Enough to make you sick

Reva Klein

Reva Klein finds new converts to vegetarianism take the biscuit

Kate, aged 14-and-three-quarters, has joined the ranks of Gandhi, Leonardos da Vinci and de Caprio, Brooke Shields, Whitney Houston and Einstein.

Not to mention Hitler. She has become one of the estimated 17 per cent of teenagers in the UK who turn their noses up at the very stuff that makes the remaining 83 per cent weak at the knees with lust and desire. She has, in other words, said goodbye to all that dead flesh. While the others ram raid the chippies and caffs at lunchtime, clamouring for hamburgers, sausages and ham butties, she happily munches away on salad in pitta, cheese sarnies and spicy beanburgers, thankyouverymuch.

You could call Kate a late developer. Most of her friends stopped eating meat a year or two ago although, admittedly, the recidivism rate can be quite high. The smell of frying bacon is notorious. It's enough to make even the most steadfast of veggies go all wobbly.

But Kate believes she will stick with it because her reasons for going vegetarian are based on a number of considerations. Growing up in a household where news and current affairs are discussed over the supper table, she's aware of the evils of modern food production. And she's outraged at the discrepancy between food consumption in the West and in developing countries. If land used for raising livestock was given over to the cultivation of grains, pulses and vegetables, there would be more food for everybody, she says.

It's only when we get to health that moral superiority raises its nasty head. As a new convert to the cause, she can't help but recoil at friends guzzling big, fat, greasy sausages and grey hamburgers. "Do you know what they put in those things?" she gasps. And she's not just talking about pig bums and cow eyelids. "It's full of fat and preservatives. How can you eat it? EUUUUCCCCCHHHHHHHH." With all the zealotry of someone who's just stopped smoking, the sight and smell of the grosser permutations of modern meatiness not only make her sick but make her look on their consumers as reckless, irresponsible and primitive.

Thankfully for her friends and family, that phase of squeamish intolerance doesn't last very long. But as the novelty begins to wear off for everybody, catering becomes a problem. Like, now that it's supposed to be summer, what happens at barbeques? Is Kate expected to bring her own Quorn bangers or will there be something for her? And what about when everyone else is making Swedish meatballs in food technology? Will people take the mickey if she brings in puke lookalike mashed up chickpeas for falafel?

And then, for her mum there's the ultimate nightmare: Christmas dinner. But that's a long way off - who knows what will happen between now and then? In the meantime, Kate's feeling rather pleased with herself, as well she should. Acting on principle is much maligned and ridi-culed these days. But it's a sign of growing up, and for that she deserves respect.

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Reva Klein

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