Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Legends of the Acceptance
Driving a car down Irish roads which were just wide enough for a horse and an anorexic goat, and on the left hand side of the road no less with approaching traffic bulleting past you inches away from the side of your car you are supposed to be sitting in, was like facing a suicidal death every 3 or 4 minutes. I turned the radio down to make sure my Hail Mary's were heard.
I pulled into the beautiful Shannon River town of Killaloe just north of Limerick for the BBQ. Now, to date I have had beef soaked in Irish stew, and plenty of fish, so "the big moment" was long over. But this was a BBQ - with all sorts of steaks and sausages on the the grill. I had no burning desire to try them, but when going to a BBQ there is a certain expectation that if you are a man over 5 feet tall you should not offended your host who has been standing over the hot charcoal grilling your meal and ask which way is the salad. Then magnify that expectation with the fact you are in a host country, and as an American it is commonly accepted at a BBQ that you should represent yourself as more John Wayne in "Rooster Cogburn" and less Nathan Lane in "The Birdcage." And if that weren't enough, now magnify this expectation by 100x when you realize just who I was visiting at this BBQ -- my friend, Anthony Foley, former captain of Munster Rugby, and former co-captain of Ireland's National rugby team. A true legend in Irish rugby. Now, who else was at this backyard BBQ that I was shooting the breeze with? None other than that bald tank, the legendary Keith Wood! Go to any pub in Ireland that has rugby paraphernalia and if you do not find a photo of Keith Wood on the wall I will be your manservant for a year.
These are men's men who spit nails and spent their 20's and 30's crushing other guy's skulls every Saturday around the world for fun. Foley's wife, whom I met once a year ago in, where else, P.J. Clarke's noticed how much weight I had lost and asked how. Oh, boy, I had not felt this embarrassed in admitting my vegan quest in probably 4 months. You don't go to a BBQ in a host country surrounded by men who rewrote the definition of toughness, and start spouting the benefits of a meal of broccoli and pine nuts. Not to mention their scarred, granite fists were never without a large, potent can of Bulmers hard cider, so telling the story of abstaining from alcohol for the past 6 months, even though my hand was similarly armed at the time, was going to go over about as well as saying tennis is a tougher sport. But I did, and they looked at me over their oft-broken noses and spouted some comments...
Now, at the BBQ I was interested enough to grab a sausage, knowing how terrible it was for me, because I was curious - not a burning desire, just curious, and it would be damn rude not too (note: Had this been during My Vegan Quest I would have gotten a perverse death-wish pleasure out of strutting my veganism - surely a more suicidal feeling than even zipping and flinching along the rocky N69 road out of Limerick). I also loaded my plate with salad, which I got from the party's one salad bowl that was smaller than the bowl of mayonnaise. I finished my small plate, neither disgusted nor enamored with the sausage, and looked for the trash bin. The host saw me and refused to help in my policing of the paper plate. "Here, there is more!" "Have more!" "C'mon, these are just off the grill!" "Take some more sausage!" My protestations finally won out. But I will admit to you now that had it been out-of-this-world delicious sausage I would have had more.
Yes, no problem in having sausage once every two or three months. That is where my head is at now - extreme, militant moderation. For those who thought I would come firmly to the side of complete veganism, I am sorry, it is not what I want to do. However, what I want to do, and what my body tells me what I need to do, is to have at least 80+% of my daily diet be plant based.