They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (aka gelatine is not vegetarian)

“Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of cattle, horses, pigs, and fish.”

I love afternoon tea.  To sit and watch the world drift by, whilst sipping from a delicate bone china cup, containing fragrant tea, is akin to heaven.  If this is concurrent with munching happily on flavoursome scones, lavished with clotted cream and smeared with raspberry jam, and other dainty morsels, then it is akin to whatever is beyond heaven.

Imagine the scene, and then imagine a noise like a needle scratching over an old-fashioned vinyl record.

GELATINE!  The bane of dining out for vegetarians.  Whilst most chefs in the UK now understand that “vegetarian” means no meat stock in the sauces or soups, there is still some way to go when it comes to gelatine.  Gelatine is a sneaky, slippery little thing – it turns up in the most unexpected of places.

My delightful “vegetarian” afternoon tea had a bowl of marshmallows (for dipping into a chocolate fondue which never materialised, but that’s another story).  It also had a small shot glass containing trifle, made with jelly, and no assurance from chef that agar had been used instead of animal gelatine.  It meant I was paying for a lot of things I couldn’t eat.  I can only presume that the chef had no idea how marshmallows are made.

This has happened even in such fine dining establishments as Gidleigh Park, where the petit fours contained gelatine.  They were swiftly replaced (and my husband ate the “spares”) but these days, is it too much to expect that a vegetarian meal is vegetarian?  Serving staff should know the ingredients of the dishes being served.  Surprisingly, the most “on the ball” venue was in Paris (Le Cinq – restaurant of my dreams).

The constant vigilance can be tiresome.  When I am paying good money to be absolutely spoiled in the finest of dining establishments, the experience is the only thing being spoiled by this need to question so many dishes.  I look forward to the day when the waiting staff can reply with confidence when I ask “Does that contain gelatine?” and say “No, it’s made with a vegetarian substitute”.