Vegetarian Food for Thought; Or: how to love a carnivorePosted: November 7, 2012
I’ve tried not to preach my morals, but I have been giving a lot of thought to my vegetarianism, (excuse me: pescetarianism), of late, because I decided to raise my son as one.
Side note: I apologize deeply in conflating the two terms, which are obviously very different. I will address this soon, but I have to explain a few other things first.
I choose not to eat land animals for many reasons. It started off because I did not like the taste. I’d bitten into too many chewy tendons and inedible globules of adipose tissue to be able to look at my plates with a healthy attitude. Meal times were filled with fear, seeming to radiate the negative energy that went into putting the food on my plate. Just for a second, imagine you’re a hen. You cluck around the yard, peck at grains, lay some eggs, cluck some more. Maybe you have chicken thoughts of providing a nice life for your offspring, maybe you just cluck. You definitely feel pain though. A chicken is not going to willingly let its head get cut off. Think about how scary it must be for a simple little farm yard animal to get plucked up by its legs and flung around into tiny cages, eventually getting its neck cut off. Now, I am sure there is some science out there that can claim that chickens and hens and ducks are all killed in very peaceful and humane ways, that they didn’t feel pain. Those are undoubtedly rare cases, if they even work. I believe that the moment before a chicken dies he is horrified, the passage from life cannot be painless–or at least, fear-free.
Think about the last time you were scared. I can remember easily–a loud bang from downstairs that terrified me. I knew no one else was home, and my body tensed with nervous adrenaline and blood cooling fear. This was passive though, only sligtly akin to what that baby cow, or mother goose, has in its body when its life leaves. She yields her physical body for our nutrition. No thanks. I’d rather go hungry than have that poison energy as fuel for my body.
Ahimsa, a yogic doctrine of this idea, encourages you to stay away from “tamasic” food–mushrooms, for example, because they’re grown in darkness; blue cheeses, which are really molds and putridity. Of course, I love mushrooms (did you know you can put them in the sun to absorb vitamin D?), and cheese features prominently in my diet. But if you think about it, and really believe in a life force, it is a rational argument and makes even more sense when you apply it to flesh.
So that brings me to my side note from the beginning. I feel lucky that I’m now able to fully enjoy my meals and food, because it helps me to appreciate life. I pinpointed the aspects that were causing me anxiety, and now thrive on a highly vegetarian, often raw and vegan, and undoubtedly nutritious and wholesome diet.
However, I do eat fish, and the reasons are twofold:
- Though I feel sorry for the sea animals I eat if I consciously think about it, they are far enough removed from me as a mammal to give me the justification to eat them. They don’t breathe air or walk on the earth, mollusks don’t live in family groups or nurse their young.
- It is 100% easier and more enjoyable to go out to dinner if I have half the menu to choose from, instead of just one or two options.
I know these may be poor reasons, but that is my truth.
Eating fish (and eggs, and cheese) is one very small sacrifice I make to keep my marriage happy. I would never ask my husband to be a vegetarian, just like he would never ask me to eat a steak. I’m happy to enjoy a plate of mussels or calamari on a date, we eat grains, and beans, and a lot of meals at home with our own protein additions. I make my husband turkey sandwiches, buy his hamburger at the grocery store; he brings home new micro greens from his vendors, and has taught me how to cook perfect lentils. I enjoy telling people that my husband is a hard core meat lover, I feel like it humanizes what many view as a foreign and nonsensical diet.
Primum non nocere. Ahimsa. The Categorical Imperative. Treat others how you want to be treated. Love thy neighbor. All these terms and phrases get at the heart of one of my favorite maxims. Who can justify an action that does not bring good should everyone choose to act the same? Now is the time when I could on one hand spout off all the ecological goodness that it would do the planet if everyone ate broccoli instead of hamburgers, and on the other cite articles that warn us against eating rice. I’m not suggesting everyone should do what I do. I just like to draw attention to the possibility of latent energy inside things.
True story: one night many years ago, my husband offered to cook me a grilled cheese sandwich after a long day. Maybe he didn’t really want to and was just being nice, or maybe we got in an argument part way through, but when I went to eat it, I couldn’t. It was inedible. The cheese tasted like putrid plastic, and I nibbled around the corners for a minute until I threw it out. The yogis will tell you that the mental state and emotions of the cook go into the food that is being prepared. At the ashram I lived at, whenever we worked in the kitchen we sang bright chants and everyone was smiling. No wonder the food tasted beautiful. Like when the full cow wants to be milked, and when apples fall naturally from the tree, there is a goodness in eating food that is abundant naturally and peacefully.