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Ambrosia of the Gods (not)
A bit like Jamie Oliver, I used to help my dad out in his kitchen during the school hols. Unlike the bold Jamie, my dad was a jobbing chef, so these early culinary forays would take me to such far-flung places as The Cluny Hills Hotel in Forres (now, I think, a New Age retreat), Fort Augustus Abbey (now, criminally, holiday homes) and Glenurquhart Lodge Hotel (now Nessieland Castle Monster Centre).

Even then, at the callow age where, had I not readily volunteered for the task, my presence in the kitchen might have been construed as child labour; I could see that vegetarians were getting (pardon the pun) a raw deal.

In those days, before health & hygiene outlawed its use, there was a never-ending stockpot simmering on the stove. All manner of meat waste and veg shavings went in and this formed the base of all soups. Thus a large tin of powdered soup (always asparagus, always years old) was kept at the back of the store cupboard for veggie diners. Boiled eggs, readily to hand for the then inexplicably popular egg curry, could be topped with mayonnaise - hand whisked mayo (pinch of cayenne pepper, blob of English mustard) not the pallid Hellman's we have become accustomed to - or, a touch of the exotic; half avocado on a mountain of taste-free iceberg lettuce, with a ladle of vinaigrette dressing in the de-stoned hole. Starters covered then...

“And to follow?" The waiter would ask, needlessly, for the answer was always the same. The second chef's face would take on the expression of someone who has just been asked to open the new wing of a crematorium; “We can offer a cheese salad." (Think salad niçoise with the tuna replaced by grated orange cheddar.) “Oh, and the ham and mushroom omelette, without the ham." The waiter would nod, click his heels, and walk away as if he had been given the ambrosia of the gods to offer his diners.

We should not, however, pat ourselves on the back too much about the steps taken since. We have the ground breaking Terre a Terre in Brighton and most Michelin chefs offer a considered vegetarian tasting menu, but the average - indeed above average - chef (still wilfully stubborn about vegetarians) would, after a cursory glance at the menu, offer; “Give them the goat's cheese without the black pudding and then the herb risotto from the halibut dish."

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