Yes, I know. It’s been a long hiatus. And one of an AWOL nature too.
Soooo much has been going on in my life, some bitter, some sweet, and I just had to take a break.
More of that another day, but for now, I wanted to share with you the before and after aftermath of a (kinda) vegan experience – a first for me.
There I was, wishing the week away until the doors of 2015’s Leicester Vegan Fair creaked open.
There were two reasons for this.
Number one: from the strike of 10 that morning – and for a whole 6 hours – I was going to become the dietary majority for the first time in what seemed eons.
But it does take slightly more than 27 stalls full of vegan treats, musicians, organisations, beers and hordes of like-minded people to get me acting like a kid at Christmas. Even if it’s free entry.
I refer to vegan speed dating, no less. (Reason Number Two).
Yes, you did read that right. Vegan speed dating.
Bizarre, I know, but as the long winter evenings drag on, my quest for a decent bloke to sit in front of the fire with continues shamelessly. And I’ll try anything once.
So, I did.
Starters’ orders: 2pm. And just three minutes per brief encounter.
I know. It’s not really me, either. But the dating game is tough enough for any fortysomething singleton who doesn’t suffer idiots. Add a culinary quirk into the mix and the net is positively microscopic.
How so? I’m no evangelist; I can happily dine out with a friend or a date – as they sink a knife into the juiciest blade of medium-rare fillet – without the slightest flinch. I‘ve even been known to express appreciation if said slab of flesh is cooked as I would once have liked.
Yet I can’t tell you how many times the “v” word has sent potential suitors in a rubber-burning bee-line to the nearest McDonald’s Drive Thru, never to be heard from again.
Others have embraced the novelty, surprised at how awesome non-animal foods can taste. Yet, polite though I am, I can’t return the gesture by tucking into a quarter pounder with cheese, now, can I?
I strongly suspect that most assume at some point – slightly past the “doing-their-laundry” stage – that I’m going to force them to defect.
I wouldn’t, but they just won’t have a bar of it.
So, could dating a fellow vegan perhaps be my answer? Are we ultimately defined by what we eat, even down to our romantic compatibility? I doubt it, but ever-practical as I am, it would certainly save on washing up and the extra effort of cooking two meals.
Equally, said date wouldn’t have to endure the mate-ribbing that comes as part of the “dating-a-vegan” package when you’re not one yourself.
So, I was in, albeit gingerly. I suspected that most males who rocked up for this plant-based romance-fest were going to be in their twenties.
Let me assure you, I had absolutely no problem with that at all.
THE DAY OF RECKONING
So, the Big Day arrived.
And yes, reader, I pulled.
Thrice, no less.
Or, more specifically, three fellas passed muster and received a reciprocal tick in the box from me.
As predicted, one was twentysomething. Not bad for my speed dating debut, I thought. The concept suits my insufferable impatience perfectly: No time-wasting. Job done. Next.
Interestingly, there were a few wild cards lurking. Vegan-curious, I think they call them. Still munching on cheese and the occasional dead body. I admired their pluck, if nothing else.
15 guys versus 13 girls. Three minutes apiece. And let me tell you, while some of those brief encounters were over in the blink of an eye, others seemed decidedly longer.
I’d prepared mentally and aesthetically beforehand, as you would. I’d even washed behind my ears. But sadly, three of the male contenders had not, I suspected, been within a flannel’s breadth of a bar of soap in quite some time.
Another sat down opposite me and fired off a rote-worthy monologue about his unapologetic stance as a pacifist activist (or was it a passive activist? I can’t remember). Yet in spite of this, he still somehow managed to find the time to work for a large American corporation.
It takes all sorts, I know. But I considered his political logic to be decidedly skewwhiff.
The fashion line-up in the room was as varied and off-the-wall as us contestants, with at least one Fair Isle jumper making an appearance, most likely teamed with russet cords, but I thought it might be considered disconcertingly rude to dive underneath the table to check.
And, not surprisingly, the headgear of choice for the consciously earthy: a flowerpot hat.
Needless to say, the Fair Isle sweater and the flowerpot hat didn’t get a yes from me. And I’m sure I didn’t get one back from either of them.
The final bell rang. Nobody had died. And everyone got a tick from someone (I hope).
Afterwards, as I took a look around some of the stalls, another guy from the speed dating bounded over and thrust a crumpled-up piece of paper into my hand with his phone number on it.
“I don’t know if you ticked me, but I ticked you, and I’ve got to catch a train,” he explained, before bolting off.
So, what will come of my three ticks? Who knows? Only time will tell. But for now, I don’t think you need to rush off to Debenhams to buy a hat just yet.
Especially not a flowerpot one.