Thursday, October 15, 2009

against meat, by jonathan safran foer

combine in the wheat fields at the edge of the earth, riverlot 56, september 2009

old goldenrod in a field, riverlot 56, september 2009

If you are reading this, you should next go read this essay, 'Against Meat', by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's an excerpt from a book that'll be appearing later this year -- a well-woven piece regarding the evolution of his ethic of vegetarianism. Being thoughtful about the food I consume is very important to me, and thus so this was especially resonant.

It was truly moving -- he entwines family history and memory with the meanings of food in such a brilliant way. Also, the portrayals of his grandmother make me weep a little. That's my baba, there, the Greatest Chef of all time, & probably the most generous person I've ever known:

My grandmother never set a place for herself at family dinners. Even when there was nothing more to be done — no soup bowls to be topped off, no pots to be stirred or ovens checked — she stayed in the kitchen, like a vigilant guard (or prisoner) in a tower. As far as I could tell, the sustenance she got from the food she made didn’t require her to eat it.

I come from a culture that values food (growing it, harvesting it, preparing it, eating it, but primarily, it feels, sometimes, sharing it) dearly -- eating often becomes celebratory. Feeding someone is a deeply gratifying privilege, and something you do with great enthusiasm.

Due to experiences of famines, poverty, and long, regular fasts, eating meat is often especially revered -- it it richness, wealth, both literally & symbolically. My baba certainly felt thus, and her (& my mother, I think, even still) were quite puzzled why I felt it was important to be vegetarian, why I did not want to eat more nice fresh kovbasa, I'd loved it since I was small! Why didn't I want chicken in dill cream, why did I want just mushroom sauce & not the meatballs? But Safran Foer's portrayal possesses great nuance and understanding of how deeply traditions can hold you, but also how they can change, and how they essentially must change & be created anew:

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of sushi “lunch dates” with my mom, and eating my dad’s turkey burgers with mustard and grilled onions at backyard celebrations, and of course my grandmother’s chicken with carrots. Those occasions simply wouldn’t have been the same without those foods — and that is important. To give up the taste of sushi, turkey or chicken is a loss that extends beyond giving up a pleasurable eating experience. Changing what we eat and letting tastes fade from memory create a kind of cultural loss, a forgetting. But perhaps this kind of forgetfulness is worth accepting — even worth cultivating (forgetting, too, can be cultivated). To remember my values, I need to lose certain tastes and find other handles for the memories that they once helped me carry.

& perhaps above all, I love how simply & bluntly he explains his ethics -- his stance summed up in this small excerpt below is beautifully echoed through out his piece, which, above all, is about celebrating reverence for life.

Every factory-farmed animal is, as a practice, treated in ways that would be illegal if it were a dog or a cat. Turkeys have been so genetically modified they are incapable of natural reproduction. To acknowledge that these things matter is not sentimental. It is a confrontation with the facts about animals and ourselves. We know these things matter.

Friday, October 09, 2009

every separation a (perma-) link

kalyna (high bush cranberry) berries ripe again, riverlot 56, september 2009

Jason kindly gave my poem book (see entry below) a more permanent home on the internets, so you can view it there too after the download I created expires.