Friday, February 4, 2011

Oprah & Dinner Peace, Part II

Like many discussions of veganism in our current culture, Oprah and her guests  took two steps forward and one step back. Her first guest was Michael Pollan, now one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people. I have a lot of respect for Michael Pollan. His perspective on eating has encouraged Americans to eat less food, more vegetables, and use their purchasing power to positively impact America’s broken food system. He advocates for the local, the sustainable, and the humane. Michael Pollan’s  eating identity as conscientious omnivore is an admirable one, but ultimately unrealistic.

My favorite vegan food writer, Jonathan Safran Foer, discusses this concept the most eloquently.  He first addresses Pollan’s idea of “table fellowship,” and how Pollan criticizes vegetarianism for being a divisive, rather than unifying, food experience. In some ways this is true; having to eat something different than your companions changes your experience, and excludes you in a fundamental way. However, Foer’s critical point is that “to be a selective omnivore is a much heavier blow to table fellowship than vegetarianism.” Being invited to dinner, and requesting a meatless option is a far more manageable entreaty than requesting only compassionately slaughtered, humanely and sustainably raised, local meat.

After my six week vegan experiment, I was reluctant to give up all animal products, but ultimately unwilling to contribute to the dysfunction of our current food system. I hoped that Pollan’s idea of the conscientious omnivore could be a happy medium for me. I quickly found it to be untenable though, waving my Seafood Watch pocket guide at bewildered waiters, and futilely asking where the eggs and butter in these cupcakes comes from. More often than not, I couldn’t get the answers to these questions unless I bought all my food at the farmer’s market and prepared it myself. In the end, I realized that if I was serious about reducing my personal impact on animal cruelty and environmental harm, selective omnivorism wasn’t the answer.

No comments:

Post a Comment