Thursday, 18 August 2011

Is Parmesan Veggie...?

“No, of course it isn’t, don’t be so stupid!” I hear you cry. Quite clearly you’re well-informed, sensible and knowledgeable.

However, many people (including the food team at the BBC and the two Michelin-starred chefs whom I have recently emailed) are as thick as thick and still think Parmesan is a perfectly good vegetarian ingredient.

You and I know that Parmesan isn’t veggie, but what about the woman who goes to the BBC food site because for the first time ever she has to cook for a veggie guest? She thinks the BBC is a reliable, trustworthy source of information so she chooses a ‘vegetarian’ recipe plucked from the BBC’s pages; the poor veggie guest either has to eat it, so as not to cause offence or, more likely, he fills up on bread and salad and completely baffles his host by not even touching the carefully prepared ‘veggie’ dish he was presented with. His host, meanwhile, is left wondering “What did I do wrong? The BBC had marked the recipe ‘V’ – I was sure it would be OK”.

When I complained to the BBC recently about Simon Hopkinson, on the TV programme ‘The Good Cook’, describing Roast Fennel with Parmesan as "perfect, obviously for vegetarians” I received an email directing me to comment #74 on Simon's blog, by Ramona Andrews, BBC Food Host which I reproduce here for convenience:

“This is a good point about parmesan cheese. Traditional parmesan is always made with animal-derived rennet. There are, however, some vegetarian parmesan-style cheeses produced in the UK and for this reason, recipes calling for 'parmesan' are included as 'vegetarian' in BBC Food's recipe database.”

Now, if you can make any sense of that, then as my old Dad used to say, you’re a better man than me, Gunga-Din! Have you ever heard anything so lame and pathetic?

I’ll say it simply; in words of one syllable…..I don’t want meat in my cheese! Now surely that’s clear enough even for brainless chefs and the bewildered idiots at the BBC to understand?


  1. Ha! I filed a complaint with the BBC minutes after that Good Cook episode ended, explaining that EU law prohibits anything called "parmesan" from being vegetarian, and even linking to the Vegetarian Society parmesan campaign for backup. I received a reply today which I reckon is even more pathetic than the one you got (and I'm now wondering if I should bother pursuing this any further since they obviously didn't read what I wrote the first time):

    We contacted the ‘The Good Cook’ production team who provided us with the following response:
    “Whilst rennet is used in the making of some parmesan you can also purchase parmesan cheese that hasn't been made with rennet which would be vegetarian. The programme assumes people will hunt out ingredients suitable to their own diets.”

    Arrrgh. I'm cheesed off and I'm not even vegetarian!

  2. You should not be able to buy, in the UK, a cheese called Parmesan that has not been made with rennet. Parmesan-style might be allowed, but only true Parmesan from Parma can be labelled as such and it's made the traditional way.

    They really ought to put "parmesan-style" cheese in the recipe ingredients list or make it a hyperlink to an explanation about which cheese to choose.

    Dedicated vegetarians will know, as you say, but those cooking for them may not.