We have important matters to discuss. I have read your recent post “Powered by Veggies, Baby” and there are two things I feel must be brought to your attention. These are, in no particular order, meat and cheese, those grand delights atop the food pyramid of deliciousness.
Before I start sounding like the spokesman for the Cattleman’s Association, I should clarify that I have a great deal of admiration for vegetarians/vegans (for brevity, I shall combine these as “vegetans”) and the ethical and environmental reasons for which they choose to forgo the fruits of flesh. I live with a vegetan and we have a meatless kitchen (ethical perspective: she insists I kill any insect that enters our apartment). I love cooking vegetables and it is a rare day that passes without some form of tofu, tempeh, or seitan on my plate. I’m eating beets as I write this.
But my god are animal products delicious! Dry-aged steak with a charred and salty exterior. Pulled chicken elementally merged with barbecue sauce. Vietnamese beef simmering in fragrant pho broth. Buttery arctic char that drips onto your fork. Tens of thousands of years of human evolution (if you believe in such crazy evidence-based theories) have implanted the desire for such things deep within me. My stomach starts to secrete enzymes the moment I hear steak sizzling on a grill, my body anticipating the banquet of fat and protein ahead. It is my caveman destiny to covet anything served at a carving station.
And cheese? It’s miraculous! It is an endless font of deliciousness, from sharp to stinky. Bless the French for creating Roquefort cheese and let their glorious Maginot Line stand forever!
But there is one unavoidable problem with animal products – they come from animals – and we have created such a glut of cows, chickens, pigs, and turkeys in this country that what was once a rare (yuck, yuck) treat is now a constant feature of our diets. There are huge environmental, health, and ethical costs of mass-producing domesticated animals and treating them like commodities rather than living things.
How do I reconcile my love for crispy duck with the understanding that there is a real price attached to every mouthful? My compromise is flexitarianism, a do-it-yourself approach to deliciousness and semi-ethical eating. I skip the fast food burgers, dry turkey sandwiches, and day old curry chicken salad, and I “bite” at only the best meat opportunities (uh… meatortunities). I went from two meat meals a day to only one or two meat meals per week, all succulent and delicious, and I do my best to stick to grass fed, organic, or local products.
Of course, this approach is far from perfect. Any vegetan could say that I’m still involved in animal cruelty and industrialized murder, I just do it less than most people. And there’s still the environmental cost involved – I’m hardly punishing the Cattleherder’s Association by skipping a few rump roasts. But my system works well for me. My diet is healthier, my wallet weighs about the same (less meat = $$$ saving, better meat = less $$$) and I appreciate every animal I dip in chimichurri sauce.
So Lisa, if you do find yourself slipping from the vegetan path and becoming a “veganivore,” as you wrote to me, you should know that there are middle paths of conscious eating and good living, even if they are imperfect. If you find yourself struggling with veganism, the next stop does not have to be McDonalds.
Long live Roquefort!
Daniel Friedland lives in Brooklyn with his fiancée and a growing collection of houseplants. He cooks without recipes, studied literature, law, and foreign policy, and was once almost killed by a particularly dimwitted moose. He can order food in Italian, Khmer, and Mandarin. Down Aisle Ten is his first novel.
DOWN AISLE TEN is a fictional history of Universal Simultaneous Anxiety Collapse Disorder, an incapacitating disease that arises from the abundant fears that surround us in the modern world. The first sufferer is Harold Greensmeyer, who contracts USAC while at the supermarket. He is soon confined to a mental hospital, where he encounters a cast of curious characters – the compulsive psychiatrist who tries to treat him, a woman convinced that she and Harold are fated to marry, and a befuddled cop who believes Harold is a mystic. When USAC spreads and the hospital is quarantined, they escape together in search of answers, love, and a cure