Monday, March 27, 2006

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Poofygoo is a vegetarian land, unless evolution dictates that you are an obligatory carnivore.

Reasons I Am A Vegetarian, in Order of Priority:
1. I do not find meat tasty1
2. I couldn't actually kill something to eat it- both lack of ability and desire prevent this (although, lucky me has never been hungry enough to be forced into such a situation)
3. A whole slew of ethical reasons, which are really just excuses to stand smugly satisfied on moral high ground rather than the actual reasons themselves

Great. Now that we've established that, let me tell you all a little story.

Saturday, I ate lunch at the Soho Cafe in Dupont Circle. The chef/manager/cashier etc. for the afternoon was a charming New Yorker- well, charming in an abrasive New York way that made me appreciate not living in New York. When I asked him what vegetarian items he had, he pointed out his corn chowder, which contained bacon. Containing bacon means it's not vegetarian. Even if it's chicken or beef stock, it's not vegetarian. Fish: not vegetarian, and will probably try to eat YOU. This comes as news to many, many people. In any case, I ordered the zucchini pasta salad, which was actually full of veggies instead of what you usually get at most cafes- a big bowl of pasta with a few token lonely veggies. I also got the "vegetarian" bean soup. To be fair, it was delicious- every bite jumped out all over my tongue, pleasing every kind of tastebud with a full, rich flavor, but not overwhelming any one flavor. This chef knew his soup.

But about halfway through my soup I noticed a foreign object. Foreign to me, anyways. I passed it on to the Object, also a vegetarian, but who has eaten meat more recently than I. His best guess was that it was bacon, possibly beef.

I didn't get too upset, because for one thing, the soup was really tasty and I wanted to keep eating it, and for another I was really enjoying my time in the caf. I didn't feel like being the asshole vegetarian, which in most circles, and judging by the chef's earlier comments, gets you associated with crazy PETA types2. I will go to great lengths to avoid people casting such aspersions on me. So I ate the soup, and spent the afternoon in the cafe.

Here's the thing: today I'm paying the price. I'm home from work with a case of severe gut rot. Taco Bell-style gut rot. Don't worry, I won't go into details, though I did briefly consider liveblogging the whole thing. But I'm home from work on a day when I really want to be there. I'm missing a huge networking opportunity, as well as not being there to support my team as they finish up a project. I hate it- letting them down, and also not being there for an opportunity that won't come again for a year.

You know what? I think it's a pretty heavy price to pay for having eaten meat. Look, I realize that vegetarianism is my lifestyle choice. I wasn't born this way. I don't look at my brussels sprouts lovingly and ask, "Why cain't I quit you?" 3 I have suffered through countless dinners at restaurants where all I could eat was an iceberg lettuce salad, and I haven't said anything, because I valued the time with the company I was with more than I valued complaining about my choice. A few months ago, I was invited to a dinner party for a friend's birthday. The hostess, who was not the guest of honor, called me up beforehand to let me know that she would be accomodating my vegetarianism by making mashed potatoes4,and if I didn't like it, I could bring my own food. Well, I wasn't going to skip my friend's birthday party, as she rocks. So I cooked my own food. I also brought enough to share with other guests. Actually, the tastiest thing that night was the look on the hostess's face when everyone gobbled up my food and asked me all about it. Oh and the cake that someone made. That was delicious, too.

I realize being a vegetarian is a luxury, but it's been so long since I've eaten meat that my body will no longer digest it. When I studied abroad in Senegal, I tried so hard to be culturally sensitive and to eat the goat and fish dishes that were specially prepared for me, the guest of honor. In one very unfortunate incident, I gave evidence of my vegetarian status by regurgitating goat all over the table. After that, I just told people I was allergic to meat. They seemed to accept as one of the many idiosyncracies of the white girl. It was easier than trying to explain that I came from a culture where being a vegetarian is an option, which shocked the cultural nerves of many Senegalese. Being able to afford and having the time to prepare meat evidenced high social standing. When I told them how factory farming, hormones and mass production has made meat cheap, plentiful and low-quality in the U.S., they looked at me like I was, well, a foreigner. I got that look a lot.

If I had stayed in Senegal, I would have started eating meat. It's part of their culture. But here in the U.S., our relationship to food isn't so much about how it nourishes us. We've changed it, processed it, mass-marketed it, glutted ourselves on it, and starved ourselves avoiding it. In Senegal, my host sisters asked me if there really was a disease where American girls commit suicide by not eating, or if that was made up. They were referring to anorexia.

We don't know what food means to us anymore, but we reserve the right to our strong opinions on it. I don't like meat. I'm rich enough to afford veggies and tofu, and I have enough leisure time to come up with a well-rounded menu and recipes. All this means is that I can stomp my little foot and say, "I don't want to eat that." In fact, when I pulled that little stunt when I was about ten or so, my carnivorous mom sent me to the doctor, who assured my parents that the only thing vegetarianism would do to my life would probably be to prolong it5.

The average person in the U.S. watching t.v. is assaulted once every 13.2 minutes by a public service announcement telling us to tolerate each and respect each other's differences6. Here's a great place to start. Just let me be a vegetarian. If you want to eat meat, fine. I have no problem with the meat eating. Yes, I have problems with factory farming raping the environment, freaky food with hormones I don't want in my body, reducing the worth of an animal's life to nothing more than a commodity,the meat industry, agribusiness,and so-called "food" that has no nourishing value whatsoever, but I don't have an inherent problem with eating meat. I really just don't want to. So don't try and sneak it on me. Cuz my gut will figure it out, and then I will come and use your bathroom.

1. I do not find several foods and food categories tasty. I'd like to make a disctinction, though- this doesn't mean I'm a picky eater. On the contrary, I'm a very adventurous eater, and will eat most things once. I am just very aware of what I don't like. Why eat food if it's not tasty?

2. The only groups that supercede the PETA people as groups I will cross the street to avoid the wake of their craziness are the Scientologists and the Lyndon LaRouche peope. Although the latter are kind of funny to laugh at. Actually, they all are.
3. Ok, I do. They're so good, though!Shout-out to my mom's tasty brussels sprouts- I think I grew up in the only household in the U.S. where we actually fought over seconds of brussels sprouts.

3. Mashed potatoes- with gravy.

4. That was probably one of the greatest self-satisfied moments of my life. It set a dangerous precedent of me demanding my own way. If that doctor had known what's really good for the world, he would have told me to shit up and eat my cow. Giving children the power of knowing they're right is a slippery slope leading right to a world of empowered grown-ups who are secure in the choices the make.

5. I made that statistic up. But it has a certain ring of truthiness to it, so just go with it, ok?


Blogger The Bird said...

Now that is a damn good little diatribe there, Ninja! Well played and good form!

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smart, funny, and sassy!!!!

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cake .... ???

And you say your a vegetarian, Now last time I checked one of the main ingrediants in cake besides flour (which you are all good there unless you got a crazy Wheat allergy) is EGG , last time I checked there egg is not a vegetarian item,

2:44 AM  
Blogger jason_uk said...

Actually egg is vegetarian...
it is not vegan..

one of the common misunderstandings..
i believe some people refer to the oridanry vegetarian now as 'ovo-lacto-vegetarian' but again this is a silliness.. vegies have always eaten dairy and eggs..
there is some debate as to whether these should be free-range or not but otherwise eggs are fine

11:13 AM  

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