Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ambivalent vegetarians

There’s an article today in MSNBC’s health section on one semi-vegetarian’s quest to reconcile her craving for meat with her knowledge that the animals who become that meat suffer terror and pain in the process.

Of course, that’s a conundrum, and no doubt it’s an issue that every human who gives this any thought at all faces every time s/he picks up a fork, especially if you’re someone who struggles with the need for some meat despite the desire to be “purely” vegetarian. (As a vegan who has utterly no desire or craving for meat myself, I nonetheless struggle with this too, somewhat, because of the meat I feed my kits.)

But, here’s the thing (and I know this may likely offend some people at first, so bear with me for a moment). I don’t doubt that we would not question a natural predator’s need to kill a gazelle, for example, be it feline or canine, in the necessary pursuit of food. That gazelle may very well experience some pain and terror in the process, but short of exterminating the predator, it’s something that has to happen in the natural order of things.

Now, arguably, we’re a rung or several up the predatory ladder, and we have the means and intelligence to refine the process so that that “predatory target” experiences as little pain and terror as possible – but I would argue that for some of us, we still have to pursue that food source and be the “predator,” for lack of a better term, as the natural order of things. Hence my position that while those of us who still must nosh on a bit of meat may do so with a bit of guilt, it might just be the way things have to be – and we can use that “guilty energy” as a catalyst to make needed changes in the meat production industry. I don’t believe the guilt can ever go away entirely (mine certainly won’t), but we can live with it knowing we’re doing the best we can.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

On grilling out veggie style

If you’re like me, you’re making the rounds at various barbecues during this Fourth of July holiday. Although this is a perfect opportunity to have your occasional foray into meat eating if you’re a part-timer or dabbler, veggies have to give it a little more thought.

If you’re a lazy vegan like me, you probably just pop into your grocery and snag a four-pack of veggie burgers or “Not Dogs” to take along so you can grill out along with your meat-eating comrades. Just slap them on the grill and then slather with fixings as usual. (If you don’t want juices from meat-based burgers to “contaminate” yours, wrap them individually in tin foil first or have the host do yours first, before the others.)

If you’re a little more creative, try a tofu-based shish kebab; take it with and have your host grill it for you. (You’ll likely have meat-eating friends salivating over your plate if you do this, too.) Simply prepare a block of tofu for grilling by freezing solid, thawing completely, then rinsing. Squeeze the water out, then cube the tofu into kebab-sized pieces. Skewer with veggies like onion, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and fresh mushrooms, then sear on the grill. Delish.

If you’re vegetarian and can eat dairy and/or eggs, you don’t have to do anything special to get your fill, unless you want to. There are likely plenty of potato salad and bean-based dishes that pack a protein punch, and vegans, too, can indulge in vegetarian baked beans even if the potato or macaroni salad is off limits.

If you’re the host, you can be a vegetarian’s delight and provide the veggie burgers, hummus, etc., for those who want them. For guests who eat meat, ask them to bring their own (unless you know what to buy) and grill it themselves. (I’ve never trusted my own meat-cooking skills on the grill, since I never do it; better to leave that to experienced folks.) They’ll be happy to do so. And you as the host can rustle up a spread any veggie’d be proud of. You might just surprise a few meat-eating friends, too.