What’s for (Vegan) Supper?
Vegetarian activists demonstrate during a “Veggie Pride” event in Lyon, France.
(photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images)
Exhaustion. A tough day and I was late leaving work when I realized that it was my night to cook for my vegan housemates. What easy, go-to meal did I have in my repertoire that I could whip up quickly without shopping ahead or thinking too much? Chili? Nope, meat. Omelet? Nope, eggs. Quesadillas? Cheese. Spinach soufflé? Eggs, milk and cheese! Arriving home, I glanced at the newly constructed cooking schedule to find that it was not my night to cook after all. A reprieve. Sometimes work and life collide unexpectedly and serendipitously. This week, as I migrated comments from previous releases of “The Ethics of Eating” show into our current commenting system, I learned, of course, that our listeners are thoughtful, passionate, and diverse. While many expressed appreciation for Barbara Kingsolver’s reflection on her year of eating locally, some were outraged at the fact that she referred to slaughtering animals for food as “harvesting” them. Some found her yearlong experiment to be steeped in economic privilege. Still others considered it to be an impractical if not unsustainable way of life given limits of time and energy.
As I read these comments, I couldn’t ignore the fact that my current situation roots me centrally in these ideological and spiritual questions. Two weeks ago, I welcomed two new housemates into my home for the coming year. Our intention is to not only share expenses and responsibilities, but to share meals together as well. It won’t be simple. They are vegans; I am not. They buy only organic products and shop exclusively at the co-op; I shop sales at a large supermarket. They are home much of the day; I have a full-time job.
Suddenly I find myself challenged with the very questions and decisions that Kingsolver and On Being listeners invite me to face. Some of these challenges expose a lack of clarity in my own belief system, while others expose a misalignment between my held and lived values. So as I embark on my own yearlong experience with (at least partial) veganism, I open myself to these challenges and the myriad questions that accompany them:
Is killing a sentient being for food cruel or is doing so simply playing my part in a carnivorous food chain? Am I able to integrate my love of animals and the bond to my pets with eating animal meat and loving a good steak? Am I willing or able to spend the extra money it takes to eat organically and locally? Where will I find the time and energy it takes to work full time and prepare healthy meals?
As I settle into the messiness of these questions, I’ll start planning ahead about what to serve the vegans this week.