“Precarious masculinity” has been cited by psychologists as a possible reason why only 24 per cent of vegans are male (BBC Future 18/02/20)….
Ugg trudged wearily into the cave, flung his spear into a corner, then flopped cross-legged to the floor.
“Honey, I’m home,” he said.
“Hello Dear,” said Ogga. “Dinner’s almost ready.”
Ugg lay onto his back, letting the tension of a long day’s hunting ease from his muscles. Gradually, though, he felt uneasy. Something was different. He sat up with a jerk when he realised what it was.
There was no smell of bacon.
“I thought you said dinner was ready?” he called out.
Ogga came out from the back of the cave, looking nervous, and held out a stone plate. Small cubes of food were piled upon it. Ugg raised one eyebrow, this being the maximum number available to him.
“What’s this?” he asked.
Ogga gave him what she hoped was a bright smile. “It’s tofu,” she said.
Ugg glared at her. “Have you been hunting?” he asked.
“Hunting?” said Ogga, startled. “Why would you think that?”
“Because I certainly didn’t catch this,” said Ugg. “I’ve never even seen a tofu, with its beige skin and -” he looked down at the plate “- its apparently square testicles. So you must have caught it.”
“No, dear,” said Ogga “It isn’t -”
“Is my hunting not good enough for you?” said Ugg. “Do I not catch enough boars, and oxen, and mammoths?”
“You’ve never caught a mammoth,” said Ogga, before she could stop herself.
“Well,” said Ugg defensively, “that’s because they’re huge. The clue’s in the name. You should try it sometime -” he stopped, realising where this was taking him “- actually, no, you shouldn’t. Leave the hunting to me.”
Ogga sighed. “I’ve been trying to tell you,” she said. “Tofu isn’t an animal. It’s coagulated soy milk.”
Ugg looked in disgust at his plate. “You’re not really selling it with that sentence,” he said. “What’s soy milk?”
“It comes from soybeans,” said Ogga.
“You milked beans?” said Ugg. “You must have used an awfully low stool. Anyway, why bother? Why not just roast some boar, like you normally do?”
This was the part Ogga had been dreading. “Because we’re vegans now,” she said.
“You’re saying that like it’s an actual word,” said Ugg. “What’s a vegan?”
“Someone who doesn’t eat meat, or fish, or eggs,” said Ogga.
“You’re thinking of vampires,” said Ugg.
“No, I’m not,” said Ogga. “I’m thinking of people who believe that animals and humans should share the planet, with no killing.”
“You should tell that to the bears,” said Ugg. “Anyway, if we don’t kill animals, there’s nothing to eat.”
“There’s loads to eat,” said Ogga. “There’s fruit, and vegetables. There’s seeds -” she saw the look on Ugg’s face, and hurried quickly on “- and pulses. Grain and rice. Nuts.”
“It certainly is,” said Ugg. He put down his plate and looked away from her, into the fire, the fire that he that morning had lit. He stared into it, through it, far off into an unfathomable distance. His meal remained untouched, and eventually Ogga took it silently away.
Then she came back, sat down beside him, and put her arm through his.
“You’ll still be my man,” she whispered.
“Will I, though?” he burst out passionately. He turned to look at her, imploringly. “I hunt. I catch our food. That’s what men do.”
“That’s not all that men do,” said Ogga. “You’ll still be my protector. You’ll still fart louder than I do (Ugg knew that this wasn’t true, but also knew enough not to say so). You’ll still understand the offside rule, though neither of us have any idea what its purpose is.”
She nodded at the fire. “You’ll still make my fire burn.” She hugged his arm tighter, and winked. “In every meaning of that phrase.”
Their gaze met and locked, bonded by a shared life, shared respect, shared love. Eventually he shrugged, then laughed.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I’m just thinking about the cave artists,” said Ugg, “having to draw men with spears, chasing a potato.”