A friend of mine sent me an email today sharing some of her thoughts about a plant based diet and suggested I might like to post it on my blog; so here it is:
I was just reading an interesting article in the New Yorker and I thought it might provide food (no pun intended) for an entry on your blog. You can find it here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/11/09/flesh-of-your-flesh. The article is a review of Jonathan Safran Foer's new book called "Eating Animals," which is mostly a critique of anti-vegetarian arguments and an analysis of why people eat meat, even when they know its wrong. Interestingly, the writer finished the review by saying,
"'Eating Animals' closes with a turkey-less Thanksgiving. As a holiday, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But this is Foer’s point. We are, he suggests, defined not just by what we do; we are defined by what we are willing to do without. Vegetarianism requires the renunciation of real and irreplaceable pleasures. To Foer’s credit, he is not embarrassed to ask this of us."
This was my reaction, which you are welcome to quote if its useful:
As a former meat eater, I can admit that it was hard at first to give up certain types of flesh I was used to eating. However, after only a few months of eating a plant based diet, I found that the pleasures of a vegetarian diet far outweigh the supposed pleasure of eating flesh.
Digging into a plate of vegetarian food and not having to worry about biting down on a tendon or a hairy piece of skin or gristle is such a relief, and funnily enough, I never even realized before how much it bothered me. I was aware before I became a vegetarian that animal flesh is like a sponge for antibiotics, growth hormones, toxic heavy metals and adrenalin released at the time of slaughter, but I never thought too deeply about it because I was attached to eating flesh. I knew, or at any rate, I had heard, that animals were slaughtered on a factory line with no attention to their comfort and that they underwent intense suffering before death. I would never have consciously willed this suffering on another living entity, but I didn't want to change my habits, so I tried not to think about it. I didn't realize until I committed to not eating flesh that I had brought all that subconscious anxiety to the dinner table every day, and that it made eating a psychic ordeal, increasing my feelings of depression, purposelessness and anger.
By contrast, I can savor a meal of beet and carrot salad, marinated tofu, roasted potatoes with sage and homemade bread soaked in olive oil and garlic. Besides being lighter on my wallet, it actually contributes to my physical health rather than detracting from it. It feels good to make, it feels good to eat, and it feels good to digest.
People should understand that a vegetarian diet is a positive source of pleasure, not a renunciation of something desirable. Any good chef understands that the eating experience begins with the presentation of the meal, the look, the aroma and finally the taste. I would suggest that it begins even before that - the eating experience begins with our understanding of what we are eating in connection to our wider environment. Preparing, eating and sharing a vegetarian meal contributes to our physical, mental and spiritual well being and the well being of other living entities and the planet. For this reason, which Safran Foer illustrates is widely understood in our society, even if its not widely acknowledged, eating a plant based diet relieves anxiety and contributes to a joyful eating experience.