Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where's The Beef?

This will be the one and only time I write about Oprah. Because the one and only time I watched an episode of Oprah, she cost me something I love (I’ll forgive her if she puts my book in Oprah’s Book Club!).

Two weeks before our trip to London, which is scheduled to commence this evening should the gods of New England weather be benevolent, my wife and I succumbed to The Queen of Television. She had not-so-subtly recommended (forced) her staff and audience to go Vegan for a week, citing the health benefits.

I was in the midst of shoveling dinner down my gullet. Instead of take the next bite, I not-so-subtly felt (pinched) a bit of my belly fat.

“Do you think it works?” I asked Danielle.

“Do I think what works?”

“Not eating meat.”

After she stopped not-so-subtly laughing (hysterically) at me, Danielle claimed she had no idea if a vegan lifestyle actually helped you lose weight or be healthier.

She followed up with, “But Probably. Why, do you wanna try it?”

After I stopped not-so-subtly laughing (hysterically) at her, I noticed the London travel guide six inches from my dinner plate. Stereotype took over my thinking and I remembered that England is a land not known for their culinary expertise. They put things like kidneys into pies, blood into sausage and figgies into pudding. Their food is world-renowned for it’s bland inadequacy. And none of it would fit on Oprah’s cafeteria menu, at least not during her healthy week.

They are a meat n’ potatoes nation. Which, despite my foodie tendencies, is fine with me. I am at heart a meat n’ potatoes kind of guy. I host a 200-person BBQ meat festival every summer. I’m currently researching ways to convert my smoker into a full-size pig-roasting rotisserie. If you can kill it, I’ll tenderize it, brine it and grill it. The Vegan or vegetarian way isn’t in my blood. It doesn’t compute with my linear thinking, my upbringing or my refined-Neanderthal palate.

London and I have something in common already.

And so we arrive back at Oprah (why does it always begin and end with Oprah?). When I saw that clip I felt challenged. Experimental. Intrigued. For some reason I wanted to prove that if an audience of middle-aged, overweight housewives from middle-America could do it, so could I (don’t ask why I felt that way - I’m still working through the anger). 

A one week detox period for Danielle and I. No meat, just vegetables, fruit, grain and fish (I had to throw in seafood or else my body would’ve rebelled like the Libyans). All in preparation for our week in England, where I anticipate a different series of culinary challenges, experiments and intrigue: Steak and Kidney pie? Sure. Blood sausage? Sounds delicious. A black rubber boot brined in Thames river water and finished with pureed pigeon beak? Needs salt, but bring it on.

And so today marks one week since Danielle and I have eaten meat. No chicken. No beef. No pork. None of the food staples I cook with most every night.

(Disclaimer: we have an overnight flight that will be serving dinner. I anticipate there being a choice of chicken or beef. However, I do not consider nor do scientists believe what I eat on the airplane over the Atlantic will actually be chicken or beef. Because the “meat” is a mystery, I consider it to be the meal that will bridge our week of no meat to our week of British food).

This was done all because of Oprah. Well, sort of. Maybe a little bit out of spite – damn Midwestern housewives.

Nevertheless, we added a few new recipes to our repertoire. Danielle and I both feel good, probably because we accomplished something and not because of any actual physical health benefits. And we now have justification for gorging like Midwestern American housewives on whatever pie or pudding those Brits drop in front of us.

More importantly, it left plenty of room for a few pints of ale.

Cheers, Oprah!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wherever It Takes

France was just the beginning. The Alps and the Italian Riviera were catalysts. The American Husband in Paris is venturing to new locales to experience the world, Wherever It Takes.

As a young married couple, my wife and I view travel as a necessity. Because, at the expense of sounding like Kodak-moment cliché, what do we have in life but our experiences? What shapes us more than our experiences? Who more do we love than those that share our experiences?

Souvenir hawkers stalk in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower. Sellers of antique books line both banks of the Seine. But the best thing I got in Paris was about five minutes atop Notre Dame Cathedral, the City of Light washing over me like the river that pulses through it. To my right, a pensive gargoyle caught in an interminable moment of peace and introspection. To my left, my new wife, mouth agape, breathing in the same air that has kept that gargoyle enraptured for centuries.

In every corner of this world, experiences are waiting to be plucked from the ether.

Why not hunt them down as a young married couple? The vantage point is totally unique. There is no one to impress. There is no one to win over. There is no shop too dark or street too crowded or language too taboo. My wife is obligated by the laws of common decency to spend substantial amounts of time with me. Our income combines (notice I did not say our income doubles – Danielle is a graduate student and could make more money rattling a can in front of a 7-11). The “I do”s intertwined our interests. Pre-wedding stress and the climactic wedding day explosion become newlywed afterglow, glistening with the possibility of possibilities. Yes, for this particular endeavor, marriage is the perfect time, the perfect state of mind, the perfect set of circumstances. We’ll be at the party; we might as well take advantage of the open bar.

But the clock is ticking. To paraphrase (probably incorrectly) a soap opera that I’m too young to know about and too male to care about, the sand is streaming through the hourglass with increasing velocity.

I’m not ready to give my life up: not quite yet. I have a few things I’d like to take care of first. Danielle does too. There are a few places we’d like to see, a few restaurants we’d like to try, several people we’d like to meet and a whole bucket of experiences we’d like to experience.

And we want to experience them before our freedom dies – before we have kids.

In anticipation of the angry letters/messages/texts/comments/tweets/smoke signals, let me emphasize that Danielle and I want a family someday. This is not meant to insult or offend (and if you are offended, you don’t know me very well and you should just call me, I’ll say plenty of much more offensive things to you directly). We fully believe children are a blessing. Unfortunately, they’re also kryptonite to a young couple’s autonomy. When was the last time you saw two twenty-six year olds backpacking across Eastern Europe with a car seat, pack-n-play, stroller, two diaper bags and Junior in-tow?

Never: because children cost money. Children require constant attention. Children cause messes, make noise and generally disrupt the natural order of things. Your world revolves around them. Your life is their life and their life is yours. That’s how it is and that’s how it should be. How else would we continue the human race, pass on our genes and keep Gerber in business? I’m certainly not eating pureed parsnips.

Eventually the majority of us – regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, credo, race or nationality – succumb to the biological clock, fulfill our duty to God and nature and try our hand at the most stressful, difficult and time-consuming task known to humanity: parenting. Some fail, some succeed and there’s not much way of knowing what category you fall into until a.) your kid goes to college or b.) you catch him chewing on purple crayons.

Even though I don’t have children I’m confident that the moment my wife utters the words, “we’re pregnant,” suddenly my life is not my own anymore. I’ve seen it happen to better men than I.

The day I decided to marry Danielle, I arrived at a simple philosophy: with a little nerve and a little levity, the world could be ours. Is there a better lesson to pass on to our eventual offspring?

We will seek out those never-forget, in-the-moment moments, wherever it takes. We hope you will follow along.

And when Junior finally does come along someday, the experiences Danielle and I have had will certainly come in handy when we attempt to take him backpacking across Eastern Europe - with a car seat, pack-n-play, stroller and two diaper bags in-tow.