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Cheese Topping

Publishing Date : 08 January, 2018

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White

There’s an English expression you might be familiar with known as a ‘storm in a teacup’, referring to a big fuss over nothing much, much like the alternative saying ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’. 

So if I relate to you a story that broke in the past few days in the United Kingdom and which is causing an absolute uproar and furore, I wonder if you will think this has been blown out of all proportion or whether some of the criticism is justified?

It concerns a female chef by the name of Laura Goodman and an Italian restaurant called Carlini’s. The restaurant, and a sister establishment of the same name, are both situated in neighbouring villages in rural Staffordshire and over the holiday a party of vegans booked a meal in one of them. 

Ms. Goodman seemingly spent hours preparing a meal untainted by any form of meat or dairy, adhering to the strict principles of veganism, much more austere than vegetarianism, the latter allowing for the inclusion of milk and cheese products.  When the party arrived and placed their orders, however, one of the group decided to order a pizza topped with mozzarella cheese instead. 

After taking such elaborate care with the menu, Ms. Goodman was somewhat annoyed and later, in the early hours of the morning and the worse for a glass or two of vino, the chef took to a Facebook group called The Boring Group to air her irritation saying ‘Pious, judgemental vegan (who I spend all day cooking for) has gone to bed, still believing she's a vegan.  Spiked her food a few hours ago.’

Now you can well imagine that with the speed of social media spread and re-posts, it didn’t take long for this outrageous claim to come to the attention of vengeful vegans both local and nationwide.  Much of the furore was whipped up by a local group called Telford Vegan. A tweet calling for people to email, call or leave negative messages has racked up hundreds of retweets and likes. The TripAdvisor and Google pages of the restaurant have been bombarded with bad reviews, dragging it down from five stars to one and social media seethed with death threats. The police came around. There have been calls for Miss Goodman to be prosecuted for assault, and for the restaurant to be shut down.

Yesterday, the poor woman resigned from Carlini’s and its nearby sister establishment, having been described by her business partner and fiancé, Michael Gale, as ‘almost suicidal’. According to a friend: ‘Laura is in a bad way. She is too scared to leave the house. The police are taking the threats against her very seriously.’

Ms. Goodman’s explanation and apology – presumably after she had sobered up and realised she’d kicked a hornet’s nest whilst in her cups – was that she had not spiked the food at all but was merely referring to the fact that the mozzarella cheese atop the pizza was a dairy product, a fact which any self-respecting vegan ought to know anyway.  This was not enough, however, to stem the tide of hatred towards her, hence her resignation.

Now you may very well agree that ‘spiking’ a vegan’s food with non-vegan ingredients is very serious, akin to feeding a Jewish person or Muslim pork and not telling them what they were eating.  Some callers on LBC talk radio even suggested that it could cause serious gastro-intestinal problems to a stomach unused or weaned off meat and dairy and that may indeed be the case but that’s not the main problem here. 

This diner clearly suffered no side effects, mild or serious, and the party left the restaurant apparently more than satisfied with their dining experience.  So, in what universe can calling for the chef’s head possibly be justified?  Boycott the restaurant by all means, if you feel it does not deserve your custom,  but baying for blood and imposing a death penalty by kangaroo court is something most of us thought had been consigned to horrible history.  The UK revoked the death penalty several decades ago but even when it was in place, serving the wrong dish to a food faddist would not qualify for this ultimate sentence.

No, the argument here is not whether Ms. Goodman should have pointed out the bleedin’ obvious to one dim diner – that cheese comes from cows – but the terrifying return to mob rule via social media and the seething undercurrent of hate and hysteria that bubbles just under the surface of our society today. 

Only a few years ago these trolls would have had to read about the incident in a newspaper and their only recourse would have been a strongly-worded letter to the editor, a responsible journalist who would never have printed anything akin to a death threat or personal abuse.  Now they simply look at their cell phones and immediately start typing and tweeting their un-thought out and irresponsible responses for all to see, coming, as they do, from a stratum of society too stupid to foresee the consequences of their actions which are that hate speech and death threats are against the law in the UK and they have made themselves liable to prosecution.  It’s no less than they deserve.

As for Ms. Goodman, no doubt she has undergone a lot of soul-searching over her own rather rash FB post over the past few days.  It’s to be hoped that now she has burnt her fingers and made a complete pudding of the affair, she will emerge quite soon and rise like a feather-light cheese soufflé in the oven or in this case, a vegan nut roulade, to feed her restaurant guests and not the encircling sharks.



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