My Dad’s favourite food is schnitzel: that hammered, egged, breaded, fried boneless escalope made from the flesh of either a pig or a baby cow.
“If schnitzel’s on the menu, I don’t need a menu,” said my Dad Stan, very loudly to the way-too perky waitress at a very small café in a very small town in British Columbia. He chuckled, proud of his quick-wit. My mom, my husband and I consulted our laminated menus.
The waitress told my Dad that the schnitzel plate came with spätzle (egg noodles) and fried red cabbage. Dad grinned, rubbed his hands together and then tucked his napkin into the collar of his shirt.
My husband ordered the burger, as he always does, much to my disappointment. My mother ordered the New England clam chowder, which is always risky when you live nowhere near the sea, but she does what she likes.
I ordered a small salad.
About twenty minutes later, after a too-long conversation about Richard N. Haass, his foreign policy (and his funny name spelling), our orders arrived. My dad rubbed his hands together (again) and giggled excitedly, as though it was his first time.
Dad sawed off a piece of the schnitzel, lifted it to his mouth and then paused. “Do you want to try it?” My Dad offered, holding his fork out toward me. I stared at the breaded and fried cube of meat.
“I’m a vegetarian,” I said.
I am a vegetarian (except bacon). He knew it. I knew it. Everyone at the table knew it. It was the equivalent (if not quite the equivalent) to the snake in the Garden of Eden, offering Eve that shiny, red, apple. It is a slippery slope between vegetarian (except bacon) and full-on carnivore. I pushed my Dad’s fork away. “No thanks.”
My dad took the bite. He closed his eyes, basking in the hammered, egged, breaded, fried goodness. “That is so delicious!” He pointed at the schnitzel with his fork, as though we all didn’t know what was delicious.
I looked down at the plate in front of me: anemic iceberg lettuce, four pale cherry tomatoes, and a few slivers of transparent cucumber, drowning in Thousand Island dressing. I stabbed a cherry tomato with my fork.
“That might be the best schnitzel I have ever tasted,” he shook his head, as if in disbelief. I nodded, feigning interest.
I took a bite of the cucumber. It tasted like dish detergent.
“It is just so moist… and crispy… and delicious!” Every word was enunciated… and pointed.
And that was it.
“I get it! Meat is delicious! Eating animals is the best! Vegetables are no comparison, even if they are occasionally supplemented by bacon!” I pushed my small salad off the table, grabbed my Dad’s schnitzel plate and started in on it.
I don’t remember what happened after that.
I came to, covered in red cabbage juice. I first thought that I had been mauled by a grizzly bear (as that is not at all uncommon in the Great White North), until my husband told me what really happened.
My husband said once I “started in on it” my Dad extricated himself from the booth and sought medical attention for a laceration to the back of the hand. He said my mother followed, taking her bowl of New England clam chowder with her. He said all he could do was try to shield me from onlookers as I went into a “meat rage”, devouring every single morsel on the plate, and then licking the plate clean too.
We can all laugh about it now, because time heals all wounds (even deep lacerations to the hand).