Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Photo by Rob Stone.

I asked my colleague, Mr. Chu what his specialty dish was and he replied Big Macs.

He wasn't joking. Having worked at McDonalds before, he hastened to tell me that not everyone could make one. My bubbles of laughter were soon anchored with pink slime and fell to the floor between us, like sticky rat paper, preventing us from getting any closer.

Mr. Chu’s answer is on the severe end of the spectrum, but it highlights a salient difference between what I call passive and active users of food1. Something happened once I became a vegetarian, 23 years ago. I began paying attention to what I was consuming. To non-vegetarians, the issue is strictly an inconvenient accoutrement to a meal; an annoying restriction orbiting the dinner plate, like an errant ant, or maybe one of the lesser-known moons of Jupiter.2

Vegetarians aren't vegetarians 3 times a day. It's like being a Christian once a week, or a playground bully who is otherwise congenial and gregarious – just don’t let him near a merry-go-round. The fact of the matter is that eating – knowing what you are eating, consumes many of your thoughts all throughout the day, the week, the month, your life. It's a lifestyle, not an icon on a menu.

I'm not claiming to be a health guru, or even attractive naked, but you do start to notice differences in your body's feedback systems once you start eating better. Animal welfare, environmental issues, budget, more energy3 , and health. Convenience store fare starts to taste plastic and you recognize when someone's spiked your food with MSG.

What about taste. I had the pleasure of living with a nationally renowned vegan chef in Austin Texas, so I never missed a single flavor4 . He had a magical knack for turning bits and blobs of kitchen shrapnel into riotous feasts, reminiscent of meaty days gone by, leaving mouths agape, buds throbbing in gustatory orgasm. You might not have la Grande Bouffe at your disposal but you don’t have to miss out on flavor5.


Photo by Nora Kuby.

It's not hypocrisy to be an ovo-lacto-vegetarian trying to phase out gluten or perhaps eat more salmon for the omega-3 fatty acids. It's not enough to deliberate over the food you are about to eat, but you must consider what that food ate6. It’s better to eat a hamburger made of free range beef than a fufu sushi from fish farmed salmon.

Enter the era of Cocacolonization and America’s biggest cultural export, fast food. Despite the Fast Food Nation's desire to liberate food from the shackles of the food chain, nutrition it appears, is embedded within the confines of a biomass continuum7. Finding the healthy choice must inherently involve some next level shit8.

People come up to me and brag about not eating meat x times that particular week9. Like it's some kind of crusade to convert the world into more vegetarians. In the long run, it would benefit me and the Earth. But in the short run, I just don't fucking care. It's not a football game, pitching carnivores against herbivores. It's like telling me that you've scrubbed your kitchen floor. Spotless10.

The tragic irony is that it is a football game, but it's Mankind United against Mankind's City footprint. The stakes are long-term ecological disaster, health, social costs, happiness, moods, creative output, and overall goodness in general. If your balls are the ball, Monsanto is a cleated foot, punting your future through the goal posts of greed. Whistles blow. Cards are thrown. And in the end the field will rise up and eat us. But we'll be holding our babies over our heads, screaming helplessly at the Goodyear blimp TV camera to save us. One of our doomed children will carry the perfect expression of fear on its cherub face and find itself splayed across a TV set far away in a commercial selling baby hormone tonic in powdered pill form11.

1. The definition of what constitutes food should not be taken for granted. It’s interesting that the protests over GMO foods in Europe had no counterpart in America. Suddenly, over half the items on the shelf were GMO but nobody seemed to notice.
2. Jupiter has 66 known moons. But I’m also thinking specifically of the NASA mission to bomb the (Earth’s) moon in 2009.
3. As opposed to assuming the pass-out position after thanksgiving dinner, you feel re-fueled after a vegetarian meal. Imagine that. Eating and gaining energy.
4. Keith Wahrer, Co-founder and Creative Director of Rhythm Superfoods and Daily Juice. Grab a bag of Kale chips when you can. Seriously.
5. The Big Feast, (1973) where a group of men hire some prostitutes and go to a villa in the countryside. There they try to eat themselves to death. We’re doing the same thing now, but the McModern equivalent doesn’t have sex or turkeys fed chocolate, nuts, and cognac to perfect the flavor. Quite the opposite. We now screw ourselves by feeding/cannibalizing our cattle pieces of other cattle, ergo mad cow disease.
6. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006.
7. The reference is crass and has even become cliché, but Schlosser’s book is worth the read.
8. Die Antwoord's brilliance is only augmented with the failure of some to recognize it as farce. A reversal of Žižek's First Tragedy, Then Farce, where the object of ridicule is not only immune from criticism, but assimilates all attempts to contextualize it outside the realm of fetishistic pop worship. The worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves.
9. Let’s assume (x) = some whole integer, like Algebra. More specifically Algebra II, which introduces the idea of the imaginary numbers* which is more suitable to our discussion about someone misinterpreting the value of vegetarianism as an act borne of a health consciousness versus an ideological battle.
*(an odd distinction given that all numbers are, a priori, imaginary)
10. A factoid, surely, better reserved for the vacuous folds of a status update on Facebook.
11. The news of Korean imports of aborted fetal baby powder capsules are staggering, with 17,000 capsules having been intercepted in the last year alone. Which begs the question, how many have actually made it through? Analogous to the War on Drugs in America, we might see T-shirts proclaiming: D.A.R.E. To Keep Kids Out Of Drugs.

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