Thursday, 4 October 2012

In which I'm a bad guest

Oh bollocks, I thought as I wandered home one recent Friday night, I wonder if she knows…

I don’t usually give a moment’s thought to my eating habits, but there is an intense sense of sheepishness about one’s dietary preferences that emerges some 24 hours ahead of a dinner party if those preferences mark one out as being a fussy eater.

I had enthusiastically accepted The Domestic Slut’s invitation to dinner a few weeks previously, but was then faced with committing the faux pas that is following such an invitation up with a weedy, “Oh, and by the way, I don’t eat this, that and the other...”

Because if you are, like me, one of life’s difficult dinner guests, the unappetising alternative is to be faced with a plateful of something that won’t be eaten, thus mortally offending your host, and resulting in your never being invited back (I’m afraid I’m just not selfless enough to say nothing and eat the stuff with good grace). So a lot of the time I rely on people knowing – and remembering – my dining proclivities.

I’m not as fussy as some people I know. I don’t, for example, eschew all hot drinks and any foodstuff that’s not beige (bacon, or jam being the two notable exceptions. Bacon jam, however, would remain verboten); and cut the crusts off cheap white bread with a pair of office scissors.

I do, however, not eat meat, and haven’t done so for a long time – about 14 years, or something that alarmingly resembles an epoch.

It’s not a moral thing: I don’t believe that we shouldn’t eat the cute furry critters, and it’s not a health thing: I don’t feel strongly about the effect of red meat on a person’s insides. It’s purely – and I know this is something most people will have serious trouble identifying with – that I just don’t like the stuffI don’t like the way it tastes, or its texture (fish and seafood, on the other hand, I love, and am rarely happier than when faced with a really good sautéed scallop). I know I’m in a minority, and that hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of people adore the stuff, and love nothing better than a good bloody Hawksmoor steak. I’d honestly rather have a nice toasted goats’ cheese.

Relying on people to remember this, however, can be a risky manoeuvre, because I apparently I don’t strike people as “veggie” (I know it’s wildly incorrect, before anyone says anything along the pescetarian lines: I just find it useful shorthand) or “horrid veggie” if I’m in the presence of The Writer, who puts up with my fussy eating with admirable good grace, especially considering his foodie provenance.

“Have you told The Domestic Slut that you don’t eat meat?” TW said as we plucked a couple of bottles of wine from the rack to take with us before leaving on the Saturday night.

“I have,” I said, wiping the dust off a bottle with my sleeve. “She’d clearly remembered anyway – she’s doing fish. I think she might be one of the only people who do remember.”

“You don’t strike people as one of life’s natural vegetarians, is what it comes down to,” TW said. “I think you’re just a bit… rambunctious.”

Quite why rambunctious people can’t be vegetarians, or vegetarians rambunctious, I don’t know. Maybe we assume the veggies among us walk around in handmade shoes, reeking of mung bean and anaemia, and as un-put together as I am on any given day, I do at least wash. Or maybe it’s that the beloved fur coat in which I spend Home County winters tends to put people off the scent.

Whatever it is, a veggie in disguise I remain, and with no foreseeable change in taste on the horizon, I imagine that’s the way it’ll stay for some time to come. And no, since you ask: not even bacon.


nuttycow said...

It's true. Every time we meet/talk about food etc etc I completely forget that you're one of those weirdos who don't eat meat.

But we forgive you. Because you're awesome.

You're really missing out on the bacon thing though.

Sean said...

Excellent piece! I spent my entire 20s and part of my 30s not eating meat. Although, I was never a fan of the vegetarian label.

There were, during that period, two types of person that could be relied upon to really wind me up about the whole thing.

One was the activist type. While I've always been reasonably politically-motivated, I never voted with my digestive tract. So to speak. For me, not eating this or that was a personal matter. I disliked intensely the assumption made by many of my more acerbic friends that I should naturally be part of the great anarchist struggle simply because I didn't eat meat, and that by not so doing I was a class traitor.

The other group is one I could never really apply a label to. They'd find out I didn't eat meat and say things like "oh, so you think animals are more important than people do you?"

Erm, what..?

I once even got asked "if there was a baby and a kitten drowning in a river and you only had time to save one of them, which would it be?"

Again, what???

I replied that I didn't eat babies or kittens and therefore couldn't see the link with what I chose to have for my dinner. I think I also said something about wanting to know who goes round throwing babies into rivers, which just got me a blank look in return.

In the end, I returned to the meat-eating fold when I became a father. I decided that I didn’t want my kids to grow up thinking ‘fussy’ eating was normal or acceptable. Naïve foolish man that I (sometimes) am.

Doffing my metaphorical cap to your fir coat, though. Nice touch.

Martin said...

Sounds exactly like my sister - she simply doesn't like the taste of meat - and has been a veggie since the age of 11.

We thought it was a phase.

She's now 25.

Still a veggie.

Blonde said...

NC: See? My point precisely. People rarely remember.

Sean: Why, thank you very much.

Martin: It is reassuring to know I'm not the only one.

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