Vegetarian Along the Hudson

Eel on the Esplanade

The late part of the evening started with me semi-bragging about, semi-bemoaning, an adult lifetime of limited ice cream consumption.  I won’t go into all the reasons for this, but will simply say that I really haven’t eaten much true ice cream (as opposed to some weird kind of frozen diet delite) since about age 17.

Actually, there’s a distinction here between ice cream eaten (that is, other people’s ice cream tried, and spoonfuls taken straight from a quart), and ice cream purchased for one’s own consumption.    What I’ve done little of, as an adult, is buy myself ice cream.  (I estimated less than ten cones’ worth.)

My husband, a person raised with a high esteem for dairy fat, told me that was the saddest thing he’d ever heard.

Somehow this led to the idea of his feeding me huge amounts of ice cream if I ever developed full-blown Alzheimers.  This then transmuted into a joke about feeding the projected non compose mentis me large amounts of meat, despite my many years of vegetarianism.

“You wouldn’t do that.  Promise me you wouldn’t do that,” I said, surprised with the sudden depth of my feeling.

A sweet guy, he quickly promised repeatedly that, of course, he would not.

Later tonight, walking my dog along the Hudson on the esplanade in Lower Manhattan, I saw a man dart across the sidewalk.  He darted with the urgency of traffic-avoidance though there are no cars on the esplanade (other than the little truncated electric trucks in which the Park Police whiz around.)

He was darting to retrieve one of three fishing poles propped against one of the more solid walls that line the river bank.  With swift jerky movements, he pulled something that was totally black, but marked with a mirror-like shine, over the wall, then let it drop and flop onto the sidewalk.

Passers-by stopped, stared.  I pulled my very reluctant old dog (she was sure her obligatory walk should be already done) down from the upper walkway to get a better view.

The length of dark shine swiveled and flipped.  The man bent down to it with what looked a knife—it seemed like he was cutting, jabbing—but it must have been the line, because when he straightened, the fish still whirled and twisted.

I am always a bit suspicious of fisherman along this fairly polluted part of the Hudson.  Because they are out here late, and in very cold, damp weather (although tonight was neither), they do not look like mere “sportsmen.” That may be part of why I couldn’t stop staring at the dark satiny creature and thinking (1) toxins; (2) suffering;  (3) eel.

Eel?

Too long and uniformly narrow to be a fish.

I pictured (unwillingly) unagi.  Some kind of brown sauce.  And thought again, toxins, gills, suffering. More suffering. I wished the fisherman would just pick the darn thing up and bonk it hard on the head.

But he was attending to his other poles and paid little attention to the persistent, if slowing, squirm of the eel, except to look down now and again, more carefully after it wriggled into the shadows in the lee of the wall.

I sometimes think of vegetarianism as a bit precious, elitist, even PC, though I’ve been vegetarian for a very long time.   But for the second time in one night, it felt suddenly genuine, meaningful.

Still I didn’t say anything.  (Meaningful?)  Took the dog inside.

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