Okay…so being a middle class, child free, white, heterosexual (the most persecuted of all of the ‘classes’…if Bill O’Reilly is to be believed), one of the most pressing topics of my generation, and my ‘people’, is the ethical treatment of animals, especially when it comes to human consumption of all things feathered, hoofed or gilled (not grilled…a little joke there).
Indeed, it is ethical consumption that has plagued my people for tens of years; largely because we are the only class in the animal kingdom that has the time, money and resources to ponder such ethical dilemmas. As the physical daily fight for survival is no longer an issue for my people, we have the time and energy to invest in fighting the new threats to humanity; conservatives; religious zealots/terrorists, bad drivers and finding a public library that is actually quiet…
Okay, so that last point is a little artistic licence on my part; but it segues nicely into the topic of this article; the ongoing fight for people with dietary demands; whether these demands are ethically driven or under the misguided notion that their bodies are gluten and lactose intolerant…(rolls eyes); to make their food edible and/or potentially enjoyable (stay with me).
Yes that’s right! I’m going for it people!
At this point I do feel it necessary to point out that I am well aware that there are people who have a legitimate ‘medically diagnosed’ aversion to gluten and lactose, but the vast majority of people who claim to be ‘coeliac’ are neither medically diagnosed, or ‘coeliac’, but rather suffer from the other debilitating illness of the middle classes; stress, alcohol consumption, bad diet and lack of exercise; it’s a horrific disease that continues to elude scientists world-wide….oh the humanity, is there no justice in the world?!!
Allow me to set the stage for the premise of this article. I have recently moved to rural Victoria, Australia with my husband; yes we’ve surrendered to our middle class need for land, trees, undulating hills, equine, bovine and farmer’s markets. We’ve settled nicely into a small town in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria. All together now! Ooooooohhhhhhhh.
Anyway, as luck would have it, we fall into the “too far away to give a s***” zone for Telstra and the NBN (don’t even get me started on that other middle class tragedy). As such, we are not expected to receive anything that even remotely resembles a broadband internet connection before August! So here I am, sitting in the local ‘taxpayer funded’ community library, sponging their WIFI and listening to a mass of little people debating over Minecraft on their laptops and generally ignoring the shelves and shelves of knowledge that surround them in abundance (sigh!).
I did attempt to avoid the school kid cacophony at the local library in Gisborne earlier in the afternoon, but upon arriving at the library realised that I had actually left the most important part of internet connectivity at home; the actual laptop. Having made the trip into Gisborne I decided to have a bite to eat before heading home to collect said laptop.
Being middle class, I observed, acutely, the café scene of Gisborne and decided upon a suitably hipster, bourgeois-bohemian establishment that specialised in vegetarian; vegan and gluten free ‘cuisine’…much to my disappointment when I received the menu.
I browsed over the menu of approximately eight dishes, noticing that there was one dish provided for the ‘meat eaters’; a beef burger…as if entering a vegan café induces a carnivorous yearning for bloody flesh in those who will not be named in vegan and vegetarian circles’; ever heard of chicken or fish people?
Anyway, I settled upon a Mexican style dish which consisted of a wrap (made out of something I’d never heard of), and filled with hand-made beans (what?); avocado (again???), and some kind of nut cream (how do you get cream out of a nut?). Then I sat back and waited with, breathless anticipation, for this unique, middle class, vegan, gluten free, culinary delight to land in front of me.
To say I was disappointed when it arrived would be an understatement. A crepe that resembled a Frenchman’s nightmare arrived with beans (as ordered, though they didn’t look like hand-made beans, they looked like regular beans); a few pieces of sliced avocado (eh!), and a minuscule drop of what looked like a cream substance but without any flavour or nutritional value.
To say that this was the most bland dish I had ever eaten would be…honest. I struggled to finish it, but forced myself to out of fear that the ‘regular’ hipsters might see a crack in my white, middle-class, hipster armour. Yes ‘my people’ I am one of thee! I embrace your sub-culture with open arms, but most importantly…my desire to embrace your ‘cuisine’ and diversify my tastebuds…or numb them, as appears to be the case.
Now, at this juncture I feel it fair to say that I realise that life can be tough for vegetarians but damn near impossible for vegans; (and who really cares about those who claim to be gluten and lactose intolerant without medical diagnoses), as humans have long learned to rely on the natural resources that live animals (and dead ones), can provide. I mean, for pity’s sake, they eat blood pudding in England! Why? Just…why? Nobody can possibly be that iron deficient (except vegans)…or desperate to eat something…anything! So finding food, but more importantly nourishment, from what meagre offerings that remain on planet Earth must be a daily struggle and a lifetime commitment, because let’s face it, you are essentially saying that you will forgo ever eating anything that tastes really good ever again…
Now, I can already hear the shouts of derision from Brunswick from here; “you just haven’t eaten at the right restaurants!”; “better the blandness of avocado (eh!), than the stain of blood on your soul!”; “better anemia than obesity….and the stain of blood on your soul!”. So I must reiterate that I respect anyone who can make that kind of commitment knowing full well that the industry of death and exploitation will continue unfettered, even with your largely ignored stance against it.
The reality is vegans, that your restaurants just aren’t enticing enough; vegetarian restaurants are marginally better, but how many chickpeas does it take to make a meal bulky enough to sustain you for at least half an hour after you leave the restaurant? Let me put it to you another way; if the Chinese, indo-Chinese and Japanese haven’t found a way to make a vegan diet delectable (seafood is a huge part of their collective diets; as are eggs), then it doesn’t look good for you guys, hence your ‘ideal’ will never gather momentum unless you can truly find a way to make your food a worthy alternative to meat. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure this is possible; but you should all get busy trying to find it.
The reality is that, though many eat meat and try to eat meat sustainably and humanely, if there was a suitably delectable and healthy way to ditch meat (you may find it harder to convince people to forgo animal resources altogether), many in the community would, myself included. However, eating being one of the last true pleasures left in life, I’m not likely to forgo the flesh for nut cream and avocado (eh!).
Incidentally, the last Japanese restaurant I attended (as Chinese food has fallen out of favour with the middle classes); the waiter as good as scoffed at the requests of the person with specific dietary requests, who will remain nameless, I was with, and flat out said “no” when asked if they could accommodate such a request. Let’s face it vegans, thousands of years of refining culinary culture can’t be wrong.
As for the issue of relying on the resources that animals provide (aside from meat), here’s how I see it; as humans have now populated practically every square inch of inhabitable planet Earth, it is becoming harder and harder for animals to exist freely. I mean, let’s face it, without human breeding, sheep and cattle wouldn’t even exist. They would have succumbed to more powerful predators long ago, so we essentially keep them in existence.
In addition, we provide them with green pastures, water, medical care and shelter (hopefully, obviously there are some rogue farmers out there that do not provide their animals with adequate living conditions).
Now! Whilst I can understand the ethical argument for not eating these animals if there is a way to stay adequately nourished whilst retaining the enjoyment of the culinary experience, I struggle to see the issue with the price of admission being an egg and a glass of milk for breakfast…you know?
…I mean…what’s the alternative? It’s a symbiotic relationship of sorts; a healthy, happy, relatively easy life in exchange for an animal’s natural resources that we depend on, and love so very much. If cows, sheep and chickens could talk, I reckon they’d be okay with that; I think they’d say something like “take the milk and the eggs, just keep me fed, housed and healthy…AND DON”T KILL ME!”
…but that’s just me.