Random thoughts about the politics of food.

February 13, 2009 at 10:49 am (Uncategorized)

Ok, first things first: New drawings will be posted this weekend! Yes, I’m totally jinxing it by writing that, but I’m gonna take that chance. I have two sitting on my desk just waiting for the tiniest little tweaking and then they’re ready to go… so I need to finally finish them already.

Despite all my whining, I actually haven’t been spending 24/7 teaching. It’s just that between prep, teaching, follow-up (grading, etc), I have little of the kind of headspace I need to make my work – which is to say that I need to make myself be very open and relaxed if I’m going to actually write anything of substance; not normally a hard thing to do, but my defenses are up just because of school so it’s not really “flowing” as well as it should. (School ends early in May, so this state is very temporary, I keep reminding myself.)

Once all the teaching and prep and etc gets done, I have about one solid day to myself, during which I have been doing things like preparing our backyard for vegetable gardening (oh MAN I am so excited for this!), going to yoga class, and investigating veganism (ie, researching recipes, all the new stuff on the market, etc).

I’ve gone vegan before, only to crash and burn. The most pathetic attempt was around 1992 when I lasted all of 48 hours or so. That bad experience has crept into my mind whenever I’ve thought seriously about trying it again, but the world has changed a lot in the intervening years. In 1992, you couldn’t get soy milk for tea or coffee at about half the places in Manhattan, for instance. Forget about eating at a restaurant other than the crunchiest and most unpleasant place. And did you happen to sample any vegan cheese circa 1992? The memory of it is enough to almost make me cry – it was like biting into a salty rubber sponge (it had to have been created by someone who has never had “real” cheese in their entire life). As someone who loves dairy cheese, this “soy cheese” was enough to make me feel like the universe was laughing at me.

But like I said, the world has changed – there’s actually vegan cheese that tastes good, not to mention soy yogurt in a gazillion different flavors (oh, also: yogurt made out of coconut milk. yum!!!!!), and most places that I ate at anyway have options available to me even now that I’ve changed things up in my diet so drastically. It’s actually completely fine and pretty easy to do now (I say this going on about week 3… you might want to check in in a few months to see if I still feel that way).

I do, however, find it difficult to ignore that this newly found convenience (and yumminess) comes at a price – that while the food in 1992 was really terrible, it was really “pure” in a way. The Nabisco Corporation or the Mars Corporation or whatever has never come up with a product where you have to soak a bunch of their food in water overnight (as we had to do with beans), which meant that making the simplest of dishes involved a lot of planning. And, as I recall, people who did it successfully back then (and before) carried their meals with them in tupperware, rather than buying their hummus salads in disposable packaging without a second thought.

And then, add to all this the loathesomeness of a group like PETA, which can’t seem to promote its agenda without getting some young starlet to pose naked save for a faux fur (save the animals by throwing women’s rights under the bus, I suppose); they also count among their major “achievements” convincing KFCs in Canada to carry a vegan sandwich. I can’t tell you how much these two things come together and make me want to order a hamburger so bad. They are the antithesis of the broader agenda that everyone I know who really gives a shit about veganism really cares about, that broader agenda having to do with respecting one another and at the same time recognizing the broad implications of mass market “fast” food and culture.

So I go into this with really mixed feelings. Actually, that’s a misstatement – I go into this realizing it’s not much more than a step (a highly symbolic step perhaps, but just a step nonetheless) and not a leap, that it shouldn’t be confused with a jump or a sprint in that respect, but at the same time that maybe little steps are sometimes worth taking.

Which brings me back to the vegetable garden…

For right now, I am mostly existing on veggie nuggets, veggie fake cheese, veggie yogurt, etc, but I want this stage to be a sort of halfway house for my tastebuds/life. Which is to say that what I’ve enjoyed most of all from this little experiment is really learning about food, really learning about ingredients and how to cook, and then going from there – so that (I hope) there is a time when I can break away from the Whole Foods Corporation that seems to have taken over my life. Hey, Whole Foods is about a million times better to its workers and the environment than KFC, but it would be great if I could move beyond even them.

This is a very, very longterm goal and it’s not the kind of thing that I would ever be able to fully accomplish living in the city, but again – little steps are worth taking. And also, maybe what my life has been lacking lately is idealism and it’s great to have a little bit of it back again. So, I don’t know – I don’t claim to be anymore “pure” than anyone who eats at McDonalds three times a day, and I don’t even know if by the time this post gets read by anyone if I’ll be chowing down on an extra large Pinkberry. But yeah… idealism, steps… trying to stay focused on that.

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