I can’t remember the last time I sunk my teeth into a piece of meat. When I was eighteen I made two momentous decisions, the first was I would no longer go to church (unless it demanded…weddings, funerals…etc) the second was I no longer would eat meat. I grew up on a farm…I still have vivid memories of slabs of lamb, either overcooked and greasy or under cooked and bloody. I put the slab of meat on my fork and had to force it somehow down my throat, however abhorrent the taste was. I am from the UK, a country where these days cooking programs are overflowing and avidly watched and people are conscious of the richness of good cooking. This was not the case when I was a child. You had to eat whatever was on your plate, however disgusting, however badly cooked and I can assure you some horrors were served up. The Sunday “roast” was recycled, it was Mondays lunch, Tuesday’s dinner, almost right through to Friday, when there was relapse in meat eating, because being good Catholics, Friday was a non-meat day, however meat came back with a vengeance on Saturday.
You have to bear in mind, I was born during a time, when people still cooked and ate as if there was the second world war going on, hence food could not be wasted and had to made use of, right down to the bone. Ingredients were basic, you ate to fill your stomach, not to enjoy the delights of food and taste.
I have a distinctive memory of my time at Art College. I was doing a photography course, the tutor asked me which place I was going to photograph…I don’t know what possessed me (I went through a lot of weird phases during my time at Art College) I answered I was going to photograph in an abattoir. I must have fixed up a rendezvous and went equipped with my camera, ready to photograph this unreal environment. I recall the workers at the abattoir being jovial, but rather strange… what kind of people work in abattoir? This experience didn’t radicalize me as a vegetarian, but if memory serves me, I was very glad to get away from this place and from the people wearing big rubber boots, white overalls stained in blood, as well as squealing pigs being sent to their deaths.
Much late I lived in Austria. I was a vegetarian in a farming area, populated by brawny meat eaters. Being a vegetarian I was totally out on a limb…I was freak…my lifestyle choice incomprehensible. I remember one sunny day attending barbeque at a friend’s house, a pig being roasted on a spit, while flies hovered around this pig, creating a gruesome sight to behold.
Now I live in France, a country that has an obsession with food. I remember a woman trying to justify the process of Foie gras (Foi gras is made from the grotesquely enlarged livers of ducks and geese who have been cruelly force-fed). I have often had “what you don’t eat meat!” said with a raised eye –browse and a disbelieving voice.
With my short stories, I often include food, in some form or other, there are banquets, or lavish dinner parties. My characters are not eating lentils or bean burghers, no they are eating lavish meat or fish dishes. People used to, maybe they still do think vegetarians are weak and insipid people. “How do you survive without eating meat”? I have been asked, as if a life without meat, would mean I would just wilt away in a matter of time. I am not sure how many vegetarian horror writers are out there, but I am sure they must exist…
Francis H Powell is the author of Flight of Destiny