The 1970’s school cookery textbooks make strange, outrageous claims about vegetarian cooking, which I have to teach to get my classes to pass the exam. At a time when large areas of the developing world eat a vegetarian diet, the books have odd things to say.
The Battersea College of Technology book of Cookery Recipes is one of our recipe books and sold for 3/6 – they haven’t accepted decimalisation yet. Copies can ‘be obtained only from the secretary, Battersea College of Technology.’
Vegetarian recipes are suitable for ‘V.E.M.s – Vegetarians who include in their diet Eggs, Milk and milk products.’
This odd mnemonic is supposed to help us remember that vegetarians don’t eat meat.
It offers this advice for vegans:
- ‘Replace milk with water in which vegetables have been cooked.’
- ‘Replace cream with nut fat and butter with Nutter or Trex.’
- Cheese must be replaced with Marmite and eggs left out altogether.
So there. That’s clear. When in doubt, leave it out.
Nut cutlets are my vegan recipe demonstration, made from chopped nuts and breadcrumbs, shaped into cutlets and deep fat fried.
If vegetarians don’t eat meat, why have nuts shaped like an animal part? The fried, nutty bits are so unappetising that even Bill, my food dustbin student, declines to taste.
O Level Cookery doesn’t help much on vegetarians either.
‘A vegetarian diet has limited choice and can be monotonous, bulky and unattractive.’
Well, to some people a bag of chips washed down with a can of cola unattractive too.
‘It is most difficult to supply protein as the protein in beans is of lower biological value so more must be eaten. This means the stomach is very full after each meal’.
Well good, isn’t that the point? Fill us up so we are not hungry?
‘This may lead to enlargements.’
Oh no! – enlargements of what?
‘This vegetarian diet may be expensive.’
How so! Compared with rump steak or roast lamb? How much do they think a can of baked beans costs?
This textbook is written in 1971 and taught in cookery rooms throughout Britain, so how many children in our burgeoning multi ethnic society have to put up with this nonsense?
Is Cookery for Schools more helpful on the textbook front? No.
- ‘Meat and fish have distinctive flavours which stimulate the digestive juices and increase the appetite. In a vegetarian diet these flavours are sadly missing.’
Well, isn’t that the point! A vegetarian doesn’t want to eat meat of fish so they would hate these ‘distinctive meaty, fishy flavours’.
- ‘Larger portions of vegetables should be served to vegetarians than to those eating a normal diet.’
So there we have it. Vegetarians aren’t normal, they must eat platefuls of vegetables which will fill them up and lead to enlargements. How am I going to teach that frippery?
At the end of the lesson, the class reads and answers the set questions in their exercise books.
Unfortunately the questions are as mad as the text – here’s the choice.
- Why are meatless dishes often unpopular?
- How can this be avoided?
- What are the difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian?
Here’s some answers that Cookery for Schools might expect from my kids:
- Meatless dishes are often unpopular because they don’t have any meat in them and me dad says he always has to have meat and two veg for his supper.
- Meatless dishes can be avoided by not eating them.
- The difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian are that you need lots and lots of beans and vegetables because they have to eat so many to get their protein and this can be expensive. And then they get really full and enlarged.
My class love to torment me with silly answers to my questions.
When I ask a test question ‘What are oats?’ Mick replies
‘Depends if you mean getting your oats, having your oats or porridge oats.’ I am careful with wording after that.
Changes in vegetarian cuisine are on the way. By the mid seventies, the financial downturn in the UK means thrifty cooking kicks in. One day something big arrives on my desk. A bag of brown, dried bits that the sender suggests I use to make new, cheap high protein meals. TVP has jumped into our food chain and the company wants me to persuade the nation’s children that it is a delicious, cheap substitute for meat, which we can no longer afford.
My TVP lesson goes like this.
‘This is called TVP – it stands for Textured Vegetable protein.’
I hold out a handful of dried, beige lumps which smell of damp cardboard. Next I pass a pudding bowl with larger, softer lumps.
‘I’ve soaked these chunks in water and now we are ready to make a meatless stew.’
Bill mutters first.
‘Looks like dried dog turds, miss’
‘Or bits of old dishcloth.’ Len likes plain food that he can recognize. TVP is not plain.
‘Len this lesson is learning about vegetarians and we are going to cook something modern for them.’
They mumble and grumble and shuffle off to cook up some carrots and onions in a thick Bisto gravy.
‘Now we stir in the lumps of TVP.’
They pass round the bowl and spoon a pile of the soaked chunks into their saucepans.
I chivvy them along.
‘It’s very clever, this stuff. The soya is extruded, texturised, then cut and dried into chunks. Come on class, what shall we call this new stew?’
‘Muck’ says Bill.
‘Brown muck’ adds Len.
They don’t want to eat it or take it home, and shamble out of the room clutching their out of date textbooks with the task of answering the impossible questions for homework.
That’s vegetarian cooking done for 1972.
The Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847 and the first vegetarian hospital was opened in Ramsgate in 1846. It is amazing how little impact the society had on the things that were taught in school cookery lessons in the 1970s. The Vegetarian Society now has its own logo that goes on food labels and its extensive website ‘provides imaginative, creative and delicious vegetarian food.’
In 1944 a group of ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ formed a new society with a name to describe themselves – vegan derived from VEGetariAN. The Society wanted to show that ‘the use of animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool) will be viewed as an inhumane and unsustainable practice from a much less enlightened age.’
Haldane Foods is one of the country’s oldest producers of meat and dairy-free produce. Some of their products are available under brands such as Realeat, Direct Foods and Granose which was established over 100 years ago, and some of its products were invented by a Dr John Harvey Kellogg.
Linda McCartney popularised a meat-free diet in Britain, published a guide to vegetarian cookery, ‘Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking’ in 1989, and launched her own range of ready-made vegetarian meals in 1991.
In the 1960s, there were fears that the world would run out of animal protein. In response to this, scientists set out to find an alternative protein source. The new protein was part of the fungi family and was called Mycoprotein after ‘myco’, the Greek for fungi.
TVP® – Textured Vegetable Protein – is a byproduct from soya beans, made after the production of soya oil. After World War 11 there was a huge demand for food, and sales of soya foods and soybean meal increased massively. In the 1930s the soybean meal had been used for animal feed, but by the 1940s it was ‘food grade’ and ready to use in soya products.
In the 1971 TVP was approved for the USA school lunch programme, and the product became an ingredient in many prepared foods, to reduce costs.
In 1973, in the UK, Cadbury’s launched Soya Choice which they claimed was ‘a roaring success’ because it was nutritious and half the price of meat. The UK economy was in a downturn, the price of meat had soared, so shoppers were looking at ways to reduce their food costs.
How is TVP made? When the oil has been removed from the soya beans, the remaining dough is cooked under pressure with steam and extruded. The extrusion technology changes the structure of the soy protein, resulting in a fibrous spongy matrix that is similar in texture to meat which is made into textured, dried granules, flakes and chunks. Add water and it swells up and is used as a meat replacer to extend dishes such as minced beef for pies and bolognaise. It is low in cost, low in fat and relatively high in fibre as it is a plant food.
Today food producers around the world manufacture and sell extruded textured soy protein under a range of trade names, including soya meat. The modern versions come in many flavours including bacon, chicken, sausage, beef, ham and taco. One company website says that TVP can create some gas after eating, so maybe my early textbooks were true – a vegetarian diet can cause enlargements.
Today teaching about vegetarianism is a big topic in schools. Along with food allergies, e numbers and food labels, we have plenty of information and lots of delicious things to cook.
It is estimated that over 3 million people eat a vegetarian diet in the UK.
Brigid McKevith, Senior Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation
‘Some large studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower overall mortality rate than the general population. A high intake of plant foods is associated with a reduced risk of some cancers and several studies have found an increased risk of colorectal cancer amongst those with the highest intakes of meat and the lowest intakes of fibre. However, there is no evidence that being vegetarian confers a protective effect.’