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Off the Wagon

Biltong

A South African favorite, biltong is cured meat hung to dry. (Image by sharky2004 via Flickr)

As many of you know, Jenny and I are not what you might call “eaters of meat.” Jenny became a quasi-Hindu in 1988, when she eschewed chewing beef. When we met, in 1997, she had given up all meat attached to bones (chicken breast = OK), and in 1998, when we moved to Lexington, KY, we both gave up all meat except fish/seafood. I guess you would call us “pescetarians.” Or, if you were our nephew, Max, you would call us “weird.”

Pescetarianism is not the easiest way of life to maintain in South Africa. Sure, you can get seafood here from the coasts or prawns from Mozambique (we had sushi for lunch, in fact), but opting for pure vegetarian fare can be more of a challenge.

Case in point: The other day, Jenny was at a mall with a fellow Fulbrighter and they stopped at a café for lunch. Perusing the menu, Jenny found little that wasn’t chicken or lamb or “mince” (beef) or overly fried. So, reading carefully, Jenny selected the Cheese Griller, which included cheese, tomato and sauce.

You, like Jenny, may have expected to receive some form of grilled cheese sandwich. You, like Jenny, would be wrong. A griller, as every red-blooded South African knows, is a sausage. So, instead of a lovely toasted cheese sandwich, Jenny got a sideways-split hot dog sandwich. And the restaurant wouldn’t take it back, basically because she should have known better. Lesson learned.

For me, this whole thing is much easier: I am off the wagon.

Yep, I decided before we left Chicago that I would suspend most restrictions on my diet in order to take advantage of opportunities to sample local, ethnic or otherwise culturally different foods, even (especially?) if they involved giant slabs of meat. So far, the suspension has led only to the usual suspects of chicken, sausage (not grillers) and bacon. I really don’t know how I ever gave up bacon in the first place.

It’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to branch out past pork and poultry. Oh, no. Just last week, in fact, Jenny and I went out to eat at a nice place called La Pentola – a South African fusion restaurant with an incredibly large and diverse menu. Some of the offerings that night included springbok carpaccio, honey mustard warthog loin and pan-fried crocodile tail (which nephew Max says “tastes like chicken”). Yet, when opportunity knocked, I chose the prawns.

As far as our overall food experiences go, I’d say it’s been hit or miss…

Hit:

Miss:

  • Cheese grillers (see above)
  • Pizza (to paraphrase Bono, friend to all of Africa, we still…haven’t found…what we’re looking for)
  • Tuna salad sandwiches (don’t ask)
  • Sweet chili potato chips (sounded good, but…)

I guess that’s more hit than miss, more good than bad. I guess we can stay a little while longer.

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