While the world out there is contorting itself into ever more yogic twists about horsemeat being found in burgers, I thought a little contribution from Graham Greene might be valid. I’m rereading his rather wonderful (dare I say it, quixotic) Monsignor Quixote and encountered this little gem in chapter 1.
After coming to the aid of an out of town bishop, the uber-parochial Father Quixote invites him to lunch in his humble abode. Having to deal with this unexpected guest provokes this conversation with Teresa, his housekeeper.
‘But the steak…’ Teresa said.
‘What about the steak?’
‘You can’t give the bishop horsemeat.’
‘My steak is horsemeat?’
‘It always has been. How can I give you beef with the money you allow me?’
‘You have nothing else?’
‘Oh dear, oh dear. We can only pray that he doesn’t notice. After all, I have never noticed.’
‘You have never eaten anything better.’ (p16)
Some moments later, the meal begins.
‘Teresa came in with the steaks and they seated themselves at table and the bishop said grace.
Father Quixote poured out the wine and watched with apprehension as the bishop took his first slice of steak, which he quickly washed down with wine – perhaps to take away the taste.
‘It is a very common wine, monsignor, but here we are very proud of what we call the manchegan.’
‘The wine is agreeable,’ said the bishop, ‘but the steak… the steak,’ he said, staring at the plate while Father Quixote waited for the worst, ‘the steak…’ he said a third time as though he were seeking deep into his memory of ancient rites for the correct term of anathema – Teresa meanwhile hovered in the doorway, waiting too – ‘never, at any table, have I tasted… so tender, so flavoursome, I am tempted to be blasphemous and say so divine a steak. I would like to congratulate your admirable housekeeper.’
‘She is here, monsignor.’
‘My dear lady, let me shake your hand.’ (p18)
So there wehave it. Perhaps it’s not so bad after all… (especially when accompanied by some good wine).