Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Used to Be Vegan

Back when I knew better, when I knew I was right, I did not eat any meat or eggs or milk or honey. I ate vegetables, soy, beans, and grains. I carefully chose food that made a complete diet. And Jason and I spent a lot of time working out animal-free analogs for many holiday favorites. We used whipped tofu for cranberry salad, for example.

Why do this? For one thing, we knew that the meat available at the grocery store was not produced humanely. We knew all about the battery hens that gave us eggs. We knew about the tie ups where dairy cows pretty much spent their lives.

For another thing, we really like experimenting. How can we get swiss corn bake without any swiss cheese?

Pregnancy completely changed my priorities. After subsisting for twelve weeks on cashew butter and soy milk, I began stealing meat from my friends' plates. And that was the end of our four-year vegetarian experiment.

It helped that Jason had already been rethinking the whole thing. We suddenly knew a different set of "right" things. We knew our soy wasn't free of animal products, or if the soy beans were, they were loaded with petro-chemical fertilizers. We knew that many of the analog food-type things we were eating were actually very far removed from "food". We knew that soy is actually pretty indigestible in most of the forms we were using it. We knew there were meat and dairy options out there that were kinder to animals- if we could find them in the burbs in Texas.

Thirteen years later, we are no longer right (much to everyone's relief). We do feel pretty good about our choices, just less self- righteous. We eat LOTS of meat and eggs and milk, but it all spent most of it's life on grass. I know the chickens who give us eggs, and we do our best to give them a good life. Our cow is probably lonely, but otherwise, she has a pretty nice life, as well. We still eat vegetables, but we also know who grew the majority of them. Legumes don't figure too highly, and soy not at all. Grains come and go; our feelings about them waver.

And still, having given up on being right, we are far from any sort of purity. Our cranberry sauce is made with local cranberries, but I haven't found a reliable source for Vermont oranges. Sabra and Cedar's hummus is really better than any other hummus I've had, with the exceptions of Byblos and Filiz Ozkan's. We really like Cabot cheese, which is at least local.

What is definitely true is that we enjoy our food. I believe our food choices are political acts, but what hits the table needs to be free from rancor and self-righteousness. Julia Child emphasized that food is not just so many vitamins and calories, but an entire experience.

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