Never on Monday: We hang out with the meat-free crowd, for 24 hours at a stretch

And so we’ve gotten past another Meatless Monday. Our house, containing nothing but Paul McCartney fans, has been adhering to this practice since the composer of “C-Moon” and “Biker Like an Icon” and other classics, instructed us to knock off eating flesh for 24 hours at the beginning of each working week. Yes, you’re right, and I suppose if he told us to jump off the roof, we’d probably do that, too. You can meet the Beatle’s meaty theories by clicking here.

Make mine a Quarter-pounder; hold the hamburger, please

I had a drink last week — two, if you’re keeping track — with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Casually, I asked her if she was still a vegetarian. “Ppff,” she said. She gave that up years ago, after her GP finished an examination with this assessment: “That diet you’re on has worked wonders. Congratulations, you’re now officially anemic.” Beside which, her occupation frequently requires extended stays in danger zones such as France and Belgium, where someone who declines the horse-meat or blood-sausage course is forever identified as L’Étranger, and that`s never conducive to closing deals.

Nonetheless, I find I’m not at all missing the dead animals on the table on Mondays, and we’re seriously considering expanding the program to add a Weggie Wednesday, or possibly a Flesh-free Friday. Part-time vegetarianism, it can be said, has something going for it. It allows you to feel virtuous on occasion, although not to the extent that your friends can’t stand listening to you, or being around you. Though it strikes me as a good idea, I would never proselytize for Meatless Monday, the way Sir Paul has taken it upon himself. I cringe to think of his former spouse, the lamentable Heather Mills, as she applies her lunatical passion to promoting the cause of veganism. If Heather Mills is the face of the vegan movement, kindly hand me a cheeseburger — unless it’s Monday.

It happens that our having adopted these once-weekly dietary principles coincides with my recent discovery of the 1947 recording by the great Johnny Mercer, backed by no less than the King Cole Trio, of “Save the Bones for Henry Jones (‘Cause Henry Don’t Eat No Meat.)” This seems to be one of those many nonsense tunes popular with hep-cats in the ’40s, along the lines of Mercer’s “I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank,” except that the lyrics could be read as an anti-vegetarian diatribe against the title’s Mr. Jones:

Our banquet was most proper
Right down to demi-tasse
From soup to lox and bagels
And pheasant under glass –- class!
We thought the chops were mellow
He said his chops were beat –- reet!
We served the bones to Henry Jones
‘Cause Henry don’t eat no meat
He’s an egg man
Henry don’t eat no meat.

These striking phrases, from tunesmiths Danny Barker and Vernon Lee, are clearly intended to depict the carrot-fancying Mr. Jones as a sorry specimen of post-War manhood. They endorse, in syncopated fashion, the skepticism of the old dialect-humorist Finley Peter Dunne, who wrote: “Most vegetarians I ever see looked enough like their food to be classified as cannibals.” (If that doesn’t strike you as clever, try reciting it with a comic Irish brogue and see if it makes a difference.)

McCartney has cranked out the occasional novelty ditty himself, and can more than hold his own in that genre, as he demonstrates through his verse about the sergeant-major being a lady suffragette. You’ve therefore got to wonder why Macca hasn’t applied his lyrical talents to creating an answer to the Henry Jones slur. Or perhaps he has, and it can be found on the never-played B-side of one of his countless releases.

And, since we seem to have strayed onto the subject, whatever happened to the good old Answer Record? These days, public discourse takes the form of idiots screaming polemics at each other on talk radio. Previously, when radio stations programmed empty-headed music instead of cretinous chatter, you’d have records arguing with each other: “Eve of Destruction” countered by a “Dawn of Correction,” “King of the Road” rebutted with “Queen of the House.” The notion seems beyond quaint by current entertainment industry standards, where divergent views in the hip-hop community may pass unnoticed — unless a performer is unlucky enough to be fired upon by Uzi from a passing car driven by a fellow artist.

But who are we to question the ways of Sir Paul? If he deigns to ignore the scornful provocation of Johnny Mercer, and chooses a dignified silence in reply to the mocking piano riffs of Nat Cole, that, my friend, may be the purest form of eloquence. Of course, it’s also possible that Paul is no longer capable of achieving anger, having purified his spirit and softened his mind by four decades of abstinence from the butcher’s counter at Waitrose.

In which case, I’ll answer on his behalf, in the form of the following Johnny Mercer-versus-Johnny Lennon mashup:

He’s an egg man. They are the egg men. He don’t eat no meat.


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