Racing to Break Traditions in November

I spent Melbourne Cup Day here in Melbourne this month having lunch at Euro Kitchen European Vegan Café and Restaurant in Fitzroy. Euro Kitchen is one of Melbourne’s vegan surprises, serving up traditional European cuisine in vegan versions. This was a stark contrast to the day I decided to have lunch there.

Melbourne, one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, is a city that is also steeped in tradition. Each November, the city is overrun by its “Spring racing carnival”. This horse-racing carnival attracts travellers from interstate and overseas. These travellers have a collective goal to experience the Melbourne Cup in Melbourne, a 158-year-old horse race that “stops the nation”.

As I ate one of Euro Kitchen’s signature dishes, stuffed sour cabbage rolls, the Melbourne Cup was occurring less than 10 kilometres from where I was sitting. When my meal arrived to the table, Nick (Euro Kitchen’s owner) explained that the dish was a vegan version of a 200-year old family recipe. It was fascinating to learn this from Nick, given that Euro Kitchen prides itself on presenting an alternative while challenging the status quo through vegan cuisine. Through the traditional activity of cooking, Euro Kitchen succeeds in creating vegan dishes that do not lack taste, flavour and traditional character. Nick prides himself on his homestyle menu, warm and hospitable service and genuine vegan attitude. To have the courage to tweak traditional family recipes and create vegan versions is a gracious and bold step. What Euro Kitchen has shown Melbourne is that breaking tradition really is possible and acceptable.

This month, Racing Victoria experienced something that is setting a new precedent in Melbourne. Attendance numbers during Spring racing carnival hit new lows. During its lead-up, footage was aired across the nation about ex-racehorses being sent to slaughterhouses after their careers. The footage also revealed cruelty towards these animals en masse. According to Melbourne’s prominent newspaper, the Herald-Sun, Melbourne Cup attendance numbers were the lowest since 1995. The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses echoed these numbers. Turnover from major sports betting agency Tabcorp experienced a decline of close to 6%. In the weeks leading up to the carnival, famous horse trainer Darren Weir was charged with illegal activity in his conduct within the Australian horse-racing industry, including causing unreasonable pain or suffering to a thoroughbred racehorse.  Further negative sentiment towards the horse-racing industry continued. Thornbury Picture House decided not to screen the 2019 movie Ride Like A Girl, a biopic that explores the life of Michelle Payne; the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.  According to the independent cinema, it was a “moral decision”.

Whether it’s a 200-year-old family recipe or a 158-year-old horse race, personal action can enact change. A refreshed response can be the catalyst for the change that is so desperately needed when it comes to animal welfare. It also takes businesses like Euro Kitchen to make the decision to trade on the Melbourne Cup public holiday and give Melburnians (and travellers to the city) an option to say no to this day of animal cruelty. What has always been done doesn’t have to be done.

Check out Euro Kitchen Vegan Café and Restaurant for yourself. 100 Kerr Street Fitzroy Victoria Australia 3065. Phone: 0417 678 585. Hours: 11.30am to 3.00pm and 5.00pm to 9.30pm daily.

If you want to learn more about the horseracing industry in Australia and how you can say no to this cruel industry, visit the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses’ website.

Disclaimer: all food and drinks purchased at Euro Kitchen on Melbourne Cup Day 2019 were paid in full by Justine de Jonge. All thoughts expressed in this blog post are her own.

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