Friday, December 12, 2008

Vegans and Vegetarians

This is so embarrassing to admit, but after months of short subway rides I am still reading Barbara Kingsolver's book: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

It's so filled with information, recipes, and ideas that I find I can only take in so much (just an excuse for my laziness), but for me it really shakes the foundations of everything I believe in about food. It makes me really want to change the way I live and points out how my occasional slip into eating some sort of mystery meat isn't good or even acceptable - so no more! I put my foot down. I can no longer eat BBQ pork buns from China Town, even if it is only once a year, and Lardon is not edible unless I know where it comes from (my new favorite salad is Frisee with a poached egg with lardon - it's great if you're trying to avoid carbs, but treacherous).

It's really a burden eating out.

I now really understand what it must be like to grow up in a family where because of religious or other reasons you have a very clear list of what is acceptable and what isn't.

One of the quotes from "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" that I find so eye-opening is about how even if you try your damnedest, to be the most compassionate non-animal killing person on the planet, there is no way whatsoever that you can live in this world and not affect the lives of animals - EVEN IF YOU ARE A STRICT VEGAN YOU HELP KILL ANIMALS. Here's the deal:

"An estimated 67 million birds are killed each year from pesticide exposure on U.S. Farms. Butterflies, too, are universally killed on contact in larval form by the genetically modified pollen contained in most U.S corn. Foxes, rabbits, and bobolinks are starved out of their homes and dismembered by the sickle mower. Insects are 'controlled' even by organic pesticides, earth worms are cut in half by the plow. Contrary to lore, they won't grow into two, both halves die.
To believe we can live without taking life is delusional." (my emphasis added)

Then there are the non-edible realities of life: copper wiring which is in all buildings is coated with lanolin, an animal product (mostly sheep).

It is impossible to really be vegan unless you live in the country in a house with no wiring in a field where you grow everything you eat, don't use any pesticides or a plow, and only eat seasonally. That's a very steep challenge for most, I would think.

The idea behind this is very noble. I was a vegetarian for many years. Now, I think the most responsible way of going about the dilemmas that challenge us in finding a "morally aware" way of eating is to encourage traditional local farming methods before genetically modified everything and deadly, fossil fuel-based pesticides.

Again, I'm not forcing anyone to eat anything they don't want to, all I'm saying is have your eyes open and your mind informed so you actually know what it is you're doing, you're not just making a knee jerk response.

One could even ask the question to vegans: How is it acceptable to buy a box of California Big Organic Food Corporation Spinach that boarders a CAFO with a shit lagoon next to it that infects the fields around it (causing salmonella poisoning of the spinach, my what short memeories we have)?

That wouldn't happen if we supported local farmers and got over our over-privileged selves and didn't insist on eating fucking spinach in February in NYC.

I know I sound like a broken record, but the fact is our culture, our world is based on money.
As long as people who consider themselves "aware" keep buying this shit then we are never going to move forward. And it's hard, I'm not saying it isn't and I'm not saying I'm perfect, all I'm saying is that we, collectively as a nation, have to make drastic and dramatic changes in the way we eat and the way we farm. Maybe it's 22 years of living with a child of a holocaust survivor or my past life in the theater that makes me feel so dramatic and panicked, but regardless of the cause of the anxiety, the reality is if you read and look around you it is impossible to ignore how tragically wrong we have been on the production of food in the modern age. Time is of the essence, we have to act now or it may well be too late.

Recently, I read a story (alas, I don't remember where) of a farmer who had a farm on two sides of a country lane way. The one side of the street is where his home and first farm was - a farm he had that since inception was an organic farm that used no pesticides. When he took over the farm across the street, which had been a "commercial" farm, you could notice how the corn on the organic side of the street was healthier and produced more then the farm that, even though it was now organic, was going to take many years to get back to being as healthy as the farm that was organic from the start.

The other, corollary anecdote I remember from all my reading is how an organic farmer had taken over a farm in Oregon in the '60's. His family has farmed that land for 40 years, and still when he gets soil samples done, on what appears to be a pristine organic farm that hasn't used a pesticide in over 40 years, he still had trace elements of DTD in his soil. That's today in 2008: still trace elelments of DTD in the soil, ergo in us. After 40 years of organic farming.

And don't forget kids, when we banned DTD in this country we didn't just stop making it. No, we shipped it to other countries that didn't have a ban on it - places like Mexico. So you know that Mexican mango you want to buy in the grocery store for 99 cents in March? I bet if you did a chemical analysis of it you'd find things you really wouldn't want to eat.

After our massive deforestation in Vietnam in order to make the Ho Chi Minh trail more obvious from the air the US Army dumped tons of agent orange on the poor people of Vietnam, women there still have deformed babies because of the lasting effects of this poison in their soil.

Sure, maybe we as humans can withstand a little DTD in our Mango every now and again, but the overriding affects of pesticides on our water, the birds, butterflies etc., affect our health twice - the first time when we eat what ever it is and then the lasting, maybe more devastating affect of it's lingering poisons in our land for generations to come.

Think before you eat.

It's incremental, we all slip, we all have exceptions, but I'm curious what's acceptable and what isn't, where do you draw the line?

Write and tell me how you are changing how you eat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

UFG, I read this post a while back, (and made reference to it in a recent post) but now feel compelled to respond. Recently, while perusing Borders, I came across a book called, "Skinny Bitches", a book written for women about no-nonsense eating, and the realities of what and how much we eat makes an impact on their bodies and the environment.

But just for women? What about us guys? I bought the book anyway, and learned quite a bit more about what I had already known and suspected - that whatever we consume, no matter how small, makes a direct impact on our environment.

I am now not eating any animals. It's only my first week, and it has not been difficult at all. And it's enlightening to know there are so many more vegetarian options available today.

As for the vegan thing; don't think I can do that. I enjoy good cheese too much!

I'll be following your cuisine comments a lot closer now.


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