Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What's a vegan mofo? and some self-defense

Other than a less-than-supportive invective? This is the wherein, at the suggestion of a fantastic and rather cute Portland vegan chef, all vegan blogger types blog about vegan things every weekday or with some similar frequency. It sounds pretty loose, but I can manage a few words a day about food specifically.

That said, I'm not a vegan. I come close fairly often, but am generally too enamored of/addicted to dairy cheese and yogurt to truly let go of them entirely. This choice doesn't trouble me too much. I'm a vegetarian who eats local (as local as my backyard when it comes to tomatoes, squash, blueberries and a few herbs this year), and am extremely scrupulous about the politics of my food dollars. Although the ecological footprint of my dinner is about 30% of that of the average American* when I eat in, and still less if this Jane Average is eating beef. Self-righteousness aside, I -do- see the hypocrisy of going vegetarian and citing ethics among my reasons while noshing on cheese, and I accept it. Feel free to correct my perhaps naive belief that dairy production at smallish, local farms is not cruel or not as cruel.

Then there's the can of metaphorical worms that is seafood. Many in vegan circles would likely view my occasional indulgence in these critters deplorable, or at least super gross. Again, I recognize this and the hypocrisy I carry with it. Clams may make a bomb chowder, but they're most certainly fauna, even when chowder-fied. Still, I don't believe that it's a cop-out to claim my Alaskan childhood, my whitey cultural heritage from an eclectic, proud, frigid postcolonial outpost where salmon and crab are king. Good seafood - which I can never afford anyway, and therefore only have in Alaska on someone else's dime (twice a year tops) - is a weakness of mine. Salmon farming politics are near and dear to my heart - let's not go there. I again recognize this as something some would call a moral failing, but salmon or dungeoness crab are still tastes too nostalgic. Self-denial, at least for me, becomes an act of martyrdom at that point. Crabs are cool critters! They're like underwater spiders. Don't think that I have no respect for their lives.

I guess I'm just not ready to dive into veganism whole hog-alternative because my reasons for eating the way I do are a confluence of the environmental, ethical, financial, and physical (that's what we'd call health reasons, right?) - were I to make this an entirely moral issue for myself, that would be one thing. But I see many facets to the politics of food, and I think vegan extremism is not for me at this point. Veganism is a brave and admirable thing, but as I've seen it, it is also a decision that often walks hand-in-hand with a certain level of privilege. Not everyone has access to Peter Singer, or the conditions to allow them to read it without judgment. Nor does everyone have a sweet food co-op or natural foods store in their area where flax seeds and hemp milk flow like... okay, bad comparison. But try finding a pair of dress shoes for an interview at a thrift store that aren't leather or some other animal derivative. Not everyone is going to be that dedicated because not everyone can. I'm not defending the cheapskates who buy $1/dozen eggs; I'm trying to gently remind the vegans in my sphere of influence that omnis and vegetarians (and vegetarian-buts like me - "I'm a vegetarian, but I do/don't eat...") aren't all ignorant or all wrong. Most folks I know are trying to live ethical, healthy lives, and all of us go about it in completely different ways.

Okay. Self-righteous novel over. Recipes and pictures and stuff start tomorrow.

*this is a guestimate and you should only check my math if you're really mean and/or like decimals. I'm pretty confident in this figure, so don't burst my bubble.

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