Why I could never go vegetarian and other discussions about food
When it has chowed itself all the way down to its head (which is, itself, doing the chowing-down) it will very closely resemble my lifespan.
I highly suggest reading “A philosophy of reincarnation” first. The disclaimer there stands here (and is probably more pertinent here), and this post is basically part deux.
Occasionally people ask me why, if I’m an environmentalist and a wildlife biologist and all that jazz, am I not vegetarian? I usually shrug and say something along the lines of “Life without fajitas just isn’t worth living.”
Remember I said that “You are what you eat. You are what your food ate, and what your food’s food ate.” This is the reincarnation I believe in. It’s not the soul that gets recycled, it’s the body. All the things you eat, you become; all the things that eat you, become you. And not necessarily after death. You’re constantly shedding skin cells and hair, and something has to deal with the wastes you eliminate.
So with that in mind, eating something (or someone) is less an act of barbarism than a ritual of respect. (Forgive my couching this in spiritual terms.) Therefore, the idea of not eating meat because I “love animals” is ridiculous. I love animals, so I eat them.
This particular worldview does require some responsibility, though. I fully believe that the way food is treated in America needs to be changed. If eating is a respectful act, then the animal/plant being eaten needs to be treated in a respectful way. I’m not saying we should decorate cattle with flowers and ritually slaughter them, although if that’s your prerogative, I’d love to be invited. I’m saying enough with the hormones, enough with the sub-par feeds, the pesticides/herbicides, and the barbaric conditions.
Eating locally may not ultimately reduce the amount of CO2 pumped into the air, but localized small-scale farming tends to be more respectful than industrial agriculture. Smaller plots tended with more care, often with Actual Human Interaction™! (But with almost seven billion humans on this planet, going without industrial agriculture completely would probably be a disaster.)
It’s not just the way the food is treated while alive that needs to be changed, though. Once the food is harvested, it often becomes something unrecognizable. What the hell is a Cheez-It made from, anyway? They say cheese, but what kind of cheese can sit on a shelf without being refrigerated? Just how many ingredients are necessary to make syrup? And just what is your TV dinner made of? We’ve become so accustomed to having our food manipulated that we eat things that don’t even look like food.
The hardest part, for me, anyway, is the eating part. Sitting down, eating the food, and paying attention to it. The food. Not the computer, the TV, or a book. Holding a conversation over dinner is acceptable. But the food still requires attention. Slow down.
I can’t sum it up better than Michael Pollan did when he said “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
If I did sum it up on my own though, I’d say this: Be picky. Be picky about what you buy, how it’s prepared, and how you eat it. Buy wholesome foods that are actually food. Cook it yourself. Eat it slow. It’s not easy. But don’t let that fool you. Very little that is worthwhile is easy or convenient.