Wellington’s Beef – Issue 31

(previously Stalin’s Breakfast/Trotsky’s Tiffin/etc)

The sun shone in a beautiful, seasonally eloquent apology for the anti-social delinquent behaviour of the day’s US-imported winds. It was trying to reassure us that the riotous, undignified bluster of the latest storms from across the pond, would, in time, blow themselves out.

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Thus reassured, I entered into a familiar, wolf-proof establishment. I modestly hoped for an arena mostly oblivious to deeply personal existential struggle. Today, like other days, I intended the Joseph Merrick intentionally defiant act of fulfilling a quiet dream to appear functionally ordinary. This repeated act of self-humiliation that, to others might seem to be an affirmation of an intent to live, is, in fact, an act of self-actualisation through self-abnegation: by eating, I am accelerating a rational denial of continuing existence.

Having established the premise for being there, I assessed the menu, acknowledging the rebellious fire in my belly – no, not indigestion – there being a yearning for something different. Being a veggie, I’ve come to realise that, after halcyon years of commercial recognition, there’s been a gradual contraction of choice for the non-hunter-gatherer of refined social character. Before you avid carnivores are moved to bite my head off – though you’ll find the lack of meaty substance disappointing, me being a primary bonehead – I do not say this in a pejorative sense. I merely refer to the necessary commercial consideration of wholesale bulk-buying business acumen that sees carnivores as the unstated good consumer-citizens of our culture-striving society.

Perusing the offerings I almost despaired, in a slightly ironic way, given the conditions. However, despite my inadequate ocular support, I did notice something I’d been apprised of by an acquaintance recently: Vegetable Wellington cried out to me. What a grand ducal name for a meal listed in Roast of the Day. The prospect of a fungus based patê with the regal name, duxelles, in a puff pastry filled me with significant anticipation without any attendant organic guilt. Trying not to indulge in the battlefield of strategic hope, I still had a slight trepidation, although, as is my social character, I didn’t anticipate any complaint, given realistic expectation of an earnest fayre in such an establishment.

After a little negotiation with the helpers, my request was recognised and I readied myself for a gastronomical treat.

It didn’t take as long as expected and I was caught mid quaff of a full-bodied ale. Arranging the table like a military campaign, I received the reinforcement of the main dish: a visual delight that resembled a very smart flat cap, surrounded by a goodly dollop of mashed potato and the greenest of mushy peas. Complementing this ready for inspection platter was a small yet functionally replete veggie gravy boat. Marvelling at the aesthetically pleasing regalia I proceeded to pour the gravy over all three elements of the feast to come. Having fallen in instantaneous love with this meal, I was loath to carve it up a treat. However, I girded my knife and fork and set to work and play.

The consummate ease with which the casing of the Wellington was breached told its own story: it was done just as I like it. The pastry was doughy and yielding with the consistency of suet pudding. Each forkful had a full complement of elements and fulfilled a vegetarian’s modest dreams. I enjoyed it so much that I almost scowled like Gollum when being disturbed by the helper enquiring as to my satisfaction of the meal. My reply was sybilant as I answered Yessssssssss!

Leaning back in the chair, hands resting on my Falstaffian belly, I almost wallowed in pleasure. I think that even the CCTV camera became uneasy and averted its patriarchal gaze, its embarrassment showing in the blinking, blushing red light just below its benevolent eye.

At moments like these, in this hemisphere, it is incumbent to feel a little guilty at such decadence and comfortable luncheons, given the parlous state of too many people in the world. In good repentant style, I envisaged what needed to happen to even things up cosmically and theologically for the indulgence I had just enacted. Would the train be hijacked by Leeds separatists and a badly coordinated bus service would see me getting home in the summer dark? Might I be kidnapped by royalists and be forced to watch videos,  DVDs, 8 and 16 mm reels and even BluRay recordings of all the pompous ceremonious displays of lickspittle obeisance through the ages? Gathering my anxieties I reassured myself that maybe next time this lovely meal would be cooked by someone not in the loop when it comes to cooking the Wellington; instead it might have all the inconsistency of a famous leathery boot or maybe it might be so overdone that it would have the strength of a weatherproofed yurt and that mere kitchen utensils would prove futile and impotent in making dents and creating edible portions of this pastry-encased fungal delight.

As it turned out, on  the next three subsequent occasions, my guilt and trepidation were allayed as my request for the dish was met with puzzlement, much conflabbing and consequent apologising due to the unavailability of Vegetarian Wellington. Being used to the disappointment of absence, I met these blanks with stoicism and reserved panache.

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