Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

Yes, well...

    A person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc.
The irony is not, in fact, completely lost on me. For once. But before you embark on what would no doubt be an eloquent and biting criticism of my hypocrisy, allow me a moment to explain how a vegetarian's food blog includes recipes for meat. There will still be a world of things left to criticize. I promise.

I should start by saying that I am vegetarian—I've been vegetarian for years. I don't eat filet mignon or chicken or salmon, and I try very hard to outwit the gelatin and rennet maliciously lurking where I might least expect them. It's not religious, or because I don't like meat, or something I learned from my family, but it is something that matters quite a lot to me. I don't want to take a life if I don't have to. End of story.

When I started living with G, the question of cooking meat really tortured me. For months, actually. On one hand, it makes perfect sense for me to cook for both of us. While I love to cook, G is borderline incapable of feeding himself. When he was an undergraduate, I'm told, he subsisted purely on peanut butter for something like a week. So long that his body began producing acetone, causing his breath to smell like nail polish remover. Not to mention long enough to make him really, really sick.

On the other hand, G and I have, shall we say, a difference of opinion when it comes to good food. I like tofu and artichokes and food spicy enough to make me cry. G does not. Emphatically. He's not just not vegetarian, but more of what I might call an active carnivore. Trying to make him eat vegetarian every night would have been a nightmare beyond what I really want to contemplate at this moment.

I thought about it all the same, though. I hope G will forgive me if he sees this. But in many ways, I think I'm just as culpable cooking meat as eating it. What I'm interested in is the 'not killing' part. And so what I object to is, in fact, not so much eating meat as purchasing it—the point at which (it seems to me) I most actively participate. True, this animal is already dead. But in buying it, I'm paying for that to continue. And in the end, I think that's where the responsibility originates.

It took much internal debate to come to any conclusions. Trying to pick out what I thought was actually true from what I wanted to be true. I decided first that I should only cook for myself, since I didn't think it would ever work to somehow force my belief system on him. But the more I thought about that, the less it made sense to me. It would let me feel like I'd avoided getting my hands dirty, so to speak, but it wouldn't actually solve much. Given the choice between between a two cuts of meat of similar quality, G will almost always choose the less expensive one. I, on the other hand, am more than willing to pay for free range/organic/wild/etc., even if the nominal quality of the meat is exactly the same. So that was sort of it, then. Do I participate in something I strongly dislike, but try to make it a little better? Or do I avoid it entirely?

You can see which one I chose. It prickles at my conscience a bit that I ended up making the decision that I wanted from a purely personal point of view—the one that allows me to cook for both of us. But I do think that the decision was also made with the best intentions, trying to step away from the easiest choice. I think G eats less meat than he would otherwise, and almost certainly less meat from fast food joints and the like.

So did I make the right decision? I don't know.

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