When my brother and I were quite young, my parents would on occasion hire a babysitter to watch us while they went for a rare night out. This particular babysitter was vegan, and would make my brother and I vegan based meals for dinner. This was not an easy thing to do in a house that had a can of bacon grease in the fridge at all times along with several types of deli/luncheon meats, milk (that’s “whole milk” because the only other types of milk available at the time were skim which dad hated, buttermilk which dad loved, or raw, which dad preferred but not always convenient to have on hand) butter, (later margarine…it’s not nice to fool mother nature…I think mother nature was trying to tell us about trans-fats in that commercial….wow, she was evil) fresh meat of all kinds, frozen meat in the freezer and canned meat in the pantry….No, not just Spam…there was also Treet, Libby’s corned beef, dried chipped beef and canned minced pork my mother used to have on hand to make Tourtière, and canned beef that went into damned near anything consisting of just vegetables. But…the babysitter did manage to throw a few things together and make a meal that was quite tasty if not satisfying. But alas, the babysitter went away to college and that was the last of my experiences with meatless anything for quite some time.
For the record, my mom doesn’t care for meat. She is the undisputed queen of one pot meals and casseroles. If left to her devices, she’d probably omit meat from damned near everything she cooks. She loves vegetables and in the summer when fruit and vegetable stands are packed with fresh goods, she is in her glory. I asked her one day if she could go without eating meat….she said “no problem”! I asked her if she could do it forever. She asked…”Why would I?!” I asked if she could go on a diet without eating any animal based products whatsoever and she simply responded “No”. So here’s a woman who is a self admitted meat hater and still, she could not give up eating meat forever. She couldn’t even become a simple vegetarian, never mind vegan.
I got to thinking on my way home, could I ever become a vegetarian? Or worse yet, vegan? OK, yes, I said it, “worse yet”. Because for me, I can’t imagine anything less appealing than a diet void of all things animal. I can’t… or can I? I thought, hey, I’ve got lots of friends who are vegan as well as vegetarian. I often hear my vegan friends say “I won’t eat anything if it had a face”, to which I always reply “I won’t eat a food if it ever cast a shadow!” But hell why not try it, just for one day. It could be enlightening. Maybe I can find out a little something about myself. Or something useful about my vegan and vegetarian friends. I mean really, I’ve eaten meals my vegan friends have made and hell, some of them were tasty, even downright delicious! But how am I going to do this? How in my meat-centric house will I be able to do the whole “vegan” thing? I’ll need to go grocery shopping and get some nice spices, herbs, vegetables and some different kinds of protein….this is gonna be interesting!
So I get to the grocery store and make my way through the produce section, picking up some nice greens and things for a salad, white onion, cilantro, limes etc. for some kind of tofu taco I seem to remember from school, some onions, celery, carrots, tomato, to do a play off a cassoulet for dinner. OK, so now onto some dry goods, white beans, and lentils for the cassoulet and some vegetable stock. Grabbed a bag of walnuts and some dried cherries for the salad and I could also use them in granola or in the morning in my steel cut oats…as I’m about to pick up some bleu cheese for the salad I think, oh man, I can’t have that. So before I go any further, what else do I need to be on the lookout for. After all I have heard my vegan friends talk about things to look out for, now what were those things again?! Thank you oh great and powerful technology gods for Google and smart phones or I’d be staring blindly into space for hours… Let’s see here, ah, foods vegans should look out for….perfect….I begin to scan down the list…Beers, biscuits, breads, cereals, cookies, cakes, candies, cheese, chewing gum, chips, dressings, jellies, pastas, pastries, soft drinks, spirits, stocks added to other foods, vitamins, medicines, wines, Worcestershire sauce and the hits just kept coming…. Yes, yes, yes, I know dear vegans, not all of these items of every brand have things in them that make them non vegan. But I refuse to live my life reading labels like a deranged bibliophile. I went back to the cheese and picked up that nice Maytag, got some Anduille for the cassoulet, got some pork butt for the tacos, put the vegetable stock back in lieu of the pork stock I had at home, picked up a six-pack of Guinness and stood happily at the check out line some two hours into this grand experiment.
I mean WTF is the point?! I guess the point is this… it’s not for me. I love food. I love cooking and eating food, all food. That’s what being cibo is all about. If you asked me to cut out any one food item, just one, for the rest of my life. I’d be hard pressed to name one that at some point I wouldn’t want again. Octopus Pav?! Yeah, love it grilled. How about blowfish Pav?! I’ve had it once and given the opportunity to eat it again, you can bet your haggis I would. Stinky Tofu Pav?! Um….ok, so I’ve found one… but I haven’t just taken a whole one third of my diet and hucked it into the thrash bucket. (thrash bucket, is grandfather speak for trash can…well my grandfather anyway) As for me, food is a celebration of life, even if it’s as a result of death. I respect the food I eat for having given its life. I don’t waste those foods. I’m not going to be having roast giraffe tongue and throwing the rest of the giraffe away people. When I get the opportunity to do so and I get a whole pig, calf, cow, goat, lamb, chicken etc…I want to eat it ALL! People’s thoughts about what goes into a hot dog, are in my mind, the only two parts of an animal I’m not generally going to eat….lips, and assholes.
Look, at the risk of beating a dead….uh…I mean…at the risk of sounding repetitive here, I grew up working on a dairy farm. I’ve seen the circle of life on many occasions, with many different animals. I understand how this whole thing works. Some day I will also die, and if eating animals or animal products equal F’s on my karma report card, then I guess I’m screwed…. or, I’ll be in stock pot with a cow lifting the lid asking if I’m done yet. Until then I say, my hat’s off to you vegans. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know if it’s a moral thing, a hate for food thing, respect for food thing….I don’t know, and being completely close minded….I don’t want to. But even though I don’t understand them, I respect your dietary choices… even if you did just step on and kill a couple of defensless ants.