Okay. Once I tell you the name of the book I read recently, you will know where this post is going and you may very well choose to completely ignore it. The book was Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. (Seriously, Jonathan Safran Foer. You are not a law firm. You could cut back on the nameage.) Eating Animals is his first non-fiction book after the novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’ve had Everything is Illuminated on my “To Read” list for two years now, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been made into a movie and got action at the Oscars, but I don’t know what was said because I was only paying attention to Penelope Cruz and her Spanish wonderfulness.
ANYWAY. As some of you early followers know, I have an ongoing interest in food. I want reiterate that I’m not interested in dieting, as in short-term eating (or not eating) with the intent to lose weight or change the way I look. This is not the relationship with food I want to model for my kids. But I am interested in diet, as in a long-term investment in nutrition, sustainability (for both me and the planet), and how food makes me feel.
Do you remember, Katie, when you gave me a hard time about going gluten-free? (Which was fine because we shared lunches, which meant YOU had to go gluten-free and, besides, I deserve a hard time about most things I try.) As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve experimented with lots of different ways of eating, from Paleo (the “caveman” diet) to vegetarianism. And it’s true that new information on diet can morph into “fads” that come and go and often, as a result, is mis-understood. But I guess I’m open to fads because I learn new things to incorporate into a long-term way of eating, after the extremes fizzle out. For example, I’m pretty sure EVERYONE could benefit from having more veggies at breakfast.
Of course, Katie, you have had it nailed all along with your “everything in moderation” approach. But one of us needs to be fun to tease.
It seems that if a person really wants to, she can can get her hands on a lot of sound information about food. I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Fast Food Nation. I’ve seen Food, Inc., Super Size Me, and King Corn. I cook with Food Matters and Healing With Whole Foods nearby. (Wow. That was a lot of links. I’ve still got to get to Forks Over Knives, too.)
So, while I found myself getting all worked up as I read Eating Animals, I also practiced an exercise in awareness by paying attention to the reactive chatter in my mind and not jumping to any huge conclusions. (Except for the bowl of cilantro-lime shrimp I abandoned after the chapter on seafood. Never one to waste, Chris finished it for me.) Jonathon S. F. uses personal narrative to appeal to the reader’s emotions in this book and makes some pretty huge claims that seem, at times, unreasonable.
It’s just the kind of writing that sucks me in.
In the style of mental rebuttal you had with your pastor in one of your recent posts, here is the dialogue in my head as I was reading:
- This whole family is going vegan, like, yesterday.
- Wait. Not sure Chris will go for that. Maybe just vegetarian.
- Wow. “Cage-free” and “free-range” mean nothing.
- My cousin was right. I can’t just pat myself on the back for eating “humanely raised” animals. I’ve got to question the slaughter methods. As long as the USDA has control over slaughterhouses, these animals suffer horrible deaths.
- Well, seafood might be good for me, but it’s terrible for the environment.
- But how are we supposed to get Omega 3s and B-vitamins?
- Wait. Jonathon S.F. says he’s writing this because he wants to know how to feed his son. If he’s so concerned about the environment, how can he justify having any children? Our food problems aren’t getting any better by overpopulation.
- Ohhh….I can’t go there. I have three children. And they’re pretty cool. I like to think I did the future a favor by having them.
- It’s interesting that vegans and vegetarians don’t talk about the environmental and social impact of their diets: what about the overworked soil, pesticides, and conditions for the migrant workers who are picking all their food?
- Dang. The only possible way for me to feel good about the way our family eats is to grow and raise our own food.
- That’s not happening any time soon. Dang.
- Don’t. Know. What. To. Eat.
- Maybe we should at least get a pet chicken.
It goes on and on until I come full-circle and pretty much continue to keep doing what we’re doing. I’m planning one more vegetarian meal a week and did ask the butcher at Whole Foods where our chicken was slaughtered. She gave me loads of information, including the name of the farm we could tour. But when I suggested this possibility to the kids, I didn’t realize that they didn’t realize that farmers buy and raise animals specifically to kill them. They knew we are eating animals, but they thought we ate them after they had died of old age, a distinction I take for granted.
Taj said, “I’ll visit that farm to tell the farmers they are being selfish. They’re only considering their own species.”
The twins both said they were going vegetarian, which I thought was great, until they refused to eat more vegetables. Then, they decided to eat the chicken. Kids are not so unlike adults.
I guess for now, I continue to educate myself and make the best decision with the information I have. But I wonder: how do other people approach the food conundrum? I see everything from willful ignorance to extreme activism. I seem to fall somewhere in the middle which, considering that we ALL eat, EVERY day, seems to be the least I can do.