presented by Cook and Cookery Writer, Jenny Bristow, and Produced and Directed by Ruth Johnston, ‘Highdays and Otherdays’ stately, classical music theme, ornate title font and softly photographed rustic kitchen (for once, not a studio set but actually owned by the Presenter and Cook herself) seems rather tame by comparison to today’s output of more confrontational (and occasionally downright aggressive) TV cookery programmes such as, well, pretty much anything featuring Gordon Ramsay.

The episode of ‘Highdays and Otherdays’ featured here is entitled ‘Meatless Menus’ and was, at the time, a nod to the fact that there was a growing trend towards meatless cookery, especially among the young. To this end, then, Jenny Bristow - a highly personable embodiment of the programme’s target demographic – deftly demonstrates how meatless ingredients (which, in fact, constitute most of the food on the planet) can, alone, be used to make a wide range of wholesome nutritious meals. And which, as the title of the show implies, do not involve the use of meat but do (to the undoubted dismay of many a puritanical Vegetarian viewer) use fish, no doubt to ensure that the Pescatarian viewership was (quite literally) catered for. 

The programme’s overall tone, then, is one of gentle, informed authority and, while the body language of Jenny Bristow herself might, at times, seem a little stilted and awkward, she nevertheless fluently and coherently guides the viewers through each recipe, demonstrating every stage of its preparation and cooking, until, as one might expect, a mouth-watering dish is completed and presented to the camera, such as vegetarian burgers with sald in baps (13:36 - 16:17).

However, what will be most conspicuous to contemporary viewers of this programme is the absence of any reference to the manifold benefits of meatless recipes, such as improved health, a better quality of life and extended life expectancy, along with the more indirect – but no less important - impact that meatless eating has on animal welfare and its consequential reduction in carbon emissions, which is now generally accepted as incontrovertible.

Despite this, though, just 1% of the population of Northern Ireland currently describes itself as vegetarian so, compared to a country such as India for whom 38 - 40% of its population does not eat meat (and, in some cases, also fish), NI still has a long way to go.  Although a plethora of innovative lab-grown meat, fish and dairy products (including eggs) are soon destined to arrive on UK supermarket shelves which, before too long, could mean that both meatless and vegetarian diets are entirely superseded by veganism (no meat, fish, seafood or dairy) becoming the diet of choice for the world’s population.

As the French Poet and Novelist, Victor Hugo, said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”