First he did away with the discards; now he’s ditching the fish completely.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall goes veggie for the new River Cottage (Channel 4, Sunday 8pm), taking on “a whole summer without flesh” beneath a suitably puritanical new haircut. Perhaps the meat-free cause would claim for good a high-profile convert, a sop to those who cackled maniacally at the prospect of a BSE epidemic and have had to live with the disappointment ever since.
Things kicked off with an emotional farewell to that bête noire of the well-intentioned, the bacon sandwich. Hugh channelled Trainspotting’s Renton as he begged for just one more meaty hit - before tossing the sandwich to two of his flunkeys. He looked on with the sweaty, voyeuristic sadness of a cuckolded husband finding his wife’s RudeTube account.
Then he was off rockpooling for seaweed and wading the marshes for samphire - the sort of jape that gets real-life veggies dismissed as hippies too stoned on their own sense of self worth to notice they’re starving to death.
It was a shame Hugh at one point called his mission “a penance”, for he was otherwise an eloquent advocate - especially as the public face of steak-dodging is usually Heather Mills. Perhaps Sir Macca’s latest wife will turn out to eat nothing but artichoke jam.
The tone was aspirational but achievable, even if most of us lack fields of fresh produce hand-picked by willing peasantry. Out here in the real world, staples like cashews and pine nuts - the things that give many veggie dishes their bite - are eye-wateringly expensive. But that challenge is half the fun. As Hugh and other chefs pointed out, and any long-term veggie will tell you, their cooking has improved out of sight after shedding a reliance on meat.
That said, the series won’t work as food porn for those who do partake of the dead stuff. Even hardline vegans don’t spend hours drooling over close-ups of glazed broccoli.
Presumably the series will climax in carnivorous catharsis with Hugh gorging on offal from a throne made of dismembered veal calves. Until then, he swore to “keep looking for the perfect radish”.
Aren’t we all, Hugh? Aren’t we all?
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