Earlier tonight, I went with Scott, Becky and Eric to see Jonathan Safran Foer read from his new book Eating Animals. It’s an exploration of the choice he made to become a vegetarian, while his wife was pregnant with their first child. He said that he was compelled to look at his eating habits as he anticipated parenthood, because he’d soon be called upon to make decisions for another being.
He read briefly from his book, primarily from a section that poetically details his foundational childhood food memories, many of which took place around his grandmother’s kitchen table. I connected with this part, being someone who’s spent a great deal of time examining the roots of her own food/eating aesthetic, and the many woman in my family who played a role in shaping it.
After that, he moved into an hour of question/answer, which didn’t hold me in the same way as his writing. It’s not that he isn’t a personable and engaging speaker. And to be honest, I essentially agree with the thesis of his argument, which is that the factory farming of meat is an un-humane and unsustainable practice in this country. Yes, we eat to live, but we also eat for pleasure. And in our culture, where food in plentiful, it’s impossible to separate the practice of eating from the receipt of pleasure. Every bite can’t simply be a political act. It also has to be a joyful one.
Now, I’m not saying that we have to eat lots of meat because it’s the only source of pleasure. There is so much food that can be deeply delicious and pleasing that contains no meat at all. I just believe that you can’t talk about food without at least touching on the subject of pleasure and satisfaction. To me, it’s an empty discussion without that factor.
(Just to be clear, I buy the best meat I can. I haven’t personally bought factory farmed meat in at least a year, so I’m deeply on board with the idea that if we eat meat, we need to ensure that it’s the most humane we can get).
For a more thoughtful discussion on this issue, go read what my friend Joy (co-author of the recently published cookbook Almost Meatless) wrote last week.
I couldn’t agree more! Not to mention that cultivating an awareness of pleasure will actually lead most people to a more nourishing and ethical style of eating. It is now amazing to me that ever found something like M&Ms pleasurable–when you compare they to genuine article, real chocolate, it’s obvious what you ought to be eating.