I remember when my son Cato did eat meat (and dairy and exotic fruit too). Actually two meat-memories come to mind. The first was when he ate fois gras, and the pleasure turned him pink. The other was when he ate two suet puddings one after the other, and shocked the bar owner who exclaimed, “Never in all my time as a landlord have I seen anyone eat two!” That is in the suitcase of nostalgia now.
He decided to go vegan five years ago. For him, this is a matter of principle – an environmental matter – not one of squeamishness or animal welfare. Since then his dietary requirements have influenced the house. And in my eagerness to provide, to express love, to keep him coming home, I stocked dairy-free delicacies, pounded spices and chopped herbs, found substitutes for cream and eggs, and extended my Asian repetoire.
Until recently, he lived on a boat fairly close by, and would visit regularly. He would welcome a respite from his one-pot suppers, frugal shopping habits and scavenged ingredients – rescued from the bins of West London. Sometimes he’d come home with bottles of out of date olives, packets of chillies - all perfectly intact – offerings met by me with lukewarm enthusiasm.
Last August, Cato left for New York to do his PhD in Physics. He is entirely responsible for his daily wellbeing now. He is, undoubtedly, cooking his one-pot suppers, ‘finding’ food, dragging unwanted produce from the outside of shops to his student flat. Now I am free to cook anything and I can roam anywhere my taste buds lead me.
The fact is, while he was here, we all had to bear his principles to some extent. At times this felt restrictive – endangering a spirit of spontaneity and fun. Cato also doesn’t fly unless it’s important. Work must be important to him – he didn’t sail to America. (But what about his close relationships, are they not important?) He refuses to fly for mere holidays, or family visits. He has left that to us, and his girlfriend, to zigzag the Atlantic for him, to be spontaneous and loving for him and - with our many carbon footprints, to sin for him.
Although I am now unleashed from the confines of his diet (and from slow travel too – all those expensive unwieldy uncomfortable journeys we’d make, just to have him with us!) I confess I miss the challenge. It took us three days to get to Northern Albania, and five to return, and it was wonderful. There is a healthy focus, and creativity, and a vitality in working within limits; and some confusion and disorientation in having the whole wide world to explore whenever, and at whatever speed, we choose. There is another issue too: How do I express love for my eldest son now that his centre of gravity has shifted, if not by setting down a plate of dhal and soya raita before him?
Of course there must a way but it’s not by Skype, that’s for certain.
Cato was my inspiration for Root Camp and a good testament to it. Not because he is a chef in the making, but because he is unafraid to cook, he forages (in his own way) and consumes with considerable thought.
Click here to find out why Cato is vegan.
This recipe is great, and dairy free. It makes enough for, say - one celeriac remoulade.
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup water
1/4 lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 juicy garlic glove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Place all ingredients, apart from the olive oil, in the blender. Process until smooth. Pour olive oil into it in a thin stream while blender is running.