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Club Sandwich 55-56

top chef in Zurich's impression of cordon vert food - a plate containing broccoli, tomatoes, sliced carrot, baby turnip, sliced potato, green beans and a couple of radishes.
            Mrs. McCartney's cookbook, where are you in our hour of need?
            But if the Swiss were just vegetarianally dumb, or playing at it, their ignorance was bliss compared to the insolence of Madrid. By the time the tour had reached there, Fiona Hurry (the efficient half of the publicity duo) had converted to the veggie way.
            The girls had got to a bit of a desperate state in Spain, on account of every roadside tapas bar seething with the salmonella that grew on the seafood paellas that the Spanish oddly believe will improve if left out in the baking sun.
            An Italian meal, that's what they need, the accountant and terrorist decided. Even veggies can't go wrong going Italian.
            We booked the best, again.
            On arrival, we told the maitre'd we were veggies and suddenly he announced that the entire restaurant was full.
            'What about those 24 empty tables?', we huffed and promptly requistioned one.
            Once more the menu offered nothing edible. There was penne et baconoli galore, plenty of ravoli stuffed with veal and monstrous varieties of seafood like squid in its own ink (bet they wouldn't serve cow in its own guts).
            "We can't eat this", once more came the cry, "Can you make us a pasta dish without meat or fish?"
            You'd have thought, by the look on his face, we'd said would he mind if we infected him with anthrax. He left and Colin consumed his eighth packet of bread-sticks. He came back. No, the chef couldn't do that.
            Could the chef, we reasoned, take the asparagus out of the tortellini with asparagus and ham, take the penne out of the penne with sweetbreads, take the cream out of the wild duck in cream and raspberry and put 'em together?
            The understanding hit him like a thunderbolt - ah, you vegetarians, you want to be cooked fonand not just treated like s***.
            And so the tour went on, with every town and country completely misunderstanding that loving animals means not carving 'em up. In Milan we learnt that a cheese roll (sic) is in fact a roll stuffed with ham, on which the tiniest sliver of cheese is added. In Paris, we discovered that the only way to survive was to order cheese from the sweet menu, salade verte (of course) from the entrees, mushrooms from the side-orders and combine them in a huge mound centre-table to make the meal ourselves and in Los Angeles we found out that when you say 'has the spinach salad got any meat in it?' and they say no, what they actually mean is 'no, give or take half a pound of chopped bacon on top'.
            But if the rest of the world was a joke, it didn't prepare us for the nightmare that is being veggie in Japan. There are something like 25 million people living in Tokyo - I don't know the exact number but it's a frig of a lot - and three vegetarian restaurants (one of which shuts at 9.30 pm and another demands last orders by 7.30).
            By now, Chris Whitten had been conscripted to our vegetarian seditionary force and it was with him that we spent a good 90 minutes tromping up and down the Roppongi (Tokyo's menu mile) vainly looking for something foodish that didn't used to be alive.
            And it was here that we discovered Food Fascism - yes of course, said the jaunty Italian restauranteur, we could eat veggie dishes; he had mucho, bene, veggie dishes, BUT only if we ordered at least one meat or fish dish to go with them. F*** it, we said in Italian, and quit.
            And quit, or at least throw up, was what I wanted to do another night in Tokyo when sheer disbelief sent me to a traditional Japanese fish-house. The Japanese adore their fish, can't get enough of it. But they eat it with a relish and method that borders beyond barbarism. Club Sandwich 55-56
            Get this - there is a special fish, a dinky little goldfishy thing, that they breed there especially because it is small enough to be swallowed whole and alive. This is not some kinky cult; it is a big deal down Tokyo way to feel your meal wriggling in your throat, the Japanese say it gives an especial sensation.
            Ordering vegetables and sternly warning my Japanese companions that severe violence would probably follow were either of them to start gobbling live guppies, I watched as businessmen plastered out of their skulls on Scotch, ate the traditional way. This involved a fish the size of a 4lb perch being netted out of the shallow moat that fronted the tables. Moments later, the fish appeared on a bed of lettuce, its mouth opening and closing and tail wriggling. For all the world, it was alive and intact -EXCEPT that the skin from its back had been removed and, I saw in horror, diners were invited to cut into its raw (and living) flesh and swallow it. Imagine some maniac taking slices of muscle and tendon out of your thigh with a chainsaw while you're concious - it's the same thing.
            But there's a silver lining to all this, and it's the reason that none of us died of malnutrition months back. The silver lining's called Debbie and Karen and Karen (Caron?) and Jackie and Michelle - the tour's guardian angels from our caterers, Eat Your Hearts Out.
            Between them, these five ladies kept us not just well-fed - but possibly better-fed than most any vegetarian on this globe.
            Armed with Linda's cookbook and their own vegetarian passion that good food doesn't need any sprinkling of death, they changed eating on this tour from a necessity to a delight.
            Daily they served up not just good food but great food that, as the anecdotes above bear testimony, was far and above better that many of the dishes prepared in some of the world's allegedly-finest restaurants.
            Preparing, what, 15 main veggie dishes a day, they proved that on this, rock and roll's first thoroughly vegetarian tour.you could have none of the meat and lose none of the taste.Between them, they took the crankiness out what I believe in, they've converted carnivores and kept even the most blood-desperate meat-eaters among us more than satisfied.
            If Macca's Green Army marched on its stomach, Debs and her girls kept us in step.
            It's just such a bloody shame that the rest of the world thinks that's cranky.

Photos by David Modell, John Swannell and Bill Bernstein