February 18, 2018 by lucieromarin
This is the story of what happens when a bone-lazy Australian-Hungarian descendant of Magyar aristocracy attempts the Maronite observance of the Lenten fast. (No one minds a break from tales of minor-grooming, right?)
- The Fast. The Maronite fast means no food between midnight and midday. For the first week of Lent, it’s also vegetarian after midday from Monday to Thursday, and vegan on Friday. Sunday is a feast day, and Saturday you can do what you like. There’s no requirement to fast, but you can do so if you feel so inspired.
- The Faster. To understand my experiment in its fullness, it’s necessary to understand that I am the 14th great-granddaughter of a House of which the crest was revived in the 16th century by a Transylvanian prince. Yes, you can make vampire jokes. Since the late 1500s, my ancestors have been emerging from the womb already chewing on medium-rare steaks. I made it into my thirties without ever making a salad. When I see blood pooling around a slab of my future dinner, I don’t think, Ew, how unsanitary! I think, Oooh! Let me pour that over the potatoes and cream!!!
So, here’s what happens:
6am: rise, full of determination. On the bus en route to work, think about all the things for which you can offer up your astonishingly-sharp hunger.
9:30am: Message your dearest Maronite friend, who you know is not only fasting, but also working, cleaning the house, rapt in prayer and binding the wounds of the rejected poor: I am ready to gnaw off my own arm.
10:30am: Eat a biscuit. Then eat another one. Figure you’re not Maronite anyway, they’re plain biscuits, St Therese would tell you to go easy on yourself, and tomorrow is another day.
8:30pm: After the Ash Monday Mass, eat so many of your dear friend’s pickles that the vinegar burns a layer of skin off your lips.
Early morning: Think of all the things for which you can offer up the hunger of a thousand ancestors crying out for slaughter and grill.
Mid-morning: Consider that the dull-witted peasant of history was not actually dull-witted at all. He was just really, really hungry. Same for the allegedly indigent poor and lazy schoolchildren of the early 20th century. Zone out.
Afternoon: Zone in, and realise you’re sitting at your desk not doing your work but staring at this recipe for vegan chocolate cake. Decide that, though you’re only two days into Lent, it’s time to adapt the fast.
Evening: Make this:
Boil six eggs. Chop three or four Polish dill pickles into tiny pieces. Add freshly-chopped dill and chives. Mush all together with vegan mayonnaise (surprisingly good, and in some ways tastier than some actual mayonnaise.) Eat with pancakes.
Wednesday and Thursday:
Eat with falafel and leftover pancake.
Thursday night, in preparation for Vegan Day, consider that when you looked up how to make scrambled tofu, you shouldn’t have been too lazy to copy out the recipes. Think about turning on the laptop again. Weak with hunger, decide to make it up, and produce this:
Fry some mushrooms. Scramble in a block of Japanese silken tofu, sesame oil, turmeric, dried dill. (I was too lazy to dry the tofu first. This was a mistake. Dry your tofu.) Stir in some more vegan mayonnaise. (I might have used soy sauce too. I can’t remember. I was too lazy to write it down.) Then…
Afterwards, consider the remains of your now three-day-old egg recipe and your scrambled tofu. Consider that the seasonings on the two mixtures are quite different. Throw caution to the winds. Pour the tofu over the egg leftovers, mix them in together, add sultanas for no reason other than something in you thinks that might work. Return the bizarre mixture to the fridge.
Buy bacon. Realise with horror that you’re newly-conscious that these things are slices of pig, and that part of you no longer wants to eat slices of pig. Take a deep breath. Let your ancestors have their day. Fry bacon, reheat the above-mentioned concoction with the bacon, and eat with a white roll. Either a little hunger is the best sauce, or I’ve invented something flaming amazing.
Wake up, and think three things simultaneously:
- At last, I understand why the veganism of the affluent West cannot be a virtue objectively speaking. Religious veganism can be a universal virtue because it can be universally practised, in poverty or in wealth. Affluent Western veganism, meanwhile, depends on imported food-substitutes and electronic devices particular to our age and to our degree of wealth. A virtue that depends on the privileges of wealth for its exercise is no virtue at all.
- Yes, I tried a fast. Yes, I had to adapt it. But not once, during that week, did I feel anything other than that I was working with God in a discipline that would help me love both Him and neighbour better. Where was the guilt? Where was the fear? Where was the sense of competition and failure? What strange religion is this?
- My spiritual director controlled our eating and drinking. Some needed his permission to have milk in their tea or coffee. He and I talked endlessly about when I could eat food that I liked, what days I should be vegetarian, how many times a day I should mortify my palate for his intentions, and what form that mortification should take. This is different. This is better.
I had these thoughts, then heard my director’s voice telling me I think too much. Well, I never said he was stupid. Excuse me while I go fry my Sunday savaged-and-dismembered pig.