In advance of his vegan cookery demo, which will make use of some of the innovations on display in the Food Futures Market, Luke Mackay explains why his concerns about the future have led to him questioning his approach to cooking
“Are you sure,” asks my wife. “They want YOU to do a vegan cookery demo? Have they met YOU?”
She, as ever, has a point: pop my name into the Borough Market website’s search engine and the first few pages of recipes are awash with furred and feathered game, offal, meat and fish of almost every persuasion. Particularly carnivorous is the recipe for ‘Scottish sausages’, so named to get my then four-year-old son to eat haggis. There are pictures of every stage of the process—from mincing the offal to my son eating the final dish. I can’t say what your average vegan might make of these images because in my experience trying to speak for a vast homogenous group of humans is divisive and pointless, but I think that it’s safe to say that I am not the go-to food writer for the vegan community.
My personal philosophy for eating meat has changed as I have got older, married and particularly after welcoming three brand new voraciously consuming humans into the world. That said, the basic principals have been consistent since I first started visiting Borough Market 20 years ago, which coincided with my early, tentative steps into the food industry. In very simple terms I have always tried (‘tried’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting here) to eat the best meat possible, which generally overlaps with welfare standards, and then to eat every part of it. I also pledged that I would be willing to kill anything that I ate and would learn how to skin and butcher and then cook each part sensitively and well.
In the last year, I’ve had a nagging voice in the far reaches of my consciousness and it’s getting louder. I love the taste of meat. I love cooking it, I even love butchering, smoking and curing it, and in the not too distant future, I plan to rear it. But should I? Am I just wrong? Am I playing an active role in putting my children and theirs in danger?
I’m not there yet. We eat probably half as much meat as a family as we did five years ago but I’m just not ready to cut it out completely. I am willing to listen to the arguments, to read and learn and I’m willing to make changes.
I’ve read apocalyptic articles about the catastrophic consequences of our meat consumption and talked to people who I love and respect who are convinced that eating meat will look to my grandchildren as absurd as smoking cigarettes on aeroplanes looks to me. This is where enterprises like Food Futures come in. This week at Borough Market, the Market Hall is playing host to a gang of food innovators and entrepreneurs who are addressing the most pressing environmental and societal issues of our time, using new technologies, flair and élan to produce alternatives to our current unsustainable diets. And I’m going to cook with them.
I’ve come up with four vegan recipes, featuring as many of the traders as possible, and I’ll be cooking them at the Demo Kitchen. One of my favourite things about being in this industry and particularly of working at Borough Market is that I keep learning new things. I will be hugely out of my comfort zone on Friday, I’ll be more nervous than usual, unsure of myself and, dare I say it, less confident. I don’t know how I’ll feel about things on Monday or next year or in 10, but I do know that at the very least we all have to talk, to listen and to think about the future. My generation and the one preceding it have not historically been good at listening to our children. It’s time to start.
Join Luke for tips, tastings and recipes in the Market Hall on Friday 31st May, 1-2:30pm