Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Politics of Eating

I came across an interesting article recently. It discusses food politics between a couple: she is a vegan, he is an omnivore. Wow, doesn’t this sound familiar?! I was not a vegetarian when I met my husband. The only thing that was not a part of my diet at the time was red meat which I cut out when I was 18.

My decision to stop eating animals was twofold: Health and Compassion, in that order. My passage into the world of vegetarianism was not a hurried one. First, red meat, then other mammals (chicken, pork, turkey, etc…), lastly, fish got the boot. Then, I decided to give up dairy for two reasons. First, I am lactose intolerant. My body rejects milk and milk-based products for a reason; I shouldn’t force it to accept something I don’t need. Secondly, I had my gall bladder removed in April of 2007. After undergoing a surgery, albeit a minor one, I never want to go through that again if I can help it; eating a plant-based diet is the healthiest/best way to ensure that.

I still eat food that tastes good and I can still indulge my sweet tooth! I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything; I actually feel like I’ve gained so much.
You can’t watch what goes on inside a slaughterhouse and push those images to the back of your mind. You can’t watch animals writhing in pain, being treated with the same respect you give gum on your shoe and comfortably swallow your Big Mac.  (What happens after you swallow that burger??)

But, what about “organic meat”? It still carries hormones, cholesterol and the fact that a living being is being raised only to be killed. Plus, organic meat wastes precious resources like water, grain and land and pollutes the air we breathe. I’ll spare you the details, but if you’d like more info is a fantastic fact-based site.

Back to my original reason for this post: Can vegetarians and omnivores live in harmony? In a [vegan] nutshell, yes! The hubby and I do it all the time. It’s called compromise. It takes practice and some juggling of viewpoints. Ultimately, food is a basic element in everyone’s life; we all need it to survive. Start there.

I try not to bring up the “V word”, but seems like there is food everywhere. Nearly every social gathering will include food. “Piggies” in blankets, crab puffs, sausage balls, cheese balls, veggies w/ some kind of sour cream/mayo concoction – all things taboo in Monica’s Book of Ethics. In the south, there’s even bacon in the veggies! Oh, the horror!

Bringing up your views of religion, abortion or politics tends to go over easier in a social situation than mentions you’re a vegan. Sometimes it really sucks being a vegan in a meat-eaters world. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. No fancy Italian leather shoes or handbags for me! I can’t pick up a lot of my vegan necessities at a regular grocery store. I can’t go to just any restaurant. I must always bring food to gatherings (but I would do that regardless); a girl can’t live on raw veggies and crackers alone! Well, she can, but she’d get bloated/gassy and that isn’t cute!

Having reservations about what someone else chooses to eat can be as insulting as questioning their religion. Trust me, I’ve had years of experience with people giving me the Stink Eye as soon as the word vegetarian – or worse, vegan – comes out of my mouth. It’s like living in a Marilyn Manson concert when you’re the only member of Young Life.

It’s hard to connect with people when they feel you’re judging them. Food isn’t just nourishment; it is a major bonding experience. It conjures memories of family dinners, holidays, special events like graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. These moments bond us and the dishes we make for these moments speak volumes. You can tell who cooks with love and who shops hastily in the frozen food section.
But, yeah, I do judge others; I judge them as soon as they judge me. As soon as my morals and values are diminished and disrespected, you can be sure I will lose any respect I had for your right to eat what you want to. Deliberately shoving meat through your plump cheeks while ill-mannered moans of ecstasy waft out will guarantee a place for you on my No Likey list. (Yeah, this has actually happened…several times). I won’t waste my breath on the horrors of factory farming or the global impact the meat industry has on our delicate planet because they won’t appreciate any of it and they aren’t worth it.  At the end of the day, it’s their heart being destroying, so go on and have another burger.  I will not respect anyone's right to act like a total jackass. This is what irritates me the most; the ignorance of where food comes from and how it gets to your table.

Respect my right to eat compassionately and I will respect your right to eat meat.

There must be compromise in everyone’s life. It is an essential tool of existing in peace. This philosophy can be applied to nearly every conflict on the planet. If we all learn to give a little more, bitch a little less and make a little room next to our beliefs, this world would be a more peaceful place. Be open to a new experience, influence or behavior, you may find it makes you a better, more successful person. Omnivores and Herbivores (i.e. my husband and I) can cohabitate in peace and harmony because of our mutual love of so many other things. The majority of my friends, co-workers and family are meat eaters. I get along perfectly fine with them all. And it is always a joy when someone asks for diet/nutritional advice or is simply curious about my lifestyle. It isn’t my evil plan to turn the world vegetarian. I just want us all to get along.

Peace, love and compassionate eating,
                   - Monica

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