Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rabbit food!

This guy lives on 'rabbit food'One of the oddest things about growing up as a vegetarian (before that became fashionable) remains the idea that you will end up somehow malnourished. The other side of that appears as - if you intend to become a vegetarian, then you have to obsess about nutrition. I rarely cook, have spent a lot of my life on the road eating erratically (partly from financial reasons, and partly from restricted choice in meat-eating countries), and yet I have done energetic and physical work most of the time, and people say I don't look my age.

I particularly dislike the association with meat-eating and macho. Certainly you may find a correlation, but I suspect it arises from belief systems (red meat, killing and violence, etc) rather than nutritional content. I find it particularly annoying to hear my food called 'rabbit food'. Actually, with very little thought, you may realise that only some vegetarians (and prey) use the small and fast, run away and hide tactic. Others use camouflage, tasting bad, etc.
short-sighted, bad-tempered and can move at 40 mph - don't annoy me!
One of the most common strategies remains being too big to mess with. So my vegetarian heroes include the elephant, the gorilla (mild-mannered, and nothing like King Kong, but still deserving respect), the rhino and the hippopotamus (both thick-skinned, surprisingly agile - they can run at 40 mph, too, so don't try to outrun them if you manage to annoy them!) In fact Hippos apparently kill more humans in Africa than lions do (for instance). Just because I have vegetarian habits doesn't mean you can necessarily rile me and get away with it.

I do have a slight moral element to my veggie practice (I don't want to eat other animals) but I don't judge people too harshly if they do choose to eat other people (sorry, beings), but most of my choice comes from the aesthetic side. I prefer the way fruit and vegetables and grains look and smell and taste. On the road, I have had to sometimes accept that a cheap hotel room perches over a steak house, I can't avoid neighbour's barbecues - but I have always lived in veggie houses when I have settled for any length of time.

Where I live has changed in the last year, as my previously veggie partner tried the Atkins Diet and liked it. For a while I hoped it would prove a passing fad, and for a while it remained occasional chicken and fish, but now it has escalated to daily food, to mammal-eating, etc. Now that it also looks like the situation will remain this way I have to work out how to deal with it.
Sattvic food makes you mellow
Not only do I find the cooking smells horrible and pervasive, but I hate seeing the 'bits' in the fridge (aesthetics, you see). I have no desire to irritate her by commenting every day, but sometimes it slips out, however careful I try to act - after all, I have 60 years of sarcastic veggie one-liners in the store, although I try not to lecture people the way newly-converted vegans do. If it all stayed in a room I didn't visit I could almost deal with it, but of course the smell and the sights are found in the kitchen where I also go to eat, and it puts me off my food - a dilemma I have not quite solved yet, except by avoiding the ground floor during and for a while after cooking, and/or simply neglecting to eat myself.

These don't seem perfect solutions for the long-term. I can't actually think of a solution to this, as I can't see the situation changing. Like an allergic reaction, though, I do not feel I can do much about the queasiness...that physiological response remains pretty well outside my control. I try to think back to when I have had cats and dogs, looking cheerful and enthusiastic at the prospect of meat, and try to see things through their eyes (or rather, experience things through their noses).

I often remind people that the Dalai Lama (for instance) does not live a vegetarian lifestyle (the buddhist cliche) as Tibetans live in mountains and have relatively little arable land. He tried it for a while (well, tried living on nuts and milk, not a good plan!) but it made him ill.

So, again, I do not intend any of this as a judgement - I fully accept that only a minority of humans live like me - the accidents of birth set me up for it (unless you believe in reincarnation, in which case I chose suitable parents to go with my preferences). But that doesn't solve my problem of feeling hungry until I get to the kitchen, then going off the idea and grabbing a glass of wine and a cigarette and disappearing back upstairs.

We also rarely eat together, which I miss, as well.

Hey ho.

[later] Talking tonight I realise that not everyone understands (even now) that my vegetarian position remains an ethical/religious choice. It dawned on me when I understood that my partner doesn't know the history of my alignment with the vegetarians of the past - the Cathars, the Jains, the Pythagorians, the Hindus (and many, but not all, of the Buddhists, who, after all, got their stuff from the Hindus in the first place), etc.

Because of general food shortages during WW2, the British were encouraged to 'Dig For Victory' and grow their own fruit and vegetables. A near vegetarian diet sustained the population and the nation's health was to improve vastly during the war years.

In the 1950 and '60s, the general public became increasingly aware of the truth behind intensive factory farming, introduced following the war. Vegetarianism also appealed to mid 1960s counterculture, as Eastern influences permeated Western popular culture.

Lucky old me, that even my mum bought that philosophy, just for fresh food, rather than Spam...

When you read the history - that my dad smuggled to me...

More radically, it appears that that the Middle Eastern groups we loosely call 'Christian' (Essenes, etc) shared that belief until the 'pagan' Romans took over the church and argued for their own habits.

The total suppression of this idea in the West (that involves realising and admitting that religions of the Middle East had strong influences from the older cultures of India and China) means that I go back into the heretic class. Check out this kind of site for the news (only a few centuries old) that taking this stance got you killed. Was Jesus a Vegetarian?

The Emperor Constantine would have made me drink molten lead. Cathars got burned at the stake or hanged for refusing to kill a chicken to prove what 'good Christians' they were, etc. Even 'dear old St Francis' (so called 'lover of animals') loved a pig's foot...

Hey ho. I determined not to become a zealot, a ranting vegan, or adopt a belief just because I inherited it from my dad - so I tried to break away, and try the damned stuff, but it made me feel ill in mind and body.

Boy, they did a good job of air-brushing us out of history...

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