Thursday, June 17, 2010

They're called vegetables. Get over it.

They’re called vegetables. Get over it.

If you’re so damn tough, Mr. I Don’t Have To Eat Tofu I’m At The Top Of The Food Chain, Ms. You Can Have My Bacon Cheeseburger When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands, why does vegetarian and vegan food scare you so damn bad?

I’m serious. I’ve met you. I’ve cooked for you. I’ve prepared plates of vegetarian food for you, in front of your very eyes, while listening to you trash-talk tofu and vegans and anyone who doesn’t eat the way you say you do.

(Except when you’re eating vegetarian whether you know it or not. Like how you scarfed down that whole vegetarian crepe situation I put on your plate with hardly a pause for breath. Yeah, I saw that. Were you thinking about what you had ordered when you started ripping on vegetarianism? Or is it just your bad-mannered reflex?)

I’m not a vegan, although I have been in the past. I’m not a vegetarian either, although I also did some time as an ovo-lacto sort. I eat meat and poultry and game and eggs and fish and I’d eat milk if I could. I wear leather and bone and, for that matter, even some old inherited ivory. I eat meats you probably don’t even dream of eating: ear, tail, thymus gland, brains, stomach. Blood sausage, blood soup. Tongue. Eyeballs. I admit I’m not a big fan of eyeballs. But I willfight you over cheek meat.

So don’t come at me all macho, like if you didn’t eat meat your balls would shrivel up and fall off and that’s why you mock vegetarians. Hell, I’ve eaten testicles. Raw. (Not bad. Better battered and deep-fried, but what isn’t?)

What impresses me even less is that when I’ve talked to you about it, I find out that in general, your type are not even honest meat-eaters. You don’t want to think about the fact that your big manly steak was once a dewy-eyed, gentle herbivore, and that between field and fork there was blood and death and a whole lot of cutting up the body of the dead into convenient portions. Well, here’s what I think about that: I think that if you couldn’t handle slaughtering and butchering the animals you eat you have no goddamn business eating them. You owe your fellow creatures that much dignity. You want to dicksize about your confirmed carnivorehood? Fine. I’ll meet you in the alley behind the kitchen with a couple live chickens and a couple sharp knives. First one to turn out a platter of fried chicken wins.

And let’s not even start about how hungry you’d be if you had to actually hunt your own meat, ‘kay? There’s a reason most hunter-gatherer cultures are, in effect, primarily vegetarian with occasional meat bonanzas. Critters are harder to catch than you think.

What I want to know is this: what scares you so bad about vegetables? Behind all that posturing you do, Mr. Humans Haven’t Evolved For Millions Of Years Just To Eat Soybeans, I smell the reek of fear. I don’t get it. They’re plants.

Is it that you’re scared you’ll fall off the top of the status ladder? Meat is status, no question. As billions of the world’s poor, who are mostly vegetarian by default, know full well. So is what you’re saying that you’re so much better and more important than the majority of the world population that you couldn’t possibly eat the way they do? That it’s beneath you?

Is it that you’re scared you’ll fall off the top of the gender ladder? Meat is coded masculine, no question. So is being a jackass with regard to vegetarianism. It’s chest-thumping. I get it. Trust me, I would not dream of doubting your allegiance to the patriarchy. But I sure do wish you would, and not just because I find your meat-eater self-aggrandizement tiresome.

Is it that you’re just ignorant? There’s a lot more variety in the plants we eat, even with the limited repertoire most Westerners are familiar with, than there is in the animal foods we consume. Maybe you don’t know much about plants and how to make them taste good, whereas any idiot can buy an E. coli-tainted pack of frozen burgers and throw one in a pan or nuke it to a greasy grey microwaved oblivion. Maybe you haven’t had a lot of money to work with and yeah, vegetables do cost money, though generally a whole lot less than meat, but that’s money you might not be able to afford to write off if you get scared because you don’t know how to prepare your vegetables and so they sit in the fridge and rot.

I can give you the benefit of the doubt, the way I usually do, and assume you just don’t know any better. I make up backstories for you people all the time. Every time I encounter another chest-thumping “carnivore” (and you’re an omnivore, by the way, let’s just get that straight — if you don’t believe me, take it up with your cat) I imagine the reasons why. Your mother was a terrible cook and it scarred you for life that all the vegetables you were ever served were the same shade of defeated khaki. You were raised on canned vegetables. You were told so many times that vegetarians all get sick, or become impotent, or anemic, that you can’t bring yourself to eat a carrot.

Whatever it is, get the hell over it. Just let it go. Food is important, yeah, but darlin’, you’re bigger than it is. Or at least you should be.

If you’re scared of vegetarianism because you don’t know any better, educate yourself. Take it as a challenge. Learn to cook a week’s worth of meals without using meat. Learn to cook a week’s worth of meals without using meat, dairy, or eggs.

Learn to cook a week’s worth of meals without using meat, dairy, eggs, or any meat, dairy, or egg substitutes. Just food that happens to be vegan. (There’s lots. I promise.)

I guarantee you that your horizons will widen, you will learn things, and you will find new favorite foods you didn’t expect. That’s an ironclad guarantee from the Department of Done It Myself.

If you’re worried about nutrition, I promise you won’t die of scurvy. If you’re still worried, take a multivitamin. You should anyway.

I also promise you won’t die of protein deficit. Bison and elephants and such are 100% vegetarian and honey, all that protein and minerals that goes into all that muscle and bone comes from somewhere and that somewhere is plants.

If you’re scared of vegetarianism because you think tofu is icky, do some research. Bet you never stopped to think about the fact that people rarely eat the stuff cold out of the little plastic tub. Or that tofu can go bad, and turn sour, and some people don’t know how to check for that and end up eating bad tofu without realizing it. Billions of people eat tofu every day. You may rest assured that they aren’t all gagging it down by the cold, jiggly spoonful. They’re preparing it. In ways that range from the moderately tasty to the downright addictive. I expect you might even be smart enough to figure out what some of them are, if you try.

Seriously, y’all, it’s old, the Mr. Grrr Me Big Meat-Eater Man thing. It’s tired. It’s boring. It’s kind of like people without tattoos getting all upset about people who do have tattoos: ever notice how people who have tattoos never get their knickers in a twist about the fact that other people don’t have them? Don’t be one of those hidebound twits who can’t unclench long enough to let other people’s tastes and habits simply be. It’s annoying and it’s petty and it’s small-minded and it’s provincial and it’s just not cool.

Besides, you know damn well you eat tortilla chips and salsa.

And those, my friend, are vegan.

I like to think of them as a gateway drug.

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