I’m sitting here on this drizzly afternoon eating leftover injera, from last night’s Ethiopian dinner, covered with melted butter and maple syrup. It’s yummy. And I’m savoring every bite because when this butter is gone, I don’t plan on buying more. At the moment, the only animal foods I’m eating are cheese and eggs. And yeah, I know the troublesome aspects of both of those foods, but I’m not ready to go all the way vegan.
Anyway, yesterday was an interesting day for discovering just what kind of vegetarian I am.
Tully’s Feeds Me Ham
It started around 4pm in downtown Berkeley. I was just about to get on BART to meet friends in El Cerrito, when I suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten anything at all that day. Not good. But not as alarming as it sounds. I hadn’t gotten out of bed until after 2pm.
So there I am starving near the BART station, and I duck into Tully’s Coffee to grab some iced herbal tea (in my own mug, of course) and something quick to eat. I see what looks like a cheesy something in the case and ask the barrista what it is.
Me: What’s that?
She: (from across the room) I don’t know. I can’t see it from here.
Me: (“Duh. Why don’t you come over and look at what I’m pointing at?” I don’t say that. Just wait.)
She: It’s, you know, it’s a… it’s a…
Me: Is it sweet? (Trying to help her out.)
She: No no! It’s hearty.
Me: (“I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”) Hearty? But what is it?
She: You know, it’s like a biscuit.
Me: Just a biscuit? What’s in it?
She: You know, like cheese.
Me: It’s a biscuit with cheese? (“And just how stoned are you? And will this so-called “biscuit” get me as high as you are?”)
She: Yes, a biscuit with cheese.
So, I order the biscuit with cheese. Pay for it. Walk out. Start eating. And halfway down the BART escalator, I realize it’s full of ham chunks. Oh, holy hell!
So, my choices are to either throw the thing away or eat it. And I realize that by throwing it away, I’ve not only contributed to the suffering and death of that pig by buying the thing, but I’ve also wasted the meat for which it died in the first place. So I eat it. And I think about the pig the whole time I eat it. And feel a lump in my throat at the same time I try to swallow that pig. I guess if you’re a vegetarian eating a pig, that’s the way to do it.
So, my question to any vegetarians out there reading this: Is avoiding meat going to be as hard as avoiding plastic? Or was that a rare incident with a stoned out of her mind barrista? And more importantly, should I let Tully’s know their staff are smoking doobies in the back room?
Your Meat Touched My Lentils
The second moment of realization happened last night during dinner with friends at Cafe Colucci Ethiopian Restaurant on Telegraph Avenue. We ordered one veggie combo platter and one meat combo. As is the custom in Ethiopian restaurants, all of the food was served on top of one huge piece of injera bread on one big platter. The meat was on one side, the veggies on the other.
Now, I’ve met vegetarians or vegans who wouldn’t eat food that had touched meat. I’ve even met those who wouldn’t use a pan that had contained meat. I don’t think I’m that kind of vegetarian. Avoiding meat, for me, is not about never letting meat touch my lips, as evidenced by the ham incident above, but about not contributing to the suffering of animals by consciously choosing to eat meat myself.
If someone else is eating meat, and their meat happens to touch my food, I’m not going to freak. At least, I didn’t freak about it last night. And I didn’t freak out about it a week ago when we ordered pizza, one side chicken and the other side all veggie. Some of Michael’s chicken was on my side, so I just picked it off and put it back on his side. No big deal.
Did I feel sad that there was meat on 1/2 of the platter and on 1/2 of the pizza? Yeah, I felt sad. But I can’t stop other people from eating it, and my going nuts about their meat touching my veggie is not going to do anything but get me, and probably them, upset. The idea is to bring less suffering into the world, not more!
I really have no conclusions. I just like having a space to record the thoughts and feelings that arise as I start this journey. We’ll see how they develop and change as time passes.