April 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
I wonder if vegans today are like the early abolitionists who maintained dedication even though they knew they’d likely never see a cultural shift in their lifetimes. I like to fantasize that, in the future, people will look back and think us barbarians for treating animals the way we do.
Do you think it could ever happen?
Not with reckless appetites like mine around: I love cheese. I love cheeseburgers. I love cheesecake. I love cheese omelets, and french toast, and have an idea to fry up a grilled cheese made out of french toast one of these days. Gouda or Havarti? Neither: camembert, of course.
But dairy’s not all. I love shrimp and salmon, too. I don’t love chicken, but I love chicken pot pie turned golden brown from butter. I like turkey on Thanksgiving, and I love gravy on my turkey. But I’d give up both of those if it meant hours around the table with can after can of cold lager, endless conversation, and a pile of spicy blue crabs.
Cows. Hens. Shrimp. Salmon. Chickens. Turkeys. Crabs. These are the beings whose flavor makes my transformation to an empathic diet seem difficult. Why do they have to taste so good? Alternatives to animal products are limited for me. I have a seriously wicked aversion to vegetables. My gag reflex has never been suppressed.
Other people can see broccoli, catch a whiff of its aroma, put a bit of it into their mouths, chew it, swallow it and go on to say, “I just don’t care for broccoli.” Not me. Broccoli does not enter my mouth. It never has. “But it’s good for you,” people say. I have to remind myself that they’re making dinner party small talk; they mean no harm.
Regardless of my adoration of cheese and my abhorrence of greens, my intention to eat with more compassion continues to grow. Thus, my new and developing practice of “Vegan Mondays”. I figure, if I can think about food from the right angle, I’ll be able to more frequently abstain from animal products. Here’s the mental game I’m using this week:
When I eye a wedge of Humboldt Fog in the market or ponder heading to Lares for a quesadilla, I ask myself in a really loving tone, “Would you be willing to forgo this pleasure if you knew that doing so would relieve the suffering of another being?” And then I answer, “Yes.”
And I pretend, having answered yes, that it matters. I say, “pretend,” because how can one person eating less cheese really relieve the suffering of other beings? How? It doesn’t matter how.
The idea that my actions are inconsequential because I am only one person . . . because it’s only one wedge of so-incredibly-tasty-good cheese . . . because I can’t imagine how anything will stop the billion dollar industries that produce food people crave. . . . Those ideas don’t work any more.
I’m ready to be more responsible about the fact that as a consumer, I am anything but powerless.
So maybe there is hope. The growing number of my friends who are vegetarian and vegan gives me hope. The Meatless Monday movement gives me hope. Maybe most of all, the flavor of the Tofurky Italian Sausage that I’m about to heat up for dinner gives me hope.
What gives you hope?
Update 4/12/2012: This week Nicholas Kristof published an Op-Ed in the NYTimes called “Is an Egg for Breakfast Worth This?”. It’s absolutely moving and I find my egg cravings have magically vanished. He mentions (far more intelligently than I have) the “arc of empathy” — yet another reason to hope (suspect?) that a cultural shift is occurring. Thank you, Mr. Kristof.
November 20, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I don’t know what possessed me to do it. I was standing at the stove skimming Nick Kristof’s latest column, feeling intrigued by this quote:
“Michael Spence, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who shares a concern about rising inequality, told me that we’ve seen ‘an evolution from one propertied man, one vote; to one man, one vote; to one person, one vote; trending to one dollar, one vote.’”
I had a freshly cracked egg in a bowl, the small skillet heating up, an oven filled with hot walnut-pecan-blueberry-whole-grain-pancakes and was killing time while Andy finished putting the clothes in the dryer. My plan was to pour the final batch of pancakes on the griddle and start his egg frying as soon as he returned from the laundry room.
I was all, wow, one dollar, one vote, when completely without segue, this popped into my head:
Wouldn’t a grilled cheese made with pancakes instead of bread be good?
Out came two pancakes from the oven; I coated them with vegan butter spread, and slapped on a slice of Havarti. I had it grilled, quartered and arranged on our adorable tapas plates by the time Andy returned. “Presenting a tasting of our chef’s newest creation.”
He loved it; even forewent his usual ketchup. The blueberries and nuts complimented the melted cheese deliciously.
I just googled “grilled cheese made with pancakes” to see how behind the times I am, and discovered that the idea doesn’t seem to be widespread. However, I did learn of (get! this!) grilled cheese made with — guest starring in the role of bread — POTATO pancakes. It features blue cheese, fontal cheese, and apples (baked with a dusting of granulated sugar and a double dusting of brown sugar). Shut. Up!
Guess what else I’ll be making before too long? Grilled cheese made with pumpkin bread! What cheese would be good with that? Gruyere? Cambozola? Both?
What’s that I hear? Is it a cow mooing from deep inside a factory dairy? Nope. It’s the pitter-patter of scrambled guilt sizzling away on the stove.
Will I ever break my addiction to animal products? And what does any of this have to do with Kristof’s column? Did I somehow mean to imply that economic inequality is to blame for my cruel eating habits? That would be preposterous. Where’s my editor? Who’s in control of this post?
One thing I do know is that tomorrow is Meatless Monday — my newly appointed day of the week to go, not only meatless, but vegan.
Last week — my inaugural Vegan Monday — worked out well with this menu for the day:
Breakfast — Kashi Go Lean cereal (which has honey, so technically not vegan, but I’m allowing it for the time being) with vanilla soy milk
Snack — handful of walnuts
Lunch — PB&J sandwich with edamame
Snack — raw carrots
See how easy it is? And I don’t even like vegetables.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will report that the day prior (last Sunday), I had a cheeseburger. Thoughts of Boris did nothing to stave off my beef craving. It was as if I was acting out to compensate for the discipline I’d committed to showing the following day. I don’t like the idea of surrendering to this pattern.
Here’s an idea: maybe I ought to start a counter. It’s been seven days since I last ate beef. How long can I abstain? Setting a specific intention will improve the likelihood of success.
“Andy, how long shall I attempt to go without eating beef? 30? 60? 90 days?”
“You’re not going to get anywhere near that.”
“What?” my jaw lowered in disbelief, “What did you say?”
“Why set yourself up f–”
“Oh. It’s on.” 100 days! That would be until February 28, 2012. I say, “100 days.”
Andy laughs, “It is to laugh.” Then continues, “I, and the imaginary cows you pretend you won’t be eating, thank you in advance.”
So there you have it, no beef for at least 100 days, and tomorrow, like all Mondays for the indefinite future, will be 100% animal free (with the exception of the honey in my cereal).
November — NaBloPoMo — Day Twenty
November 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I’m hopping on to the Meatless Monday bandwagon and I want you to join me.
You who? You reading this. That you.
We don’t have to be purists to make a difference.
My meat intake is sporadic, so I’ll be using Mondays for a once-a-week start at veganism. I figure if I blog the intention (check), I’ll gain some momentum in the right direction.
I could sit here transcribing all the stats on why eating fewer animal products is a good idea (even for people who eat meat six other days of the week), but there’s only about 150 more minutes of sunlight today, and I’m determined not to miss my walk in the fresh air.
So, if you’re curious, google “Meatless Mondays” and see for yourself about all the benefits.
All aboard? If not, why? Let’s discuss in the comments.
November — NaBloPoMo — Day Thirteen
October 28, 2011 § 2 Comments
Many years ago, there was a non-vegan vegetarian equestrian I swore I was in love with who introduced me to his horse and ruined my tolerance for all things gelatin.
Who really craves JELL-O anyway?
Perhaps it’s not odd happenstance; perhaps it’s predictably typical of my demographic (whatever that is) that for more than a decade, most of my partners have been incredibly ethical, compassionate eaters.
“You are beyond reproach,” I’ve been known to say as my companions fill up on all manner of veggie tofu dishes, and I make mental suppositions about the limited brain activity of the shrimp on my plate, to ease my guilt, you know.
Slowly, I’ve tracked subtle changes in my own eating habits.
A while back, not long after I wrote a post about my food conflicts, I adopted a surprisingly useful technique for weaning myself from chicken. I simply think of this bird.
Belina, being held by Fairuza Balk as Dorothy in Return to Oz.
The movie is not as hideous as one might imagine. Belina is pretty much the only thing I remember (other than the creepy long limbed creatures, which were a total mistake).
It’s perfect, really. Belina is held and loved by Dorothy just as if she were a little dog. No one would ever eat Toto. Now, when I see the word “chicken” on a menu, I invariably think of Belina. Chicken = Belina. Belina = adorable feathered friend, plump as our cat Lily used to be, and probably every bit as wonderful.
Belina! I can’t say her name without a hint of whine. Andy is used to this. We’ll be at All India Cafe, where it’s tricky for me because of my vegephobia. I’ll skim the menu. He’ll say, “Get the chicken tika marsala, you love that.” I’ll say, “Bell-een-na!” He’ll say, “It’s okay, honey.” It’s taken years and a whole lot of Belinas on my fork and tongue, but I do believe I’ve finally made the transition to preferring the tofu nirvana over the chicken.
Beef has been the last hold out. Give me a finely prepared rare cheeseburger with a glass of cabernet, and satisfaction sets in. I have, lately, come to think of each burger as a someone — or, more correctly, a ground-up part of several someones. For a while, that level of consciousness — a pause of regret prior to biting down — felt like enough of a step in the right direction.
I won’t take credit for their names; the photo is a part of a post called “A Bovine Sophie’s Choice. The author, Holly Cheever, DVM, poses a lot of ideas about the complex reasoning of a particular cow. She takes some pretty big leaps in logic, but I won’t be the one to argue with her. I’m grateful to have encountered the story of her experience. She’s doing important work.
For me, today, the picture is working. I can’t wait to introduce these beautiful girls to Andy so that when we’re at Bar Food next, and I abstain from my usual burger with a cry of “Sophies!” he’ll know exactly who I’m talking about. Now if only they’d make the scrumptious potato puffs without butter and milk.
Update: Farm Sanctuary has posted new photos of their residents. This is Boris. I’m so glad they rescued him from me.
April 11, 2010 § 1 Comment
Last weekend, I opened a can of “deluxe” mixed nuts (not the ones with peanuts that make all the other nuts taste peanutty) and took out a single macadamia. Raising it to my mouth, I thought, “Just eat one.” So I paused.
It was my inner dialogue again: Super Ego with her Id, Angel with her Devil, Bossy Imaginary Friend with her Impressionable Less Confident Playmate.
“But I need a snack and wow the generic grocery store brand is trying hard. There must be 35% macadamias in here. Four. Four’s not pigging out.”
“One. . . . think about it. What if you had only one.”
So I did think about it. What if there was only one?
I can’t remember the last time I had only one of something. Even if it’s the type of food that I choose to eat only a fraction of (like cheeseburgers or chocolate Easter bunnies, for example), I’ve got access to however many I want as often as I want them.
Now, that’s no small feat. In the not so distant past, you had to (a) find a cow and (b) kill it or know someone who would. Then get them to share it with you. Oh, but wait, if you didn’t have a second cow to provide milk so that you could make cheese before you killed the first cow that kind of blows your chances of this being a cheeseburger. So there’s planning involved, too. Meanwhile, who’s planting the grain so that you can eventually bake bread for the bun?
It’s not just about food. Even my bigger luxuries, the more expensive ones that I could never invent myself, like my computer and car are things that, if damaged or old, I replace — usually without ever having to do without. Not even for a single day.
I stood there in the kitchen holding that macadamia nut halfway between my mouth and the can of 40 other macadamias (with cashews and pecans, too). I asked myself again, “What if there was only one?”
I imagined places all over the world where people never get things like macadamia nuts. Or milk chocolate or beef. Or clean water.
In that moment of imagining the deprivation of others, I realized that I am deprived of something too: the joy of savoring a solitary treat.
Do you remember before VCRs or DVD players? When there were only 7 channels on TV. The Wizard of Oz came on once a year. We would talk about it in school for the whole week leading up to it. And in the months in between showings, we’d take turns being Dorothy acting out the story in our back yards.
I did eat just one macadamia nut that day last weekend. And I ate it mindfully, enjoying it as best as I could—with gratitude. The feeling carried over to next time I washed my hands with soap under warm running water. I savored the gift of that – trying to imagine all the people on Earth who have limited access to drinking water, let alone water to wash with.
But the next day, I showered for 20 minutes and noshed on handfuls of that peanut free mix. As the week went on, I ate another $17 burger (spread out over two meals) and had a chocolate bunny ear, too. Just yesterday, I streamed Gene Wilder’s awesome voice over from Young Frankenstein as featured on The Colbert Report not once, but three times. Because I wanted to.
I guess it depends on my own willingness to be conscious if I want to get this savoring thing down (unless the big one hits or I’m maimed into a wheelchair or some other event occurs that forces everyday luxuries into scarcity). I might as well practice while I still have a choice.