Huw Oliver was a lifelong vegetarian until lockdown – not by choice, but out of hippyish-family custom. Twenty-five years of no meat. Then he got stuck in a house with a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. Desperate to inject some sort of excitement into his life, he has decided to cook and eat every available meat for the very first time. To his intestines (and his dad): sorry. This is Meat, Reviewed.
Week one: roast chicken
Aptly, I’ve plunged straight in at the literal deep end: shoving half a lemon and some sprigs of rosemary up my Tesco Finest chicken’s butt. This is effort. Vegetarians never have to exert themselves in this way. And the stupidly hands-on prep has already made me feel a bit sick.
I forget to put a timer on, so whether my debut chicken will actually be cooked is going to be pretty much guesswork. I’ve slathered it in garlicky butter and placed it on a bed of carrots and onions. After an hour and a half-ish I give up waiting, take it out and, owing to my poor technique, shred it into pathetic little scraps.
Fucking hell, the breast is underwhelming. I feel like I’m mushing up scraps of paper in my mouth. The dryness is probably more a result of my cooking than the animal’s inherent qualities, but it tastes bland too. I pair it with potato, and it tastes like potato. I pair it with green salad, and it tastes like green salad.
Can this really be the Sunday centrepiece I’m constantly told I’m missing out on? In my head, ‘tastes like chicken’ means lip-smacking flesh. Classic gore. The essence of meat. I’ve never strongly believed in the moral arguments for vegetarianism (environmental, I get). Yet perhaps it’s just a bit shit, and my parents were sensible to avoid the taste of stodgy A4. Right now, my only regret is trusting you all enough to go ahead with this.
Still, I figure I should scope out the rest of the body, so I awkwardly tear off a leg (this really doesn’t come naturally to me). It’s an improvement. It’s juicier, richer, yet crispier round the edges. And then – at last – I sample a morsel of the back. Then more, and more again. Finally, I’ve got a flavour of that tender, sumptuous finger-lickin’ goodness people have been wanging on about my whole life.
Verdict: The cooking experience was fraught, but if you poked around a bit, the meat turned out pretty decent. 7/10.
Next week: Bacon sandwich
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