It’s been a year or so since Saffy and Amanda turned vegetarian and life has finally settled down.
The first few months were a little challenging, especially for Saffy who had never met a cut of meat she didn’t like. She was the ultimate carnivore, an approach very much informed by a complete lack of protein prejudice. Anything that mooed, crowed, oinked, slithered and crawled was fair game. We once watched her crunch her way through a heaped bowl of deep fried crickets in Cambodia. She went on a camping trip in Australia and came back a confirmed fan of grilled snake.
But a combination of YouTube clips of Esther the Wonder Pig and an endless daily barrage of news articles about the environmental and ethical problems about meat consumption started wearing her down. The final straw came when, at a yoga retreat she and Amanda attended in Bali, the teacher said Saffy couldn’t ever really become truly spiritual if continued to eat meat.
Sharyn, who was at the same retreat, snorted. “Aiyah, what for you want to become spiritual?” she asked. “You think you are Dalai Lama, issit?”
For Amanda, the bigger psychological obstacle to becoming a full-blown vegetarian was that she would have to give up leather and silk, but she comforted herself with the knowledge that she could now shop exclusively at Stella McCartney.
But at the beginning of their vegetarianism, well-meaning friends provided plenty of unhelpful advice.
“Where are you going to get your protein?” asked Mabel, whose family runs a steakhouse.
“From pulses and tofu,” Amanda replied, serenely beautiful in her new Stella McCartney dress.
Mabel looked unconvinced. “I read somewhere that people who don’t have enough protein in their diet are more likely to get Alzheimers!” she went on. “I think you should still have a little bit of meat. Just eat the skin of the roast pork! You don’t have to eat the meat if you insist on being a vegetarian!”
Amanda couldn’t wait to get on the phone to tell Saffy who squealed.
“She did not say that! Eat the crackle but not the meat?”
“Apparently, you can still be a vegetarian that way,” Amanda reported. She hesitated. “Though I can kind of see the logic of what she’s saying…”
“Don’t you dare!” Saffy warned. “I need moral support. You cannot abandon me when we’re already in week three!”
Amanda sighed. “I know, but I feel so left out! Last night at dinner, everyone was sucking up the crab claws and cutting into their medium rare filet mignon, and there I was stabbing away at my quinoa salad. It was a little sad!”
“Think of all the poor Esthers in the world!” Saffy insisted, having just spent the past hour cooing over Instagram posts of Esther the Wonder Pig.
Amanda sighed again. “Oh, alright.”
Then, a few weeks ago, we found ourselves at Cut by Wolfgang Puck for dinner.
“This is such a lovely restaurant!” Amanda said, looking around.
“My God, why are we at a steak restaurant?” Saffy moaned, her eyes having attained the glassy stare of a recovering crack addict who was looking for the loo and accidentally wandered into a meth lab.
“Because Sharyn says we need to check out the Impossible Burger!”
Saffy eyed the woman at the next table cutting into a thick cut of sirloin. “Sharyn is the Devil!” she pronounced.
“How can vegetable protein taste like meat?” I wondered aloud. “Not even those mock meats at Chinese vegetarian restaurants taste like meat.”
“Apparently, the ones here are amazingly realistic. They even bleed like real meat and…Ooh, here they come!”
Saffy looked at her plate with deep suspicion.
Because the Impossible Burger looked just like a burger. Right down to the patty, which had the texture, colour and glistening sheen of a well-charred slab of minced beef.
The girls looked at me as I lifted my burger to my mouth. I took a bite, chewed, swallowed and paused.
“Well?” Amanda said finally, gulping down her saliva. I picked up my phone.
“What are you doing? Why are you calling someone now?” Saffy demanded.
“We need to buy shares in this industry,” I said. “This is the future!”
“Oh, you’re so dramatic!” Saffy said as she gathered her courage and took a bite. “I mean, how can this be…” There was a silence as she chewed, her eyes closed in utter bliss.
As meals go, that Impossible Burger was transformative. Even now, we’re talking about it.
“You really can’t tell!” Saffy told Sharyn.
“Yah lah! I told you!”
“But it’s such a dilemma. It’s not meat, but it’s meat. I love it, but I also know I shouldn’t!”
Sharyn pursed her lips. “Not easy being Dalai Lama, hor?”