A Vegetarian Falls Off the Veggie Cart
I blame Mark Elliott. It seems a shame to pin my failings on a perfectly nice, talented and otherwise innocent man, but there it is.
You see, I've been leading a vegetarian life for a year. A year! Sure, there have been a few cheating nibbles along the way, but nothing of this -magnitude until my now-nemesis Mark Elliott tempted me beyond restraint.
It all started with a lovely date night. My husband, Patrick, and I were out on the town to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. The choices for a -special night abound in Moore County; just thinking of where to go was mouthwatering.
We chose Elliott's new place, Rue 32. The tapas-style menu suits my grazing preferences, and I knew the vegetarian-friendly chef would have lots of options for me.
And then, disaster struck. There on the menu, shining like a beacon to my taste buds, was foie gras.
Ah, just the words send me into a frenzy. A Francophile at heart, I yearn for the country's culture, language, art, wine and, most of all, decadent -dishes.
Patrick took me to Paris shortly after we married, and my objective besides sight, seeing was to thoroughly revel in the city's food. Patrick is fluent in French, but I brushed up on essential phrases for our trip anyway. Stuff like "Je voudrai encore du vin, sil vous plais" (I'd like more wine, please) and "Ou est la toilette?" (Where is the bathroom?).
Which, by the way, I learned that if you ask where the bathroom is, you better be able to understand the answer. Or risk having Le Garcon Snooty impatiently lead you by the elbow to the restroom.
I disembarked at Charles de Gaulle Airport clutching a list of foods I must eat in Paris. Chiefly, I intended to eat foie gras every day of our 10-day trip. That's a lot of foie gras, but I made my goal. And my love affair or, arguably, obsession with the delicacy began.
In fact, foie gras was the one food I lamented giving up as a vegetarian. I tackled this diet change in a quest for more energy and better health. I certainly didn't do it out of concern for animals. It's a good thing since, in case you don't already grasp the- -magnitude of my betrayal, foie gras is the fattened liver of a duck or goose. Foie gras has even been banned in some places because of the -controversy surrounding how the birds' livers are fattened.
So, there I was at a cozy -corner table in Rue 32. As the night darkened, so did the restaurant and my feeling of anonymity. When the server came by for the third time (because I wasn't ready to give in to temptation on the first two tries), I -whispered, "I'll have the foie gras."
"Excuse me, ma'am? What was that?" the server mocked me. Well, not really. She just asked ever so politely for me to repeat my order since she couldn't hear my murmur.
"I'm a vegetarian, OK!" I said, my voice full of apology and quickly shifting to one of defiance. "But tonight, I want foie gras."
I got it, a generous slab in an apple and port wine sauce. It. Was. Divine. With each tiny bite, my guilt faded into joy. Patrick sampled it and declared it too rich.
"I don't know how you're going to eat all that," he said. "I know I couldn't."
I was about two-thirds through the dish when I saw four friends from church step up to the hostess. From church! Who worse to witness my downfall? I scarfed down the last bites, hoping I could hide the evidence.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of," Patrick reassured me. "The geese are grain-fed, so foie gras is -practically vegetarian."
By the time our friends -spotted us and reached our table, I had licked my plate clean. Comfortable that my betrayal was tidily hidden in my -stomach, I happily -welcomed them. We all ended up sitting together for the rest of the evening, laughing and sharing stories as well as -dishes from the kitchen. But when my friend Kirsten offered me a bite of her (meaty) dish, I demurred.
"I can't. I'm a vegetarian," I said, even managing to say it with a straight face.
In the light of a new day, I am a vegetarian (again). But no thanks to Mark Elliott.
Melanie Coughlin is a Pinehurst freelance writer.
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