‘Gras’ is greener on fat Tuesday | TheUnion.com

‘Gras’ is greener on fat Tuesday

Spent the weekend preparing for the annual Mardi Gras festivities here at Clear Creek Ranch. Mardi Gras is an excuse for my friends to paint their faces and wear feathered masks, although this is business as usual for a few of them. Laissez les bons temps rouler! Or to be mono-lingual, “Let the good times roll.”

The term “mardi gras” is French for “fat Tuesday.” My bathroom scale says I’m already there. Perhaps a 40-day Lenten fast is in order.

But not until after the big day itself. A neighbor suggested French foods with “gras” in the name, like “pate de foie gras.” Unfortunately, this is made from duck or goose liver, not on the recommended list for practicing vegetarians.

More unfortunate for the ducks/geese themselves. To develop an appropriately grotesque liver, they are force-fed through a pipe rammed down their throats several times a day. This is an ancient “tradition” dating back to those great humanitarians, the Egyptian pharaohs.

Try digesting one-third your body weight each day. Notice I said “digest,” because ducks and geese aren’t really “eating.” Near the end of this four-week process, their throats can’t even swallow.

Their stomachs often burst “prematurely.” Feeders who kill more than 10 percent of their birds this way don’t get their slaughter-day bonus when the livers are “harvested.” State Senate President Pro-tem John Burton is trying to put a stop to this cruel practice (SB 1520).

But rather than goose step through our Mardi Gras festivities in protest, I decided to cook our krewe a giant batch of alternative vegetarian pate. Don’t tell them what’s in it, and let their taste buds decide. One of the main ingredients is eggplant. I needed to go grocery shopping.

This was a problem. Recently, another newspaper columnist wrote how she complimented a check-out lady on her choice of perfumes, and the check-out lady smiled and spritzed her with some of it.

Next time I went shopping, I tried the same thing and landed on the floor with an eyeful of pepper spray. I’m not sure what I did wrong. I may have asked the wrong check-out lady, or even been in the wrong market. I need to work on my “friendly smile,” which is often interpreted as a lascivious leer.

Needless to say, I was leery of running through anyone’s check-out line. Wearing my feathered Mardi Gras mask as a disguise would probably annoy store security. Lucky for me, they had an automated “check yourself out” aisle.

I’d never used it before, mostly because I apply my queue time more productively: comparing and contrasting the anatomies of Britney Spears and other vacant-eyed ingenues.

But how hard could it be? Punch some buttons, scan the bar codes, insert cash, check, or plastic in the appropriate slot and the deal is done. Or so I thought.

Did I want to conduct my transaction in English or Spanish? Since I wasn’t up on the dollar/peso exchange rates, I opted for English. Not that it helped much. Eggplants don’t come with bar codes. You have to read the tiny numbers on those annoying stickers. I borrowed someone’s reading glasses and punched in the code. Other items required other decisions. The line behind me grew.

When I saw several check-out ladies converging on me, I panicked. The eggplants crashed to the floor, rolling everywhere. All I could say was, “Laissez les bons aubergines rouler!” And pretend I didn’t understand English (or any other known language).

On a religious note: I’m giving up grocery shopping for Lent. Maybe longer.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at miked@theunion.com.

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