To me, a life of lentils is no life at all


A DAD'S LIFE:Why did it have to be horse meat? Horse, of all things. Trying to get a burger or a bit of spag bol, maybe a spot of chilli, down the kids’ necks is a challenge at the best of times, but now that their favourite cute little riding school ponies are featuring on menus throughout the land, I have no chance.

Our food options were dwindling anyway. All pork products, the magic meat I call it for its magnificent diversity, are long off the menu.

The girls befriended a pair of pigs on a trip to Cape Clear island over the summer. Why were the pigs in the frame for befriending? Because they were being raffled off. Why, daddy? For slaughter, darling. No. Can’t we take them home?

I would, of course, but the ferry driver won’t allow me bring livestock on-board. I’m pretty sure I was working through a hot dog as this discussion took place; she looked at me in disdain and announced that from that moment, no pig would pass her lips.

Bedamned pork

This is a girl who depended on salami Milano for school lunch fodder four days out of five. A girl with whom I could settle down for a Saturday morning fry: Ballymaloe relish, a couple of eggs over-easy and a plate full of bedamned pork.

No more. She went cold turkey on anything Babe-related and casts me the evil eye every time I raise a delicious sausage to my mouth. She does nothing to halt my consumption but I miss the company on my saturated fat binges.

She took her sister with her, just as the younger was developing a taste for crispy white bread bacon sarnies, the king of sandwiches. Has to be carb and sugar laden, sliced white pan. Has to be slathered in butter. Has to be well-grilled rashers, bordering on burnt, for that crispy, carcinogenic crunch.

Arguments can occur over the addition of ketchup or brown sauce but personally I favour the kick of Colmans mustard. Either way, combine that sandwich with a mug of tea and Football Focus while still in the dressing gown of a Saturday and you have one of life’s sweet, simple pleasures.

Next they started in on the cows. “Dad, you eat a lot of red meat. It’s not good for you, it can give you a heart attack.”

“Only if I burn a rib-eye,” I say, “Otherwise the only things likely to cause me a coronary are aged eight and 11 and refuse to get off my case.”

Undeterred, I carry on. I try to explain the delicious lushness of meat. How slicing a fillet steak and submitting to its flavour, its tenderness, its essential meaty goodness is one of the greatest of the many advantages of living in a society where butchers are respected. They don’t get it.

The ethical implications of eating a beast have reared up before the benefits of eating the same beast have had a chance to bed in.

Overdose of love

So pork is out and red meat is a no-no unless it is in the disguised form of minced meat. I can just about get away with serving that, provided I can pull out the wrapping and point to “organic” and assure that in their lifetime these cows were serenaded and massaged before being put to sleep, painlessly, by an overdose of love.

Thanks Findus, but with the discovery of the old viande de cheval all over our shelves, now even a crappy old lasagne has no chance of manouvering its way on to my dinner table.

In my children’s eye, evildoers are stalking riding schools, kidnapping and murdering a selection of Lipizzaners and Clydesdales, before sprinkling the butchered results into burger mix.

I can’t tell them that the reality is far worse. That what has turned up in our packaged foods is the dregs of the mashed remains of what could be washed from the cracks of the floors of meat factories situated in parts of the world where food health and safety limits itself to minimising the inclusion of severed human body parts.

I now face an ongoing parade of tofu and steamed vegetables on my plate bolsterd by the occasional plate of chicken, organic of course, hand reared on a health spa. Chicken, pah. The Ford Focus of the meat world.

We might have gotten away with it, if only it wasn’t bloody horse. Dog, guinea pig, rabbit, anything else might have worked, just not the benighted nag. Life in a household of three vegetarian women awaits, where I am sent outside to scarf my filthy meat juices in the cold. Where steak is shunned and the nut roast rules.

To me, a life of lentils is no life at all.

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