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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
"Meat" (on dinner with Pablo in Minneapolis)
Dinner with Pablo at Manny’s Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis, our dinner was on November 7, 2013
I have several vegetarian friends who eat neither meat nor fish. Fortunately, the two friends with whom I dine most often, Deborah Meadows and Pablo, are not entirely disgusted with my open consumption, when I am with them, of fish, meat, and other of what they obviously consider unhealthy and, perhaps, even unethical foods. For the most part, I try to meet them half-way in our choices of restaurants, dining at Indian, Chinese, Himalayan, and Japanese eateries—although the last of these cuisines sometimes poses challenges as well.
When I recently took my typesetter Pablo to Minneapolis, we began, the first night of our stay, at a nearby restaurant, Riverspoon (apparently a reference to the city’s large spoon bridge with cherry by artist Claes Oldenburg), which, we were assured, had a large vegetarian menu. The food was quite eclectic and, despite my fears, was fairly sophisticated. I ordered up a delicious wall-eyed pike (a specialty of city in the land of a thousand lakes), Pablo ordering a salad and white bean soup.
The next evening, however, I selfishly took a step further, pulling Pablo into a nearly all-fish menu at Sea-Catch, a restaurant located within the Guthrie, where we were attending a play. Here the vegetarian selections were winnowed down to just a couple of choices, and again Pablo chose a dish with white beans, the base also of my eye-catching Arctic Char. He seemed satisfied however, accompanying his dish, once again, by a salad—which, we both agreed, had a dressing that tasted somewhat of bacon, even though the waiter assured us that it was just a non-meat ingredient.
On our final night in the Twin Cities, however, I went, so to speak, “the whole hog,” insisting that he accompany me to one of my favorite steakhouses, the always popular Manny’s in the downtown area. We could only get a reservation at 7:45, which did not permit us to attend my publisher’s cocktail party, but I was determined to bite into one of Manny’s prime ribs once more before I died.
Certainly, I felt guilty, and discussed with Pablo what he might possibly eat in such an establishment. But he assured me that, if nothing else, he’d order a baked potato and broccoli or some other vegetable, which, along with a salad would certainly fill him up.
What I had forgotten, however, is that Manny’s wall is lined with cow-hide, the sight of which might amuse but, also, slightly frighten any diner sensitive to animal life. Indeed the whole meal at Manny’s is a bit like hoof to heart, intimating the carving up of the whole beast.
Never before, it suddenly dawned on me, had Pablo encountered the common steakhouse display of the various cuts laid out on a cart. Our excellent waitress, Fanny, took us through a detailed presentation of the various cuts, holding them up before our eyes as if, even in their raw state, they were sacred treasures, only to throw them back down upon the cart, to slap them a bit, as if awarding the cow’s various cuts for their pleasurable perfections. As her little lecture-performance moved on, I could see Pablo’s eyes growing larger and larger in near horror, until finally she lifted up the large living lobster and swung it in front of his face, as if trying to tantalize him with its delicate meats. For a moment, I thought Pablo, attempting to hide his apparent disgust of this non-vegetarian orgy, might bolt, but he took it all in stride, particularly when we explained to Fanny that Pablo was a vegetarian. “Oh I used to be one too,” announced the friendly server, “until I moved here!”
She leaned toward us, as if to confide a secret. “We have a special, off-menu pasta, which is all vegetarian,” she whispered. And suddenly a large smile broke upon Pablo’s previously slightly-troubled face.
I even ordered acorn squash as a side-dish so that Pablo, sharing it with me, might have something else to eat, but it turned out he didn’t much like the squash. I loved, finally, the first few bites of the medium-rare monster of prime rib that Fanny served up. But I warned Pablo that most of the large center of the cut would, sadly, be left over, for I could no longer eat all the meat I used to when I was young.
I don’t know if he was more shocked by what I was putting into my mouth or by the massive amounts of food that, left behind, would go to waste. But I am sure that we will now always remember the night when almost an entire cow was paraded before us to entice him into its consumption.
Boone, Iowa, November 10, 2013