The Vegan Cucumber Salad

It’s not easy being a vegan in a society that is besotted with meat eating. I know, because I  have been a vegan all afternoon.

You may laugh at this…and now would be a good time to start…but serious lifestyle choices can come upon us in a flash. Of course the flash may involve a couple of decades, but it pays to be patient. I didn’t like whiskey when I was five years old either, but that was a long while ago…

Being vegan can be a moral choice, a technical one, or a dietary one…or a combination of all three. In some cultures it is a religious practice. One should always respect the religions of others, even if one has no such feelings about one’s own. Indeed, it can be a lot easier to put up with strange foreign rituals than to put up with your own relatives.

As a new vegan I will concentrate on the business of minding what I eat. From what I read, this should take some little time every day. It seems that you need to hoover in a lot of stuff to get the same amount of internal energy that you used to get from a hamburger. And it may be gritty or slimy…but come to think of it, the burgers down at our local grease pit are pretty much that way any way. I have purchased a box of what very well may be muesli and will open it once I have the face mask and epipen. If I can master a Swiss breakfast I should be able to advance to salads.

The change in diet will not be without penalty. I have been reading about what fibre does to the body and have extrapolated that information to imagine what it will do to the plumbing. Fortunately we have a bucket, the neighbour has a fence, and it gets dark earlier in the evening. I knew he had a pool for some good reason.

” The Natives Consider This A Delicacy “

If ever you are presented with a dish by your host – whether that be a private person or a commercial restauranteur – and they use this phrase, remember one thing: the natives referred to are old and worn-out at 40. This may be due to the fact that they live in one of the most unhealthy parts of a disease-infested swamp…or it may be due to what they eat on festive occasions. You might be looking at Nature’s Little Population Control on a plate.

Don’t panic. If it smells yummy and you just have this craving for centipede eyeballs in white sauce…well dig in. Your slurps and smacks of delight will make you an honoured guest. Your hosts will think you the epitome of good manners and will search their cookbooks…and under their huts…for more recipes and ingredients to delight you. Bon appetit.

If, on the other hand, you are seized with the overpowering desire to run – and don’t wish to be doing it from both ends in the morning – you must be prepared with a plausible excuse to avoid the dish. Native societies do not respond to the idea of gluten or lactose intolerance. Your protest that it may contain traces of tree nuts will fall on deaf ears – 100% of their foods contain tree nuts, including the animal they cooked to present to you.

Allergies are unknown in the third world. They exist, of course, and sweep away the natives as readily as they might the visitors, but no-one knows why. Often the swelling, choking, and collapse are put down to evil spirits or malnutrition and they shovel more tree nuts in to counteract this.

But there is one thing that they all know – tabu. Whether things have been forbidden them by a prophet or a shaman – or just by long superstition – every population has some form of food law that prohibits something. They might be allowed to roast caterpillars but not hot dogs. They might be quite fond of hot dogs but have been banned from shellfish. The point is someone has said ” No ” from a pulpit or sacred rock and No it is. They understand this.

You must pull a ceremonial scarf, hat, or other non-controversial symbol from your coat pocket, put it on, and tell the host with great seriousness that it is tenet of your faith that the food may not be eaten. Be regretful but firm. They will understand completely, and it will vanish.

Be aware, however, that they may wish to placate your sensibilities by bringing out something worse. You can only trot out a tabu so many times before they begin to suspect.

Don’t Mind If I Do…

That’s a persistent buzz phrase and meme that we use whenever we luck into something. We discover a free feed or booze-up – a discount or special price – or a chance to have a good time. It’s a cheerful event, and we’re celebrating it.

But what if other people mind if you do? Even if it is none of their concern, your good fortune is a canker to some folks. While they might not go out of their way to be mean to you, the sight of you having a good time is and unpleasant reminder that they’re not.

We may never know of their distaste. It’s not something that they bray about, unless within the safety of their own computer they can be snarky and anonymous at the same time. If we never see their feed, we may go through life not realising their enmity. The best thing to do is to be philosophical about it…as the late Eugene V. Debs admitted – ” You can’t displease all of the people all of the time. “. Accept the fact that there are secret haters out there that you’ll never get to know about and just be grateful for the sound of teeth grinding in the dark.

Note: When Fate, Heaven, and serendipity combine to supply you with a Boston Cream Pie just when you are hungry and you find a fork ready to hand, you would be a churl to refuse the treat. Accept that good things can happen to bad people like you and just eat the pie. Or throw it, if you get half a chance.

The Birthday Howitzer

Or the art of dropping on people at short notice.

It is an art. A black art, mind, but notable nevertheless. In Australia it’s been been refined into folklore. The ” Sundowner ” was an itinerant who turned up at stations looking for work just at sundown…when hospitality would not be refused but no actual work could be done. The nearest modern equivalent is the person who calls at tea-time, sees you trying to prepare the meal, but will not go away. They stay until you give way and invite them to a meal.

Then they complain about the cooking…

The Birthday Howitzer is somewhat similar except it is fired when there is a family celebration in the offing. The gunner arrives at the start of the family party with a gift…and therefore cannot be refused entry. The gift can be as tawdry or cheap as you like – the $ 2 or Reject Shop is a good place to stock up. The wrapping can be terrible. It need not be appropriate in any way for the recipient. It can even be horribly offensive – the salient point is that it is a present, and thus a key to all the food and drink on offer. A good Birthday Gunner can consume half their weight in barbeque and beer before the cake comes out. If there are take-away lollie bags for the kids, several of them can be snaffled as well.

A very special variant of the BH is the hospital visitor that brings in a magazine that they got out of the waiting room but stays to share morning tea and lunch and then departs with the patient’s fruit bowl.

You must excuse me -I’m feeling a bit peckish and I heard the rustle of a crisp packet opening…

The Proper Nostalgia We Used To Get

Not the stuff they dish out nowadays. Proper nostalgia from cans. With a good layer of fat and bugs on top…

I am not a particularly nostalgic person…because I have a pretty good long-term memory and can remember what was bad about the old days as well as what was good. It may not have been as tough for me as it was for other people, but on my personal scale I could tell the difference between misery and joy.

Being fair to life in modern days as well as to myself, I must say it is better now. Food is available in greater variety and is, for the most part, safer to consume. Our water supply prevents most of the young from getting caries in their teeth – I have a mouthful of posterior teeth that are filled. But I have ’em.

Our houses are sturdier now than they were – go whack an old fibro and frame one with a hammer and see what happens. What happens is a cloud of fragments and asbestos dust…and you won’t get that in a modern dwelling.

You won’t get a face full of tobacco smoke on the train, bus, or airplane these days, either. Nor in a restaurant or bar. – at least not in Australia. You might have to run a stinky gauntlet of the inconsiderate as you go into a public building, but once inside the laws  protect your lungs.

I’d like to think laws protect schoolchildren from bullying, but they don’t. However, public pressure may eventually lessen it. Hopefully it will also be reduced in workplaces, though there again you run up against resistance to decency by the indecent.

My quiet joys today are at least as easy of access as they were when a child. I had a little world that welcomed me and I still have one. I just need to adjust my mind to accept it.

So there’s no need to get all nostalgic and retro about Good Old Days. They were good in parts and bad in others. Better to concentrate on increasing the one and reducing the other right now.

 

Dietary Requirements

I’ve got an invitation to a works party at the end of the month – oddly enough very close to the American Thanksgiving – that looks good. The people there will be jolly sorts and not at all stuffy. It’ll be perfect for the old ” exploding turkey ” gag. You can do a power of damage with a 25-pounder Butterball, particularly if you choose the H.E. variety.

I will probably take a pot of chili – though the hostess says she’ll have enough food there. The thing is that it may well be edible, but it won’t be FOOD. It will be party food. And I’m not a Party member…

The note inviting me has a subscript that asks me if I have any dietary requirements. The fact that I’m gonna arrive with a cast-iron kettle of chili and cornbread pretty well answers that. But of course she meant other things:

Do I have religious restrictions that prohibit me from eating things that taste good, based upon commandments from the Middle Ages? Well, yes, I do, and mine go back to the Bronze Age. But the Bronze Age was a very long time ago and a very long way away and I do my own grocery shopping here in Australia at IGA.

I do follow strict religious law whenever there is nothing else on the table or when my well-meaning friends make a fuss of it. I’m particularly annoyed when they mention that I won’t be getting any of the bacon or prawns or stroganoff sauce or whatever but I can make it up on extra bread or lettuce…

I plan to bring along my own Dead Sea Scroll with newly-discovered texts that allow everything except eggplant, kidneys, or liver and specifically command the faithful to serve these in double helpings to the everyone else. I shall be generous to all.

As far as chemical imbalances, colonic triggers, or frank allergy, I’m fine. I do like to specify that the food be dead, or at least moving slower than I am. This is to allow me to catch it more easily. I look somewhat askance at mock foods that pretend to be something other than themselves. They may taste fine, but they would eat as well if they were honest about what they are. Frequently the word -association between the real ingredients and the supposed dish are enough to spoil any pleasure. I defy anyone to enjoy mock-tripe, cooked how you will.

I suppose one day I will finally give in to my baser instincts and take some poor woman up on this dietary  requirements thing. She will be thinking pizza squares and cheese on a stick followed by a sausage sizzle and I will demand ( with a doctor’s certificate ) treble-refined Patagonian fleedleberry purée over non-organic turnips. The only downside to the whole thing is if she manages to cook ’em…

 

 

Riding The Horse – Part Ten – Genug Ist Genug

How do you know when enough is enough? And what do you do about it?

If you are sitting at a dining table you’ll know. One of two things will happen; either your plate will be empty or you will be full. It is a blessing when these things are simultaneous. If there is a discrepancy you’ll feel like something is wrong. And this is where we turn to either our intellect or our emotions.

When you use your senses  for anything – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling – you experience a rising sensitivity, a plateau of appreciation, and then a decline. Your mind knows when it has had enough of any particular stimulation, and reduces its response to it accordingly. In the extreme, it turns to a part of you that deals with disgust and sounds an alarm bell. Enough! Genug! No further!

The wise hobbyist will see this same cycle happening with their pursuits. They’ll start with a tickle of interest, then a rising rush of exploratory lust. Then comes a period of direct reward for effort – the plateau. Finally, however, the interest slackens and the amount of effort put in does not yield an increase in pleasure or knowledge. If they are not careful they get to that alarm bell and start to hate what they once loved. Recognise this cycle, and you can start to control how it affects you.

Start out with a notion. A curiosity about something. A flash of something bright in the water. Pursue it. Start to become enthusiastic – then studious – then fascinated. Then gain a mastery of it – and share your pleasure and pride with others.

But when the interest starts to flag…when the rewards decline but the cost and effort do not…realise the fact and set a careful plan in motion. Analyse how much further your hobby can go for you. How much you can give it and how much it will reward you. Be realistic. See ahead to when you will have had enough. 

And then make a plan to quit it in good humour just at this point. If you need to leave some goal that you can never achieve untouched, do so. Take away a set of fond memories of the hobby before you hear the alarm bell. You will have done your mind a favour and not have wasted all the time and money heretofore spent on the hobby.

Your dinner will have done you good.