Vegetarian Karen Connolly joined thousands of carnivores at the second Grillstock Festival in Manchester.

Take one vegetarian (me) and throw me into the lion’s den of, ooh, thousands of red-blooded meat eaters (aka Grillstock-go-ers) and what do you think happened?

Did I run screaming from Albert Square yelling ‘Liberate the Pig’ as I fled? Did I scale the town hall in a kaftan and sandals and deliver a sermon on Loving your Legumes?

No I did not. Because, if truth be told, there was quite a lot on hand to keep a non-meat eater happy for the weekend.

The mantra of Manchester’s Grillstock was to ‘eat meat. drink beer. listen to music’. And in those immortal words of Meatloaf (a fitting moniker I agree) ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.

This was the festival’s second visit to Manchester and it brought with it a packed line-up of bands, barbecues and booze.

The aroma of smoking meat greeted us halfway down Cross Street as we made our way towards Albert Square and once inside the Grillstock Gates the hillbilly hoedown (their words, not mine) was in full swing. This was evident by the sight of numerous folk sporting baseball caps with attached ‘redneck hair’ drinking beer and eating hog. Funny at first but…

grillstock imagesI was with my husband and our 13-year-old son who are both meat eaters and clearly believed they had entered a kind of meaty Narnia where nothing was taboo, so the sight and smell of pulled pork, smoky ribs and even buffalo and zebra burger sent them scurrying to the nearest stall.

Now, ask any vegetarian if they ever miss eating meat and I’ll wager 99 per cent will say ‘no, but God, I still LOVE the smell of bacon’.

It’s true. The smoky waft of a sizzling streaky always gets my tastebuds tingling and I have been known to lock myself away in the cupboard under the stairs until the smell has evaporated. And that’s after 30-odd years of not eating meat.

And so it was thus at the smoky rib stall where my husband and son pitched up. After a rather lengthy queue – not just this stall, but all of them (it’s a popular event) – they hunkered down and feasted on the sticky, piquant ribs before heading over to the BBQ Academy and a masterclass in flipping a brilliant burger. And they even did a pizza masterclass just for me. Well, not exclusively for me, but I now know how to create a delicious stone-baked pizza on the barbie.

There were some splendid drinking holes too – Frank’s Cocktail Bar was a winner (thank you Frank) and the Brooklyn Beer stand was a popular hang out.

Meanwhile, amid all the eating and drinking, music played a major part with some first-rate bands including Federal Charm and Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra belting out some rocking tunes.

Add to that the wealth of competitions – Chilli Eating Champion anyone? – Grillstock certainly needs to be pencilled in your diary for next year.

By Karen Connolly

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