There’s this joke that I tell – and before anyone gets all offended, understand that I do this to quash the guilt I feel about my love for the food of the carnivores.
The joke goes like this: How do you know there’s a vegan in the room? They tell you. Often and loudly.
I am conflicted about the vegan movement. Vegetarianism I get and in a pinch, could go that route. But veganism strikes me as a very privileged eating choice – very first world. I also get a bit annoyed by those whose choice it is to eat vegan stems from their discomfort with the treatment of the animals we eat. I get that, completely. But what about the itinerant farm workers who pick your vegetables? I ask. What about the damage done to the earth by lack of crop rotation, or flooding parts of the deserts in the Baja peninsula to grow your organic tomatoes? If I started down the vegan route, I would be reduced to growing my own carrots in a backyard plot with seeds that have not been Monsanto-ed. And that’s all I could eat because moral relativism has never been my strong suit.
I know a fellow who is a vegan. He does it for his health. When he was younger, he’d show up to parties and get-togethers loudly and frequently proclaiming his veganism, and everyone would rush about accommodating him. I felt it was just attention-seeking behaviour, particularly when he would down 10 or so beers and smoke a pack of ciggies. Hard to take the health argument seriously. He’s older and wiser now, and has embraced a bit of cheese. Bless. We have discussions about veganism and I argue my points and he argues his.
And to be perfectly frank, I agree with a lot of it. The entire planet would be better off if we ate a completely plant-based diet. Not only would we be healthier, all those obesity-related diseases a thing of the past, but our actual planet would be healthier. Think of the rain forests, left standing instead of clear cut to graze cattle for McDonalds and its ilk. Think of hectares and hectares of vegetation feeding oxygen instead of methane gas into our atmosphere. Wow.
Unfortunately, there’s this craving, this deep and at times primal craving for MEAT. Fatty goodness. Crispy chicken skin, the fond in the bottom of the roasting pan, oxtail stew slowly braised in a good bottle of burgundy. How does one reconcile that?
I ameliorate my guilt somewhat by buying happy animals. Locally farmed, raised without antibiotics and cruelty free. This only goes so far, because like I said, I’m not so good at moral relativism. I wouldn’t kill any of those animals myself – okay, maybe a chicken. But not a cow, not a pig, not a lamb. It’s complicated and guilt inducing. So food is a different sort of guilt this time. Not the guilt of eating too much or eating stuff that’s bad for you. The guilt of eating another once-living creature and eating foods that are damaging and not healing to the planet. That sort of guilt.
What’s your food philosophy?