tradition

Fat Tuesday, No Pancake

So, today is Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras, if you prefer, or Pancake Day here in Britain.

I don’t know about you but pancakes are one of those foods which you imagine are better than they actually are. Fried batter with raw lemon juice and white sugar. Yum. Like you could eat any of those ingredients on its own, in quantity, with relish.

In my youth, I vaguely remember an eatery chain dedicated to pancakes. What was it called? Pancake Hut? Pancakes R We? Flat Batter Fry House? I honestly don’t remember. Inside, the menu was almost entirely pancakes. You chose a savoury filling for the main course and a sweet filling for dessert. I think the savoury ones were stuff like chilli con carne, ratatouille or fried beans; the sweets were predominantly stewed fruits with ice cream on top. It was somewhere to take your girlfriend when you wanted to impress her without much money. We were young, see!

Well, much like Christmas mornings and Hallowe’en, Pancake Day hasn’t a lot of traction without kids about the house. I think we may forgo them this time. We have some venison meatballs in the freezer and I might do a wild mushroom and shallots gravy, some parsnip mash and lightly steamed cavolo nero. Enjoy your pancakes!

image: detail from The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel, the elder (1559)

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Bridge In Time

Why was there not a bridge over the river Styx? A bridge could imply an ease of passage both ways, which wouldn’t be a bad thing: Death and an afterlife in Hades seems so absolute. As for Charon, the ferryman, did he not become too weary of the job as he himself approached his end of days? I can imagine him one day setting off and not coming back, his fare paying passengers, their mouths full of drachma, having to roam the shore, with all the penniless souls, for eternity.

There are many rivers to cross, as the old song says, and the metaphor of a bridge aids the idea of linear time. As opposed to an idea of circular time, giving a sense of continuous renewal. Each is a reasonable assumption were it not for modern science leading us to the ideas of entropy and time’s arrow. Yet, are we not more than physical things? Then there comes quantum theory which includes the idea of particles being in more than one place at any time. Maybe we got time wrong; maybe we’re in the top half of the universe’s hour glass and it’s all we can possibly see and understand.

I was in Sydney at the end of 1984, a year we celebrated Christmas on the beach with barbecue steaks and prawns, and on New Year’s eve, drank chilled beers on the grass overlooking the fireworks in the harbour. It was mid-Summer and it seemed odd. I wondered how the Aboriginal people celebrated the year’s passing. I’m left wondering. They have the tradition of Dreamtime, a timeless existence encompassing all their ancestors lives back to the originals. Though it seems paradoxical to have originals in a timeless place, I feel I know what it means. The innate human desire to return.

Reality and dreams, that’s what it’s all about as we cross another bridge, hoping there are many more ahead. Regrets and aspirations, death and rebirth. I heard old Charon has been given a toll booth now, on the bridge. He collects the coins from passing souls and has a nice electric heater to keep him warm (the gods have promised air-conditioning in the refit for the Summer months). Now he’s not going anywhere that he might not be coming back from, and everyone’s happy.

(382 words)


Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #67 – “Bridge In Time

This is the last of Reena’s enjoyable challenges for this year. Hopefully, more to follow in January 2019.

image: painting of “Psyche Crossing The Styx” by John Armstrong (Victoria Art Gallery, Bath)

The Vegan/Vegetarian Question

I really must stop going on Quora. It’s full of banal nonsense. Then, out of the blue comes this question,

“ If aliens, who were superior to humans as humans are superior to animals, discovered the Earth and found that human flesh is delicious, would it be justifiable for them to eat us? “

It’s a corker and by far the best one I’ve seen posted. I do like a philosophical teaser.

As someone interested in what I cook and eat – a bit of a foodie – I’m also interested in the question. Should we eat meat? The vegan position goes a lot further: no use or abuse of any animal products. I see in some quarters this includes honey, the food bees make for themselves to eat from robbing our flowers of their nectar and pollen. The liberty! I’m willing to listen to the argument around sentient pain and suffering but not yet about the immorality of stealing food from insects.

The strategy of the vegan movement – and it does look like a movement, not simply a lifestyle choice for many – is to shame and cause guilt. They are emotional and angry. They have woken up to the fact that animals suffer and die for our food, and it’s upsetting.

What they are up against is a long and continuous culture of meat eating and animal husbandry doubtless going right back through prehistory. It is biological and probably assisted greatly in human evolution. In modern life, meat is a tradition upheld throughout most of the world, it is a right and often expected. The fact that it is possible, with careful planning of meals, to survive on a strictly vegan diet is not a persuasive enough argument in the face of such an ingrained culture.

I dare say the vast majority of meat eaters don’t care, a good number don’t so much as care how their food gets on the plate as it is.

I’m not sure I’m ready for veganism just yet. It’s too difficult and I’d miss the tradition of having the full diet and sharing food with others. The thing is, has veganism changed the game; does it make any sense to become just a vegetarian now? There are some dubious arguments about health benefits but none proven. In any case, just cutting down on meat is sufficiently beneficial, something I’ve been doing anyway because I’m interested in food and some dishes don’t require meat. But eating vegetarian meals, even often, doesn’t make you a vegetarian. Yet the reasons for going veggie now seem outgunned by the reasons for going vegan.

So, what about our superior aliens coming here and eating us? Do we let them?

Quora – Should Aliens eat us?

Accompanying Illustration (may shock)