As if the world needed another reason to argue, I’ve been asked to sit on a panel for veganism, or what we've rebranded ‘plant-based’ now. The topic: ‘Should we be vegan?’ The answer: obviously YES, but I assume they are going to put someone up to say we need to eat as the cavemen ate or some such thing. I have to admit the moment I agreed to do this I began to regret it. Firstly I’m not entirely vegan, (or vegetarian). I follow the Loma Linda definition which allows fish and other meats up to once a month. Also I can’t really control what is put in front of me now can I? And why is Vogue covering this?
Clearly my mind was everywhere. A bit of PR couldn’t hurt so I had a photographer meet me at Borough Market where I could be shown buying masses of fruit and veg, while promoting the upcoming panel. I was greeted by sharp cheeses, freshly ground coffee, and roasted pork. Not to mention the line leading to the roasted pork. Why was I feeling so guilty? I never claimed to be one of those people but my commitment to the planet keeps me mostly vegetarian—or at least the Loma Linda definition of one.
I was going to have to pick a subject and stick to it. And I didn’t want to sound like a harridan so I decided to focus on planet and animal arguments—hopefully something they hadn’t heard a million times. Responsibly harvested caviar wasn’t going to cut it but I could excel on the subject of fish oil. Since we (humans) can’t manufacture omega threes, we have to rely on fish as the only manufacturers of this nutrient, and taking supplements allows us to share one or two fish, rather than all of us eating a whole fish every day. I thought that was a good point but I knew these folks were just wanting to hear Kale! Kale! Kale!
I arrived in vintage Pucci nicked from Judith (mummy’s) closet, which looked fabulous and ticked the recycle box. With my bio being read I walked out onto the spartan stage just as I heard ‘international bug hostess’ and I beamed a bright smile of having been ahead of the curve on this. I scanned the circle of khaki-clad granola heads and wondered what Vogue would have done without me to 'provide some sizzle' when I heard:
‘…meat, Miss Kennedy??’ The full sentence had been, ‘Aren’t bugs actually meat, Miss Kennedy??’
OH. MY. GOD. WAS SHE REALLY GOING THERE?
‘So bugs…’ I began, ‘and thank you for your question, bugs are going to allow us to save the planet for future generations and…’
AND WOW! I wanted to scream. How dare she? I wasn’t the enemy here but nothing is ever good enough for these people. Within seconds we were talking about cow farts and I had to correct her that it’s cow burps, and that King Charles had awarded a £50,000 prize to students from the Royal College of Art who have developed a sort of mask to trap methane from cow burps. Or at least some of it.
I’d won. Or so it seemed. But she wasn’t letting it go. And truth be told I hadn’t actually eaten a single cricket! The crunch-crunch-crunch of my guests had made this international bug hostess positively shiver and one crispy appendage stuck on the lip gloss of a guest sent me to the loo—heaving and choking every step of the way. But she didn’t need to know that.
As she prattled on I wanted to ask how can you turn up every year in Davos and try to skewer me now for the world to see? Ah but this was personal. Paris Match had gotten the scoop and Conde Nast would rather bring down our whole movement than be made the fool. I smiled and willed her to combust. I couldn’t keep fighting the woman who wanted to out me as an omnivore, and besides the planet is my main goal. It was a grudge match and someone had to die.
‘COCKROACHES…’ I said, ‘produce way more methane than cows. Termites release thirteen to fifteen times more methane than a cow and centipedes too! Are we about adhering to a diet left to us by the Seventh Day Adventists or is the planet’s future truly our goal?’
She was either stunned or trying not to retch over the prospect of a centipede in her mouth. She fired back with, ‘One hamburger takes 2,400 litres of water for the grain that is fed the cattle’.
Well maybe she was right but what was the alternative? Nobody was gonna eat raw unprocessed wheat. What I knew was we needed these ruminants to save the planet, so like it or not, someone had to eat the beef! I asked, ‘What do you eat for which nothing has died? And what do you eat that sustains the planet? Meat and dairy do that’.
I had her! I didn’t even have to invoke the U.K. soil association’s pleas for help or that the North American prairie now measures topsoil in inches rather than feet.
You talkin' to me?
‘Have you heard of the penis experiment?’ She asked. Umm OK, maybe she had me. ‘In this experiment, men were fed three different burritos on three consecutive nights, and on the nights they ate vegan, they had longer and harder erections than on the nights they ate beef’, she said.
‘I’ll take your word for it’. I said, which got a bit of a chuckle but then thought to add, ‘One assumes on the veg nights they were dreaming of beef’. Clever as it was we were now two fishwives going at it, albeit one of us wearing vintage couture. This had gone south in more ways than one. The slide behind me was of Michael Gregor’s book, ‘How Not to Die’. A promise that could not be realised even in its fourth printing. I wanted out and I didn’t care how. I started fake coughing and fled the stage.
I opened Google Maps and texted my father. There was roast pork in my future, and The Black Pig was about to make a sale.