I declare myself to be a flexitarian. For me this means striving to maintain a vegetarian/vegan diet most of the time and only eating meat when I know it’s source, how it’s been raised, treated, and what it’s been fed.
Today is my friend is having a small celebration of her birthday with a close group of friends. Her mom will be making the best dumplings in the world that are well worth all the labor and preparation that goes into them. These dumplings contain meat.
Is this a dilemma? Not really, because there is no question in my mind that I will take those dumpling with gratitude and even eagerness. It would be rude not to do so. However, knowing what I know, it’s hard to block out the negative thoughts. As a foodie who is concerned for animal welfare but yet wants to explore and travel and experience different cultures and their food (which more often that not will contain meat) this is a conflict that I know will arise frequently throughout my life.
Here’s the deal. I think the cultures that surround food are the most important thing when we go to sit down at the table. Our food cultures tell us what is okay to eat and in which quantities, they are what make eating certain things a taboo and others a delicacy, they bring us together, and they tell the stories of our past. Without a food culture, we could forever roam the supermarket shelves with nutrition facts screaming in our heads and without a clue of what to prepare for your family’s thanksgiving dinner (which unfortunately many people these days are condemned to do).
So we can agree that the culture that surrounds food is one of the most important things when you sit down to eat. But what about morals and beliefs? Some people die for those sorts of things.
Here’s the thing, I have incredibly strong convictions about the wrongs of factory farming. I cannot imagine how an industry, and the consumers that support this industry, can treat these feeling, suffering, sentient beings as little more than objects. When I think about the injustice done unto the 10 billion animals slaughtered each year merely for our taste preferences I feel like part of the suffering is projected onto myself and some days I emerge from a stupor after sobbing for an hour. No wonder people like to avoid the concept of what goes on when they really eat a hamburger. It’s depressing.
Since I’d like to avoid depression and can’t help thinking of where my food comes from I strive to lead a vegetarian/vegan/responsible flexitarian diet when what I eat is in my control. Undoubtedly, I can’t always be in control. And so, as in any relationship between people, compromise is necessary. I can respect a person who is a die hard vegetarian or vegan – but we can’t expect our acquaintances, friends, and businesses that serve us to uphold the same dietary ethics. Of course one could just stay home and cook every meal, but to me, equally as important as eating responsibility, is the culture and relationships we form around food. And these relationships we form around food require compromise as does any healthy relationship.
So when I sit down today to eat dumplings with my closest friends to celebrate one of my best friend’s eighteenth birthday, yes, I will eat pork dumplings of which I do not know the exact origin except that they came from her mother’s hard work and desire to feed us with one of the most delicious things she can make. I will set aside my flexitarian beliefs to enjoy a meal with my closest friends who are leaving in a matter of days to start a new chapter of their lives (in which I will not be with them nearly every day) in college.
Well I’m glad I got that out of my system.