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A Veggie View of the World Tour
by Geoff Baker
It was dead good, this world touring with Paul McCartney. It didn't half improve your use of languages.
Six months into the tour and I was getting quite the linguist. I could say "salade verte, sil vous plait". I could say "salad vert, pour f’vour" (I said I could say it, I never said I could spell it). I could say "salad vert, danke".
"Hai! Salad vert", "I'll take the green salad, bud" and - in extremely I difficult cases where the waiter had not the remotest grasp on what I was struggling to say -"Salad VERTE!!!! Salad bloody vert! Look....you MUST have something on this bleeding" (operative choice of word) "menu that I can eat. Watch my lips...we DON'T eat meat. No, we don't eat ****ing fish either...Jesus Christ, just bring me some bread".
The sad truth is that throughout Europe, the U.S.A. and from what we've glimpsed of the Far East, they do not have the slightest care for vegetarians. If you want to eat out, then you've more chance of losing weight than on any Hays or Cambridge diet. Unless you're a big fan of bread rolls.
In fact, so far behind the British veggie is the carnivorous foreigner that sometimes you feel not unlike some early Christian missionary did on first being introduced to a cannibal, horrified at the bloody excesses of what chefs around the world mistakenly believe makes for an appetitising menu.
I knew it was going to be tough from the first meal that we then-strangers, now-friends had in Oslo. There we were - Emma Sutton (wardrobe), Colin Mutton (tour financial controller) and moi (publicity terrorist) - sitting in the restaurant of the Grand Hotel and getting dead hungry.
Grandly, the waitress handed us and the 10 or so other Macca tourers present the menu. There, under specialities of the house, it boasted braised reindeer.
"Well I'm not ****ing eating THAT", said Emma, "I'll have a salad vert".
So began our green(s) tour of the world, during which I've eaten more leaves than anything that was ever kept out in the yard in a hutch.
I'm not complaining, you understand. Correction; I am complaining,
I'm complaining that most of the rest of the world - and, hey, Britain, you ain't that bloody perfect, just less bad than the rest - when it's dining out gives not the slightest thought to those who don't eat animals.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they just didn't treat you like some festering leper when you say "no meat". Still, better a leper than a butcher, I guess.
The joke is that many of these countries we've visited are beside themselves with all manner of sophistication, except what they put in their gobs. Take Zurich: you might think that with the Swiss history of reluctance to get involved in any form of global conflict, there'd be veggie restaurants all over.
Forget it. In Zurich, the old black Levi's came off for once as me and Emma got togged up to dine out at what the conceierge insisted was the finest restaurant in the town. 'They', he lied, 'will most definitely do vegetarian dishes, sir'.
Half-way through the first bottle of Tattinger, with Emma leanly heavily on vague memories of A-level French to translate, it dawned on us that unless we wanted to eat goose liver, sliced salmon, snails, frogs' limbs and the like, we were definitely going to starve.
'We are vegetarian', I pronounced to the head waiter. 'We cannot eat this'.
'Ah, sir, I understand - here, look, there is fish', he said.
We then got into one of those 'look, pal, tell me the word in the sentence that you didn't understand' conversations that so embarrass other diners and don't half sour the taste of good Tattinger.
Eventually, presumably alerted by the yells of 'No, not caviar either!! No, no chicken!! that were coming from our table, the chef came out. Patiently, I explained how I'd be his best mate in Heaven if he could take a selection of vegetables and do something exciting with them…
This was a mistake. The word 'exciting', as visitors to Switzerland will be well aware, does not figure in the Swiss language and after much waiting we were presented with the