"Don't eat a beefsteak. If you do the eyes of that cow will pursue you through all eternity." This isn't me talking or even PETA's latest ad campaign. The line comes from James Joyce's 1922 classic, "Ulysses."
"Ulysses" takes place in the course of one day, June 16, 1904, when Leopold Bloom, Joyce's hapless hero walks around Dublin, overhears people on the street like the vegetarian quoted above, meets Stephan Dedalus, gets good, drunk and obstreperous, then comes home to his lusty wife, Molly. And you're thinking, what does this have to do with me?
Wednesday, June 16, is the 90th anniversary of Bloomsday, celebrated all over Dublin and even on this side of the pond literature lovers and fans of all things Irish. Bloomsday features marathon readings of Ulysses and, being Irish in origin, involves a fair amount of beer. That's okay. Beer's vegetarian. Corned beef and cabbage is not. Nor is it Irish or Joycean. Leopold Bloom himself would have no part of it. He ventures into The Burton, a Duke Street pub for lunch, smells "pungent meatjuice," sees someone "chump chop from the grill. Bolting to get it over," hears a man order "One corned and cabbage," and leaves. "Couldn't eat a morsel here."
Joyce wasn't a vegetarian. Neither is Leopold Bloom. As we learn at the beginning, "Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed foast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod's roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine."
But after witnessing the meatfest in The Burton, Bloom has a change of heart. He heads to Davy Byrne's on Grafton Street, a very real establishment in business to this day. He orders a Gorgonzola sandwich, "a nice salad" and a glass of burgundy. "Mr. Bloom ate his strips of sandwich, fresh clean bread. . . pungeant mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate." Thus restored, Bloom decides, "After all there's a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth. They say its healthier."
Great literature can inspire. Let Ulysses inspire you to go meatless. Celebrate Bloomsday with beer, by all means, but also with "weggebobbles and fruit," as Bloom puts it. "It's healthier." As his wife Molly puts it at the novel's orgasmic conclusion, yes.
In her lusty soliloquy in "Ulysses," Molly Bloom recalls "the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth." Seed cake recipe reprinted with permission from my book,"Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner."
1 cup unsweetened soy or hemp milk
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (also known as flax meal)
2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
2 teaspoons whole anise seeds
1-½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup evaporated cane sugar *
⅓ cup hemp, flax or canola oil
½ cup apple sauce
⅓ cup raisins
zest and juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 350
Lightly grease an 8" round cake pan or a 9"x5" loaf pan.
In a small bowl, combine soy milk with flax, chia and anise seeds. Stir lightly to combine and let sit while you assemble the other ingredients.
In a large bowl sift together whole wheat flour, baking soda and baking powder. Grate in lemon zest.
In another bowl, mix together evaporated cane sugar, hemp or canola oil , apple sauce and lemon juice. Add to dry mixture, along with the soy milk, which, thanks to the seeds, will have thickened madly. Stir together, then fold in the raisins.
Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is golden, puffed and a tester inserted in the center comes away crumb-free and clean. You can also give it a gentle poke with a finger. It springs back perfectly when baked through.
Remove from oven and let cool. Wrapped well and refrigerated, it keeps for several days.
Serves 8 or so.