November 04, 2009

Thoughts on a Book I Haven't Yet Read

It’s that time of year again… that time when we give thanks to God on a November evening and enjoy the company of our loved ones around the well-browned and juicy corpse of a giant bird. OH SO TASTY GIANT DEAD BIRD!

Ambivalence ftl. :/

I like animals. But if I don’t eat one every so often, I feel famished. Something to do with having thousands of years’ worth of carnivorous ancestors. Even if I’m not eating something’s leg or ground-up flesh, I’m partaking of their bodily functions. Eggs and milk. I’m a monster. Not that my dog minds, he’s living in a bubble shelter of societal taboos and eats every scrap of leftovers he can beg off of my table. Never mind that in other lands, *he'd* be on the table. He’s too busy nomming the chop of some nameless slaughtered pig to wax philosophical.

Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice that I admire and applaud for its aim to live without killing. Meat is something I feel I have to eat as a matter of destiny, the price I pay for being born a member of the master species. The simple fact that we require vitamin B12 and that particular vitamin can only be found in meat and dairy cannot be overlooked.

This month Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, Eating Animals, has hit store shelves and readers with a message of ethical vegetarianism. I haven’t read it yet. I wonder how it will change me when I do. Every book I read changes me. I surrender my future to a writer’s force.

Foer’s style and prose voice floor me; His first novel, Everything is Illuminated, reduced me to tears because I knew that I could never write so well. Foer has said that the greatest writing advice he’s ever received was “Feel more.” His books make the reader feel more as well, through his character’s desperate words and leaking hearts. I almost fear what his plea for ethical vegetarianism- damp with freshly cut emotion and human honesty- might do to my stomach. Never mind what it might do to my head.

Because ethical vegetarianism is the only motive for a meatless diet that makes sense to me. Thousands of years’ worth of carnivorous ancestors make a joke of the claim that people are not meant to eat anything more than fruit and celery. Vitamin B12 and iron requirements rule out the claim that vegetarianism is healthier than a meat-inclusive diet. Human omnivores cover the globe, eating animals on six continents- proving that the practice is not merely the thoughtless whim of a few uncivilized psychopaths.

But nothing makes the practice a laudable one. It’s relaxing and pleasant to watch the budding of fruit on the branches of a tree, and to smell hearty clumps of earth hugging the roots of ripe vegetables harvested from a leafy garden. Nobody enjoys watching hamburger get made.

Jonathan Safran Foer takes the ethical route in Eating Animals, by all accounts. If you don’t want to watch hamburger get made, then face reality and recognize that not looking at something doesn’t keep it from happening. Giving an industry financial incentive to make hamburger- that’s what makes it happen. Stop buying ground chuck! Buy potatoes! You’d watch a potato harvest any day of the week!

Do potatoes want to live? Do steers want to live?

Should I rule over the weakness of my hunger and seek my vitamin B12 in dairy products alone?

Writing and food alike share this in common: both are art. Both are as much of the soul as they are of the body, and decorate our lives. Both affect us.

If a book called Eating Animals affects my head enough, will it affect my stomach as well? Will it change how food affects me?

(Also posted on one of my Tumblrs)

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