The Reluctant Vegetarian

It’s only a few days until Christmas, and I’m in a right pickle.

You see, for the past 30 years I’ve done something special to feed the ravening hordes. I cook, from scratch, a smoked raw leg of ham. The process takes place over a 24-hour period – first I soak it overnight, then I boil it with cider and herbs, and then roast it in the Weber or the oven. The result is a mouth-wateringly tender, juicy home-roasted ham that lasts right up until New Year’s Eve.

But something strange has been going on for me this year. After a lifetime as a carnivore, I’ve found that for some inexplicable reason, I really don’t want to eat meat.

As an animal lover I wish I could take the moral high ground and say that it began as a philosophical stand, but having grown up on a farm in England where we were quite likely to be saying hello to Harry the Calf, and be eating him a few weeks later, it isn’t that – or at least, it’s only partly a newly-acquired meat-eating conscience.

It seems as if I can’t any longer tolerate the idea of eating meat if I don’t know where it’s come from, how it’s been raised and treated, and how it’s been killed.

This is mildly inconvenient in my household to say the least. I’m surrounded by meat-eaters, and so I can’t fully embrace my new-found tofu, soy and lentil personality without a degree of difficulty which includes cooking two meals at a time.

To be honest I miss my meat-eating days. I was one of the World’s Great Carnivores.

When I was a child we lived in a small village that was part of a large farming estate. Our regular diet included local lamb, beef, pork and free-range chicken. As I grew up I even acquired a taste for raw meat – one of my best meat memories was being taken out to dinner by my film producer uncle to a star-studded restaurant in London. I was more impressed by my first steak tartare than by the fact that Julie Christie was eating there as well.

I’ve always been adventurous when it comes to eating animals.

I’ve eaten frogs legs and snails in Paris – not to mention steak so blue it was just about mooing – warthog and crocodile in Zimbabwe; goat in Pakistan; haggis, venison and pheasant in Scotland and snake, kangaroo and shark in Australia. (My father even persuaded me to try tripe once, but that was an experience I’d rather forget. Tripe seems to be a ‘man’ thing. My Dad belonged to a sort of secret tripe society – they’d meet in someone’s house when the rest of the family was away and have tripe orgies. Yuk.)

So Christmas for me has always meant a wonderful meaty indulgence – the home-cooked ham, the turkey and an entire fillet of beef. But here I am my desire to please the masses fighting with my desire to indulge in a mouth-watering mung bean salad overflowing with mushrooms and sunflower seeds.

The other worry is that giving things up seems to have become a bit of an unintentional habit. First there was alcohol 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter, then there was a food allergy to – how unfair is this – chilli and chocolates, and in the past few years wheat’s hit the dust due to middle-aged spread, dairy’s ok in moderation, and just a few weeks ago my body made the also not very welcome decision to give up coffee.

I wish I could be virtuous about it all, and claim a higher philosophical ground, or a raised consciousness, or something, but I think it’s a bit more basic than that. I think that as I’m beginning to look 60 in the eye, with a sort of wary sideways glance, my body seems to be kindly suggesting ways to stay healthy. I guess this is good for me, but it’s not easy adjusting to this new way of living.

I’ve been pondering the ham conundrum for the past few months, and I’ve found a solution – I’ve ordered the ham, but not the turkey or the beef. Is it a compromise, or being chicken, so to speak? Anyway, it’s done now – and the ham will be served hot and dripping with spices and honey and fresh mango on Christmas Eve.

And beside it will sit my delicious mini-soy nut roast and vegetarian lasagne.

Happy Christmas to everybody no matter what your dietary persuasion!

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“One moon lights a thousand forevers.” Meng Chiao

It’s not easy learning language is it?

I remember once my then five-year-old daughter listening to me talk to another parent about when school was due to break up for the summer holidays. When we got into the car, Anna burst into tears.

“What’s wrong, baby?” I asked her.

“I don’t want school to be all broken up,” she wailed.  “I like my school.”

I thought I’d got to an age where – at least with words – my stock in trade after all, there was not too much I didn’t understand, but a few days ago I finally discovered the meaning to something which has been mystifying me for years.

As an amateur follower of astrology I’d often noticed the phrase: the moon void of course. For years I’d wondered why all the astrologers said ‘of course’ – completely misreading and misunderstanding the phrase to mean: the moon void, of course. I thought it was odd that they should all say this – did the moon being void mean something so blindingly obvious that we should all automatically understand it?

It wasn’t until I was talking to an astrologer friend of mine who mentioned to me on the phone that the moon was void of course, that a small glimmer of comprehension dawned.  I dashed to the computer and let google work its magic – and there it was!  The period of time when the moon is between signs it is considered to be ‘void of course’! Of course!  And hello, what a blinking idiot did I feel?

So what happens astrologically when the moon is void of course?

Basically it’s a time of quiet limbo – it doesn’t last long, usually a maximum of a few hours until the moon transits into the next sign.

It takes 27.5 days for the moon to orbit the earth, and as it does it interacts or makes aspects to various planets. The VOC (how professional does that sound) is like a nap-time for the moon before it starts on its path into the next sign. We can tend to feel a little out of sorts with a VOC moon, and astrologers recommend not initiating any major projects at those times.

It’s more about the three R’s – Reflection, Rest and Recuperation.

Living in the country I’ve become much more aware of the moon’s cycles than I ever used to be – even it it’s only to make sure there are batteries in the torch for the nights when the moon is new. I’ve noticed for instance, that often on a full moon the weather is good and that there is very little wind – why that is I have no idea, but perhaps its nature’s way of counter-balancing the alleged ‘loony’ aspects of the full moon!

Symbolically speaking in many cultures the moon is literally the dark to the sun’s light – the sun is symbolic of the fraternal (yang) aspect, and the moon to the maternal or yin influence. (Although contrary to our Western appropriations there are many other cultures that see the moon as a masculine force.)

The moon produces no light of her own, instead she relies upon the sun to reflect her image to us, which no doubt unconsciously colours our feeling about her as the softer, more passive, more underlying influence than the sun.

It’s impossible to imagine our world without the moon.

There’s the almost unimaginableto science of it – it has no atmosphere, so there is no wind or weather of any description; because there is no weather the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts will be visible for at least ten million years.  There’s the magic and mayhem of werewolves and ‘lunacy’ attached to the full moon, and there’s the creativity and romance of it – where would our romantic poets, or musician, or singers, or even romance itself be without it?

“I am tired, beloved, of chafing my heart against the want of you; of squeezing it into little ink drops, and posting it.  And I scald alone, here, under the fire of the great moon.”  So wrote the wonderful American poet Amy Lowell, whose brother, incidentally, was the astronomer Percival Lowell.

Where would we be without the moon – in the dark, permanently void – of course.

Quote of the week

 “When the Moon is void of course it’s a soulful phase where the energy and excitement of life distills on an inner level. This is the perfect time to allow for serenity, and the cool, beautiful insights that rise from a state of total ease. As Rumi said, ‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’” Astrologer and author Kim Falconer

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