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VRT’s TV chef ditches meat recipes in new book

The latest cooking book from VRT icon Jeroen Meus will be a disappointment for lovers of a juicy steak or a delicious Flemish meat stew.  The celebrated VRT chef is cooking vegetarian dishes.  His latest book doesn’t contain a single dish that includes meat or fish.

By focusing on vegetarian dishes in his “Dagelijkse Kost” (Everyday Meals) programme Jeroen Meus is in tune with the greater move towards veggie food in society at large. 

In the past Jeroen has championed traditional Flemish recipes and as Yves Segers, an expert in agrarian and food history, points out the Flemish cuisine traditionally consists of three main ingredients: potatoes, vegetables and a tasty piece of meat. 

Yves sees Jeroen responding to a trend: “More people, certainly the young, are paying greater attention to what they eat.  People are taking heed of advice to eat less meat and are changing their eating habits.  Jeroen sees this is a trend that is accelerating.  He wants to get the message across and possibly also sell books!”

“The range of alternatives on offer to replace meat has grown tremendously over the past decade and a half.  Not only in trendy stores in town, but also in the regular supermarket in rural areas seitan and tofu are on same.  More exotic products are available too allowing you to vary your diet”says Yves.

“There is greater interest in world cuisine even in conventional cooking books.  This is a cuisine with more attention for vegetables.  We learn new recipes from books and TV but also from our trips abroad.  One of the aspects that always interests Flemish people on holiday abroad is the local cuisine and it’s a knowledge we take home”.

“It doesn’t always have to be exotic.  Market gardening is big in Flanders and many vegetables are grown here.  You can make an awful lot of dishes with traditional vegetables too”.

Health may be a reason to go vegetarian, but there are other motives too: “People go in search of something new, but also consider ramifications on the planet and distrust the meat industry.  The saying says: you are what you eat.  What we eat is also a way of presenting ourselves to others.  People opt for veggie meals not just because they enjoy them, but also because they wish to make a statement and say they are thinking about what they eat, about health and the impact of what they eat on the climate”.

At present still only a minority of Flemings are vegetarians or opt for a regular veggie meal. “As I understand it Jeroen doesn’t wish to discourage people from eating meat. But greater interest in vegetables is important because we are still not eating enough!” says Yves Segers.

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