‘On the couch’ with Jasminda


Dear Jasminda,

For three years my mother-in-law has been making our family a Sunday night vegetarian casserole and I’ve just found out she’s been using beef stock cubes all that time to give it a bit of flavour. I can’t believe she has done this, knowing I am a vegetarian.

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Mrs KR, Corlette

Dear Mrs KR,

This is a really tricky one. I’ve just done a bit of a mental calculation on the amount of time your mother-in-law has saved you by cooking Sunday night meals for three years and that is a pretty admirable effort. This could have been a completely innocent addition. I mean, do beef stock cubes even have beef in them? Maybe they are a bit like the humble frankfurt, or a piece of devon, or a crab stick. The sludge of ingredients that makes up these products could hardly be called food. Perhaps a beef stock cube actually is vegetarian. I’m going to put you out of your misery and have a look.

Ok, Mrs KR. The great news is that beef stock cubes are largely made up of anything but beef. They have salt, wheat flour, maize starch, flavour enhancers, colour, yeast extract, vegetable oil, sugar, lactic acid, onion powder and mineral salt – I mean, how could one even begin to call something with those ingredients a beef anything? They sound positively vegetarian to me . . . oh, wait a minute – there’s something called beef extract in there as well. That could mean anything really. Let me see . . .

Right, we have a problem. Beef extract is a bone, hide, skin, skeletal muscle, connective tissue combo. That’s not vego at all. In fact it is sounding very Silence of the Lambs. I have a feeling your mother-in-law has been slowly poisoning you. I can see her now, grinning as she brings the casserole to your door in an unassuming Tupperware container. Her ScoMo smirk when you say it smells absolutely delicious. Her coy wink when she tells you it’s the secret ingredient that makes it so special. You’re going to have to bring this to a head, I’m afraid, and tell her the game is up. There are only losers in this sad tale of subterfuge and Sunday night starvation. I feel you may never come back from this.

Carpe diem, Jasminda.

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