Posted on September 6, 2012
In Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer writes: “To be perfectly honest (and to risk losing my credibility on page 13), I assumed, before beginning my research, that I knew what I would find – not the details, but the general picture. Others made the same assumption. Almost always, when I told someone I was writing a book about ‘eating animals,’ they assumed, even without knowing anything about my views, that it was a case for vegetarianism. It’s a telling assumption, one that implies not only that a thorough inquiry into animal agriculture would lead one away from eating meat, but that most people already know that to be the case.
We need a better way to talk about eating animals. We need a way that brings meat to the center of public discussion in the same way it is often at the center of our plates. This doesn’t require that we pretend we are going to have collective agreement. However strong our intuitions are about what’s right for us personally and even about what’s right for others, we all know in advance that our positions will clash with those of our neighbors. What do we do with that most inevitable reality? Drop the conversation, or find a way to reframe it?”
Here is my goal: I would like to pull vegetarians out of their segregated corner. I would like to remove the vegetarian friendly signs from the window fronts. I would like to delete the big fat ‘V’ next to the restaurant review articles I scroll daily. I would like to feel comfortable at a restaurant that does not have a “tofu scramble” on the menu. I would like to sit next to you at your leather booth-ed, decanted wine, flank steak dinner.
I would like to reframe the conversation.
From the time I became a vegetarian, and thereafter, I have, and still do, spend a measurable amount of effort assuring people that they are allowed to eat meat. I predictably pull out my script: I choose not to eat meat, but it’s okay, I don’t mind if you do. I don’t preach.
I don’t believe that I have the water-walking capacity or stature to persuade those around me to stop doing something that they have done 3+ times a day for their entire lives. Who am I to say what you can put on your plate? I can give you the tools, tell you what I’ve learned, try to make it easier, and most importantly, try to make you want to do it, but I won’t swat your chicken wings off of your plate. During these conversations I’ve had with people (virtually all of the new people I meet are in food-centered situations), I spend more time telling them what I don’t stand for as a vegetarian, than what I do stand for.
I didn’t just drag you through this little sob story for nothing. I am not the Grinch (although I don’t hate his shade), you get something out of this too. Here’s what I am going to do: I am going to eat at and review non-vegetarian specific restaurants, as a vegetarian. Fear not, you will still enjoy your meal. No, you will not only eat cheese and sourdough rolls for dinner. Remove that browser bookmark of your stand-by veg restaurants you relied on when your relatives flocked in from out of town. Rejoice vegetarians, for I will lead you away from the world of vegetarian dining leprosy. Buckle up, we’re mainstreaming.
I shall call it: Alex Eats.