ROSS O’CAR­ROLL- KELLY

‘ Honor is read­ing out the var­i­ous menu items just to drive her storv­ing mother de­mented. It’s quite funny ac­tu­ally’

The Irish Times Magazine - - COVER STORY -

Sor­cha calls us for din­ner – or what she calls din­ner? When I ar­rive down­stairs to the kitchen, the is­land is cov­ered with what look like the in­gre­di­ents for a cake – we’re talk­ing bowls of dried fruit, then a plate of some weird stuff that seems to be mostly saw­dust and looks like it was swept off the floor of a pub in Tem­ple Bor.

Honor looks at me with hor­ror spread­ing across her face. “Oh my God,” she goes, “she’s def­i­nitely lost it this time. You need to phone a doc­tor to come and give her a shot of some­thing.”

Sor­cha goes, “Stop be­ing ridicu­lous, Honor! We could all do with los­ing a few pounds after the Christ­mas we’ve had – and that in­cludes you, Ross!”

Yeah, no, my wife’s ef­forts to lose a lot of weight in a very short space of time are a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the O’Car­roll- Kelly New Year. We all re­mem­ber the Sleep­ing Beauty Diet of 2007. The Tape­worm Diet of 2009. The IV Drip Diet of 2011. The Chew and Spit Diet of 2012. And the Cot­ton Wool Diet of 2014. They’re al­ways pretty ex­treme, which is why they never last more than a few days.

I’m there, “I’m pre­sum­ing this is an­other one of your mad­cap ideas to try to lose two stone over the course of a long week­end?”

“There’s noth­ing mad­cap about it,” she goes. “It’s called the What Would Je­sus Eat Diet?”

Look it up. It’s an ac­tual thing.

She’s there, “You can stop rolling your eyes, Ross. This is sci­en­tif­i­cally proven. Some­one fa­mous did it – her name is in one of my mag­a­zines – and she lost, like, loads.”

I’m there, “So what ex­actly does the What Would Je­sus Eat Diet in­volve?”

“Well,” she goes, “you can eat only the things that Je­sus is men­tioned as hav­ing eaten in the four Gospels of the New Tes­ta­ment. We’re talk­ing figs, olives, pomegranates, grapes, vine­gar, low glycemic bread, then ob­vi­ously fish with fins and scales. Then you have in­ter­mit­tent pe­ri­ods of fast­ing, some­times last­ing up to 24 hours.”

“I’m hav­ing one of those in­ter­mit­tent pe­ri­ods right now,” I go. “Be­cause there’s no way I’m eat­ing any of this muck.”

Honor laughs, in fair­ness to her.

Sor­cha goes, “Do you know what your prob­lem is, Ross? You have no ca­pac­ity for do­ing things that are in any way dif­fi­cult.”

Which ac­tu­ally hurts, be­cause it’s ex­actly what De­clan Kid­ney said to me when he left me off the Ire­land schools team back in the day.

I’m there, “Well, you can stay here and eat this feast fit for a ham­ster if you want. I’m head­ing to Ed­die Rock­ets.”

“Me, too!” Honor goes, fol­low­ing me out to the door. “Do you want me to drive?”

I’m there, “I think I’ll drive this time if it’s all the same to you?”

Long story. Don’t ask.

Sor­cha goes, “I’m com­ing with you,” and I laugh be­cause I know how much she loves Eds.

I’m there, “I knew it!”

But she’s there, “I don’t have to eat any­thing, Ross! Some of us have a thing called willpower?” Again. De­clan Kid­ney.

Twenty min­utes later, we’re sit­ting in Ed’s in Stil­lor­gan Shop­ping Cen­tre and we’re try­ing to de­cide what to or­der. Honor is read­ing out the var­i­ous menu items just to drive her storv­ing mother de­mented. It’s quite funny ac­tu­ally.

Sor­cha is read­ing her own menu, go­ing, “I’m sure there are things on here that I can eat,” while at the same time look­ing at her phone, cross­check­ing var­i­ous items against, I’m pre­sum­ing, an on­line Bi­ble.

“Are you ac­tu­ally do­ing a word search of the Old Tes­ta­ment,” Honor goes, “for ‘ buf­falo chicken wings’ and ‘ gor­lic mush­rooms?’”

She can be ter­ri­bly cruel – it’s hi­lar­i­ous if you’re not the one on the re­ceiv­ing end.

“Ac­tu­ally,” Sor­cha goes, “I’ve found some­thing that I can have?”

When the wait­ress ar­rives over, Sor­cha goes, “Can I get the Fishy Fish Burger but with­out the cheese, let­tuce, onion and tar­tar sauce? Oh, and with­out the bun as well? Un­less you do un­leav­ened bread? Do you do un­leav­ened bread?” The wait­ress is just like, “Er, no.” “It’s fine then. I’ll just have the ac­tual fish.” Honor’s there, “You do know it comes in bread­crumbs, don’t you?”

“Well,” Sor­cha goes, “I’m sure they had bread­crumbs in Je­sus’s time, Honor.”

“What, they had Done­gal Catch, did they?” I laugh. No choice in the mat­ter. I’m there, “You are get­ting a high- five for that, Honor – that’s as sure as two points fol­lows five.”

“I’ll have the fish,” Sor­cha tells the wait­ress, “and I’ll just scrape off the bread­crumbs.”

I or­der a Clas­sic with ba­con and cheese fries and a side of chicken ten­ders with a choco­late malt to wash it down. Honor orders the chicken wings with cheese fries and a Coke.

Our food ar­rives and it smells in­cred­i­ble. Sor­cha keeps try­ing to put a brave face on things. She’s scrap­ing the bread­crumbs off her fish with a dessert spoon, at the same time go­ing, “As di­ets go, it’s not as re­stric­tive as you might think. It’s ba­si­cally just sim­ple Mediter­ranean food, whole­some and un­pro­cessed. We could all do with cut­ting things like flour and sugar out of our diet, as well as eat­ing more dates and legumes.”

Honor goes, “Se­ri­ously, Mom, you’re putting me off my food here?”

“It’s just takes a lit­tle bit of imag­i­na­tion,” Sor­cha goes – but, at the same time, I can see she’s, like, sali­vat­ing at the smell of our nose­bag. “For in­stance, for break­fast, I was think­ing I could have oat­meal with wal­nuts and berries and a glass of orange juice – freshly squeezed, ob­vi­ously. For lunch, I could have a tuna salad with tomato, cu­cum­ber and ro­maine let­tuce and then – this is the ex­cit­ing bit – as much bal­samic vine­gar and olive oil dress­ing as I want!”

I’m there, “Yeah, good luck with that Sor­cha.”

“Then, for din­ner, I could have some­thing like len­til soup to stort, fol­lowed by grilled salmon with steamed broc­coli with hum­mus on it and then-.”

She ac­tu­ally gives up mid- sen­tence. She reaches across the ta­ble and takes my burger out of my hands and sinks her teeth into it. She’s sud­denly got, like, grease and may­on­naise and tomato juice spilling down her chin.

“How long did that last?” I go. Honor’s like, “I make it about four hours.”

And I’m there, “A new record so!”

IL­LUS­TRA­TION: ALAN CLARKE

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